Airport concession: Experts fault unions court action
Some experts have criticised the aviation workers’ unions for dragging the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria to court over the planned airport concession.
The experts, who spoke in separate interviews with our correspondent in Abuja, argued that the legal action was unnecessary and could harm the aviation sector.
The PUNCH reported last week that the unions comprising the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria; National Union of Air Transport Employees; Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals and Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUB-FAAN Branch) had filed a lawsuit against the aviation minister and FAAN, in a bid to stop the privatisation of some of the country’s airports.
The experts argued that the legal action instituted by the workers may disrupt airport operations, which would have far-reaching effects on the sector.
Centurion Security Limited CEO, Group Capt. John Ojikutu explained that ministers and FAAN are agents of the Federal Government; their actions are authorised by the government.
According to him, the unions have no claim on government property, which belongs to the people of Nigeria, not to them.
The union represented itself instead of the people, he added.
Furthermore, Ojikutu noted that the concessions of the airports were long overdue and necessary, not only as a matter of global practice but also due to the government’s inability to continue subsidising the operations of the airports.
“The government is providing huge intervention funds for the private airlines and the allied services that less than 10 per cent of Nigerians benefit but not much of that is given to the educational and health sector for 80-90 per cent of Nigerians.
“About 60 per cent of air travellers are government or cooperate-sponsored. I will be surprised if the union have their ways in the court. There is nothing to justify their case as one of the majority of Nigerians but for themselves,” he said.
Similarly, Aviation Round-Table Secretary-General, Olumide Ohunayo expressed displeasure with the lawsuit filed by the unions, saying the unions had earlier endorsed the projects.
According to him, union representatives travelled with the minister and other government officials to access the airports.
He said,” The unions are trying to save face with the last-minute court process because they have sat and dinned with the minister on this issue. They were even taken to some countries outside Nigeria to see how those airports and Ethiopian airlines operate.
“They came back and defended the position. So, what has made them turn against the government in just three or four months to go? This is not the best way to pay the minister.”
He further noted that there was no justifiable reason for the suit.
“I am not in support of their suit. I am not even sure why they are going to court because they were part of the deal. They conceded to this process. They travelled with government officials to inspect the airports and they defended all projects leading to the roadmap.
“I don’t support the last-minute method they have adopted. However, I support the court case that one of the investors (Sifax Group of Companies Limited), which had gone to court earlier to stop the concession because they thought it was not fair. That is a genuine court case.”