By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—THE Federal Government, yesterday, said there was no going back on the concessioning of Nigerian airports, starting with the big four, including Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, despite opposition from aviation workers.
Specifically, workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, under the aegis of the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association, ATSSSAN, and the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, have opposed the proposed plan by the Federal Government to concession the Lagos and Abuja airports.
But Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, while briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, said government had no resources to fund infrastructure in the 22 airports across the country.
He also disclosed that N45 billion had been approved to settle the severance package for staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways.
He said the process would be transparently done, with the workers fully involved in the process.
Recall that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had at the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum on ease of doing business, announced that FEC approved the concession of the nation’s four major airports, starting with Lagos and Abuja.
Fielding questions from journalists, the minister said the Murtala Muhammed International Airport was originally built to handle 200,000 travelers per annum but noted that today, it was serving eight million per annum.
He stressed that the government didn’t have the resources to upgrade the facilities to handle increased volume of travellers.
On the opposition against the concessioning, Sirika, said: “You will agree with me that this is not news, they have done so in the past. We are a democratic government and we recognise that it is their right to protests and what they are protesting is whether there will be job losses and labour issues. And we have been very consistent and we have been engaging them. This time, it will be very different.
“At a time the concessioning of some government assets started, we were not knowledgeable in what concession entails but today, we have the knowledge and it will be transparently done, with active participation of workers in both the delivery and the steering committees to drive this process.
“What is more, come this Friday, a portal will be put up by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, where all matters of concession will be available for anyone to see. It’s an extra effort by this government to be so transparent in dealing with this type of situation.
“So when it is transparently done, labour issues will be addressed within the process, you will agree with me is the best way to go.
N45bn as severance pay for Nigeria Airways ex-workers
Sirika disclosed that the President has approved N45 billion as severance package for workers of liquidated Nigeria Airways and that the Minister of Finance had been directed to release the money.
The affected workers had, yesterday, in Lagos, protested the Federal Government’s failure to pay their severance benefits running into N78 billion.
Sirika said: “Past governments decided to liquidate Nigeria Airway without tending to the issues of the entitlement of the workers and the workers have been struggling to get paid.
“This government, when it came on board, decided to take it seriously. And I am happy to announce that Mr. President has approved N45 billion, which has been confirmed to be the entitlements of these workers and the Ministry of Finance has been instructed to pay.”