*Issues Caveat Emptor To Firms

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate unions in the country’s aviation sector have opposed the recent concession announced by federal government of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja and the Aminu Kano international Airport in Kano.

The NLC and the unions warned the firms involved in the concession deal over the two airports to steer clear from the facilities, insisting that the whole exercise was fraught with illegalities and lacked transparency.

They said the hasty concession deal amounted to setting a bubby trap for the incoming administration as it was bound to fail.

In addition, the unions alleged that purported concession of two airports was handled in a most secretive manner.

They said, “from the selection of the Transaction Adviser, through the pre-qualification and selection of bidders/winners, to the development of the Full Business Case and conclusion of the concession, only the Minister, his henchmen in the Ministry and the ICRC and the favoured bidder, apart from the wind and walls, have any inkling of the concession process, whereas the whole exercise, by regulation, ought to be carried out transparently within the public view.”

On his part, NLC President, Joe Ajaero said the NLC was in solidarity with the aviation sector unions on the current concession crisis.

“It is illegal to the extent that it violated the laws of the land and it cannot stand. We urge the private sector firm seeking to take over the airports through the faulty concession arrangement to stay away. The position of the unions in the aviation sector is the position of the NLC,” he added.

Ajaero advised the incoming government not to accept the concession deal, arguing that it was like a bubby trap set for it.

Addressing a press conference at the Labour House in Abuja, yesterday, the unions faulted the process leading to the approval of the concession exercise by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), alleging that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, operated a one-man show and sidelined the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria under has constitutional mandate to manage the airport facilities.

The aggrieved unions included: the National Union Of Air Transport Employees, (NUATE) Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (ATSSSAN) Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, (ANAP) and Nigeria Union of Pensioners FAAN Branch.

General Secretary of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, who spoke on behalf other union leaders, said the Ministry of Aviation which carried out the concession had no authority to do so.

He said: “To begin with, the Federal Ministry of Aviation (and Aerospace) does not own, or run, any airport in Nigeria. By the dictates of the governing Act of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), ownership and management of all federal government airports are fully vested in the Authority; not the Ministry.

“On the other hand, the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) procedure document states, with respect to the agency that wishes to concession a facility that, “The public entity should have enabling authority to transfer its responsibility – enabling legislative and policy framework OR an Administrative Order to that effect”.

“By the combined import of the FAAN Act and the ICRC procedures manual, it is evidently manifest that the entire airports concession is based on an incurably faulty foundation. For, there is no doubt that it is the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, not the Ministry of Aviation, that has power ‘to transfer its responsibility’ to a would be concessionaire. It is also FAAN, not the Ministry, which has the requisite ‘legislative & policy framework’ for such.

“And, there exists no ‘Administrative order’ which grants authority to the Ministry to usurp the powers of FAAN in the particular respect.

“As a matter of fact, for a PPP project by an agency, the only role prescribed for a Minister by the ICRC is that the Agency ‘would submit the FBC (Full Business Case) through the line Minister for approval.’

“Therefore, if the claim that the FEC has approved the concession of NAIA and MAKIA has any substance, then the FEC has indeed been misguided in its decision, and that action cannot amount to anything than a nullity.”

Aba also said labour issues around the concession of airports were far from being resolved.

He listed the issues to include the fate of workers’ job, their entitlement and who would be responsible for payment of Pensioners of FAAN.

“As FAAN workers are not airports-tied in their employments, all employees are considered as a whole unit. In this regard, the concession of the four most major airports away from FAAN would necessarily cause a cessation of the employment of all the staff involuntarily. Therefore, our Unions stand ready to negotiate redundancy benefits for all staff and pensioners of FAAN.

“As FAAN pension liability is unfunded, the federal government’s promise to provide this funding has to be actualised immediately.

“The pension liability is estimated to be about N120 billion. Before redundancy can be discussed, individual liabilities of staff and pensioners have to be determined through up-to-date actuarial valuation for 2022,” he said.

Ocheme said all efforts by the unions to discuss and resolve the issues were rebuffed.

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