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By Chris Aligbe

Recently, the news of the divorce between Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and its long-standing business partner in airport management solution – SITA, a global brand of great repute, filtered into the industry.  Since the news, many a stakeholder have engaged interrogating what they consider vital aspects in the relationship.   Opinions varied and wandered from cost of FAAN’s move to the question of propriety of the move in the face of proposed concession of airports.

Some others voiced fears about whether due process was followed both in SITA disengagement and the contractual agreement with Arlington/RESA, given experiences of many poorly consummated contractual agreement that have plagued the industry, particularly FAAN over the years and indeed the aviation sector in general.

All those who have expressed opinions and fears no doubt have basis although, one can question the strength.

In this first piece, I will interrogate the Procurement Process of the Arlington -RESA Airport Management Solution beginning from the disengagement from SITA, whether due process was followed.

The facts available reveal that the 5-year tenure of SITA contract entered into by FAAN in 2012 expired in 2017 but continued till 2020, following a 2-year extension by FAAN and a 10-months extension of service by SITA in restitution for failure to provide some services that were part of the contract.  The SITA contract covered only two International Airports; MMIA, Lagos and NAIA, Abuja.  From information gathered, FAAN began evaluation of the services of SITA since 2018.

In its assessment, it found out that SITA was deficient in-service delivery as what it offered did not cover; passenger self-check-in, baggage drop and baggage reconciliation, three vital services that were part of the contract.  This appears why the restitutive ten months service was offered by SITA “pro bono” as it were.  From the above, one thing is clear, FAAN avoided what had been the industry pitfall if the past occasioned by irresponsible termination of contracts before their expiration without respect to the terms;a situation that had caused the industry so much loss in money and image from litigation and unfavourable court rulings.

The liquidated Nigeria Airways suffered this in the hands of a UK-based Travel Agent – CES Travels when a Minister directed mid-term cancellation of the contract and Capt. Joji who inherited the mess paid millions of pounds in out-of-court settlement to extricate the airline.  Today, the albatross of the termination of Harry Akande’s Lagos International Hilton Hotel concession and Royal Sanderton, MMA 2 concession are still hanging on FAAN’s neck.

Again, these two like many others were the handiwork of political leadership rather than FAAN Management.

In its evaluation of SITA’s service delivery, FAAN had its mind on extending Airport Management Solution services beyond Lagos and Abuja Airports to include the other three International Airports at Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu.  It also had in mind the need to expand the services to be procured to include three new solutions that will level up Nigeria airports with global standards.

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Follow up processes led to advertisements as required by government extant Procurement Laws which include Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) approvals of both the terms to be advertised and the evaluation and Bid analyses both Technical and Financial.  And due to the fact that the RESA Solution is dependent on Information Technology, clearance was sought and obtained from Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

The engagement of Arlington Securitas Nigeria Limited and RESA was finally approved by the Federal Executive Council.  The comforting thing is that this Contract seem to have avoided all the pitfalls of the past.  First, there is evidence that both the relevant Technical Departments, Finance Directorate and the Management were all actively in the loop while, unlike in the past, where the political leadership or the Supervisory Minister/Ministry were arrowheads in determination of choice of processes, the Ministry/Minister seem to have left FAAN to own the project.

One can here ask, who is Arlington Securitas Nigeria Limited and RESA their technical partner in this Project?  What value are they bringing or adding and how do they compare with SITA of worldwide repute?  What is the financial exposure to FAAN?  These are valid concerns that need to be addressed.

A due diligence conducted by both FAAN and independent sources reveal that Arlington Securitas Nigeria Limited is the Nigerian Representative of RESA.  Arlington is a Sovereign Revenue and Monitoring Consulting firm based in Port Harcourt.  Its operations are technologically based.  Arlington was considered the most cost-effective among the four Companies technically qualified.

On the other hand, RESA Systems is a reputable airport management Solution Provider that has been in strategic partnership with IATA spanning over 30years and has a clientele of over 20 airports in Europe, Asia and Africa with remarkable track record.

Available information indicates that Arlington – RESA Systems Services is on outright procurement unlike SITA which is not sold outrightly but on a renewable tenure arrangement as may be agreed and cost varies with volume of passengers airlifted.

So far, from the level of compliance to all due process and extant laws, one can decipher a very careful avoidance of the pitfalls of the past.  May be FAAN is now “born again”.  But one thing is clear and that is, if professionals are left to do their job, excellence and due process will reign.

In my next piece, I will evaluate the propriety of the movement and the question as to why when concession is on the bloc.

Chris Aligbe is an Aviation Consultant

Vanguard News Nigeria

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