By Kenneth Ehigiator
Workers of the Federal Airports Authority ofÂ Nigeria (FAAN), under the auspices ofÂ National Union of Air Traffic Employees (NUATE) and Air Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATTTSAN), yesterday took over the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, to stop Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited from taking over the facility.
The Federal Government had about three weeks ago ordered a stay of action on the take over of the terminal, following threats by aviation unions to embark on strike to cripple activities in the sector.
Yesterdayâ€™s action which caused traffic gridlock at the airport, put a lid on the workersâ€™ threat to start a nationwide strike at 00:00 hours.
Consequently, domestic and international flight operations held without hitches.
NUATE’s Assistant General Secretary, Mr. Abdulkareem Motajo, said the strike was put on hold temporarily, as the company had not been able to take possession of the terminal.
The workers embarked on a rally at the airport, which took them from FAAN head office, to the GAT, and back to the facility, chanting solidarity songs, and asking Bi-Courtney to abide by governmentâ€™s directive which ordered stay of action on take over of the terminal.
Motajo said the rally would continue until Bi-Courtney gives up plans to take over the terminal, adding that should the company insist on going ahead, the unions would eventually embark on a total strike to cripple flight operations.
Vanguard also gathered that the unions have completed plans to challenge the matter in court, having realised that government was only bidding time to ensure the company took over the GAT.
A source told Vanguard that the unions have briefed their solicitors on the matter, adding that the case would in court before the end of the week.
It was also learnt that the rally embarked upon by the workers to stop Bi-Courtney from taking over the terminal was one of the strategies to stop the take over, in view of the resort to court.
â€œThe unions are aware that government may eventually ensure that Bi-Courtney takes over the GAT and are just doing the rally to stop the company from taking possession to enable them file their case in court.
â€œThe calculation is that if the company is allowed to take possession before the court case, the court would ask that the statusquo remained, meaning that Bi-Courtney would have taken possession while the matter is in court,â€ said the source.
Motajo would neither confirm nor deny this, but stressed the unions would use everything in their powers to stop the company from taking over the terminal.
He argued that aside from the so many lacunae in the concession agreement Bi-Courtney was laying claims, nothing had been said about addressing all labour issues relating to the handover of the facility.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to make the mistake we made with Nigeria Airways.Â Up till today, Nigeria Airwaysâ€™ workers are yet to receive their full entitlements.Â We donâ€™t want that to happen to FAAN workers,â€ he said.