By LAWANI MIKAIRU
Players, experts and stakeholders in the aviation sector have said the current state of the country’s airports can only be improved if some of them are concessioned to private investors. The stakeholders made their views known while reviewing the state of Nigeria aviation in the last 56 years in a conference on Privatisation and Concession of Airports organised by Check In Nigeria, an industry resource and consultancy outfit.
Setting the tone for discussions, the convener of the conference and Chief Executive Officer , Check In Nigeria, Mr Michael Chikeka, while welcoming guests said the conference became imperative because of the avalanche of issues raised on the subject matter.
He noted that the different concerns and views expressed on the subject matter : Airport Concessions/ Privatisation were genuine because government has not clearly stated the nature of the concessioning. He noted that the critical questions border on,“the extent of concession, the areas of concession as well as its duration.”
He further said questions have been asked on the model to be adopted, whether it would be driven around the template of Privatisation, Public Private Partnership( PPP0, Build Operate and Transfer ( BOT) .
In his presentation, Professor Pat Utomi while supporting concessioning, raised fundamental concerns about values , inconsistency in existing concession agreements, which does not inspire investor confidence. He explained that despite clamour for private capital to fund public assets, including airports, previous sour agreements with some concessions have not put the industry in good light .
Utomi insists that without transparency, corporate governance and adherence to legal agreements, the decision to go the way of concession may not be easily achieved .
While listing the benefits of concessioning the airports , the Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria ,AON, Captain Nogie Meggison , said concession “ would increase the operational efficiency and profitability of the airports. Stimulate growth in the non-oil sector of the economy and increase contribution to GDP. Secure financing of airport infrastructure.”
“Better service levels. Encourage more efficient and commercial operations. Increased productivity. Make Nigeria more attractive as a regional hub. Attract more non aeronautical businesses to the airport. Boost tourism and hospitality. Creation of jobs and better pay of which MMA2 is a good example. Better landing and navigational aids.”
“Better run and functional airports. Safer airport operations. More transparency and accountability. Increased ability to diversify “. He however observed that industry players were yet to get a template of the model to be adopted by government.
On his part, industry veteran and former President of Aviation Roundtable, Captain Dele Ore harped on the need to follow the template for concession already established by ICAO , which specifically defines the parameters for tenure, aspects of the airport to be handed out, who takes charge of the airport assets and other issues bordering on welfare and fate of personnel.
He canvassed support for concession , affirming that it is the way to go, if aviation union members could see the bigger picture.