By Kenneth Ehigiator
The federal Government declared, weekend, that there would be no going back on plans to concession major airports in the country.
The government recently announced the concessioning of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos; Malam Amuni Kano International Airport, Kano; Port Harcourt International Airport; and Margaret Ekpo Airport, Calabar, for maximum efficiency.
Chairman of the Board of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Chief Ebitimi Banigo, who disclosed this at a meeting with two industrial unions in the aviation industry in Lagos, also said government would not relent in its efforts to automate the revenue generation systems at the airports, with a view to plugging loopholes in the system.
According to him, governmentâ€™s private-public programme (PPP) would be pursued with the proper concession of some of the airports and the automation of their facilities to improve on their revenue generation, in accordance with the President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s initiative and vision of making Nigeria one of the top 20 industrialised nations by year 2020.
Chief Banigo, whose board recently inspected facilities at some of the airports, including those in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, lamented the poor state of their infrastructure, and enjoined the workers to brace up for the challenges of PPP, automation and concession.
He said:Â â€œLike the global air transport industry, FAAN is not immune to prevailing challenges. We face growing competition from other airports, particularly in Northern and Southern Africa. We must consider structural changes on some of our airport facilities to handle newer and bigger aircraft being deployed by international and domestic carriers.
â€œThe Open Skies policy, which Nigeria has bought into, has encouraged more international airlines to embrace our growing market. This poses a huge challenge:Â Challenge of change.
â€œThat is why we are charting a new direction with renewed vigour.
That new direction, we believe, should be embraced by all stakeholders. The direction engenders great opportunities and possibilities.Â That is why we are open for business and partnership. We remain unflinchingly committed to our vision of being one of the best airport groups in the world in line with Mr. Presidentâ€™s Vision 2020.
â€œWe are focused on positioning all our airports, with all stakeholders, for long term, sustainable growth and delivering increased choice and service quality for passengers and all users of our airports.â€
He assured the unions that their members would be carried along in the concession arrangement and the management of the airports, explaining that they could meet the evolving challenges of the global phenomena by developing themselves through modern skill acquisition to enable them compete with their colleagues in the private sector.
Banigo advised the workers to avail themselves of the opportunities of upgrading their skills, while collectively ensuring the safety and security of the airports in line with global aviation standards and practices.
Earlier in his remark, the NUATE representative at the meeting, Comrade Francis Aturu, urged the Board to assist FAAN in accessing the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) fund which according to him, is not well utilized.
Aturu said the BASA fund should be utilized equitably among parastatals in the aviation industry towards upgrading all airports in the country.
He also stressed the need for the management of FAAN to source funds outside the industry to arrest infrastructural decay at the airports, stressing this was necessary to check incidence of increasing expenditure and decreasing revenue.