Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and aviation unions temporarily shut down airport operations as they protested plans by the Federal Government to concession all of the country’s international airports.
In Abuja, the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, said labour and trade unions will pick a date to completely shut down airport operations across the country if what he described as the obnoxious concession policy is not reversed.
He accused those in power of greed, alleging that they are pushing to concession the airports to their friends and cronies despite the fact that the airports in question are very viable.
‘This obnoxious policy will negatively affect our families. The plan to concession is driven by greed and profit by our political elite. How can you say you want to privatise an establishment that is already viable? Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja airports are viable, so why do you want to privatise something that is viable? If you want to make it more efficient, do so by putting competent people. But don’t privatise because you have already calculated how much will come into your pocket.We say no to such an attempt to take over our common assets,’ he said.
‘I am aware that Lagos airport alone can service the entire airports in Nigeria. Let them put the facts on the table, let us engage them; that is what they don’t want to hear.
‘We would win this battle, so don’t be deterred. Those in power have already calculated how much will come in from each airport and how much will come into their pockets. When we say we have paucity of revenue, some people want to concession airports thay are very viable. We are going to resist. Over 10 million Nigerian workers will stand in solidarity with the aviation unions to resist this policy.
‘They concessioned our ports and now the workers are languishing because they don’t have social security cover. You work for 30 years and at the end of the day, you won’t get pension or gratuity.
‘NLC and TUC will take a date and you will see the number of people that would troop out in protest across the country. This is just a warning to our political elite that our commonwealth cannot be appropriated to family and friends. The airports belong to all of us and we would not allow it to be given to their friends and cronies. If it means bringing our mats and pillows to sleep qt the airports, we would do it until they reverse the policy, we would do it.’
In Lagos, the offices of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) were barricaded as early as 6am on Monday, August 31, as security officers manning the different gates into the agency’s headquarters and other offices were sent away by the union members and the gates were shut with chains and padlock.
Leaders of the four unions, Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), National Union of Air Transport Employees, (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Pensioners, (NUP), informed members of staff on why the unions have taken the action.
The Secretary-General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, said the plans to concession would not favour workers, instead it would further impoverish them as there is bound to be job cuts if the concession was allowed to succeed. He also said that the concession process has not been transparent since it started.
The chairman of ATSSSAN, FAAN branch, Ahmed Danjuma described the concession as a one-man project headed by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
According to him, the planned concession was being facilitated clandestinely in connivance with the Infrastructure, Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, while Abdulrazak Saidu of ANAP scribe also stated that the concession so far embarked on in the industry had been marred by controversies.
Similar protests took place in over 22 airports across the country including Kano, Zaria, Markurdi, Owerri, Enugu and many others.
A source within FAAN told Daily Sun that if the situation persists, the unions will shut down operations across the country till the issues are addressed.