Since the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) concessioned the access gate at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, to I Cube West Africa Limited over a year ago, the move had been plagued with controversies and questions with regards to whether or not the agency is reaping the gains of the concessioning.
Prior to the concessioning of the access gate linking the domestic and international wings of the airport, FAAN staff who manned the gate generated about N38 million, even with obvious leakages in the toll collection.
However, due to the desire to raise its revenue profile in the face of dwindling allocation from the federal account, FAAN management, under the leadership of the Managing Director, Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun, chose to concession the collection to I Cube West Africa Limited, with a mandate to remit to its coffers N40 million.
Although the concession agreement between the agency and company was not made public, it was learnt that one of the conditions in the document was for the company to expand the road around the gate to put in check the perennial traffic bottleneck around the area.
However, two years on, the road is yet to be expanded, and that, perhaps, explains why stakeholders in the industry are kicking against the concession of the access gate to I Cube West Africa.
The matter is further compounded by the insistence of the company to collect toll from aviation parastatal staff and other operators doing business at the airport.
When FAAN staff manned the gate, they generated close to N40 million monthly without collecting tolls from airport workers, and this has prompted the workers to wonder why the concessionaire should pay the agency only N40 million monthly, with airport workers paying, though out of compulsion.
So, the question most stakeholders are asking is when the concessionaire would put in place all the infrastructure the concession was expected to have come with, especially as the first year of the agreement has elapsed.
At peak periods, traffic bottleneck still dog vehicular movements through the access gate, apparently due to the narrowness of the routes leading to the gate, and this was the reason the need to expand the road network around the gate arose.
The latest controversy around the concession is the battle line airport workers, under the aegis of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), have drawn with the concessionaire over what described as continued intimidation, harassment and molestation of aviation workers using the gate to access their offices.
Consequently, the union has written protest letters to FAAN, which engaged the concessionaire and the industry regulator, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
They also threatened to seize the gate from the concessionaire latest Monday, 18 January 2010 and hand it over to FAAN.
ATSSSAN said in the letter signed by its General Secretary, Mr. Sunny Ayede:Â â€œWe are greatly disturbed and alarmed at the brazen effrontery of the staff of the concessionaire,1 Cube West Africa, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport toll gate in recent times, occasioning intimidation, harassment, stoppage and seizure of motor vehicles belonging to airport workers who have had to pass through the toll gate to their offices.
â€œSeveral petitions and reports reaching the secretariat of our unions, are to the effect that the concessionaire stops and demands for payment from all airport workers passing through the toll gate to either go to their work places or return home after their official duties.
â€œThese hapless workers have had to either show their Staff Identification Cards which the concessionaire refuses to recognize or stickers of their company indicating the respective aviation/air transport companies they work for, yet the concessionaire choose to embarrass, harass, frustrate and humiliate these workers.
â€œDue to this unwarranted, unwholesome, and unacceptable demand for payment to access our offices through the toll gate, we wish to place this red alert before your good office(s) that if by Monday 18 January 2010 the staff and management of 1 Cube West Africa, concessionaire, fails to stop its demand for payment from all airport workers, we shall have no hesitation than to take over the entire operations of the access gate and hand it over to FAAN.
â€œIt is abnormal and irresponsible for any concessionaire to compel workers to pay toll fees before they access their workplace within their work environment.Â Enough is enough.â€
Observers consider the concession as a reap off of FAAN, and have gone ahead to argue that with close monitoring, staff of the agency would generate far more than the N40 million the concessionaire is currently remitting to FAAN, especially as no value had been added to the gate in terms of infrastructure.Â For them, a review of the concession agreement in a way that would be favourable to FAAN is what is desirable.