By Lawani Mikairu
Stakeholders in the aviation industry have called on the federal government not to compromise the nation’s security by handing over the operations of the four International airports earmarked for concession to foreign companies.
The four major airports slated for concession are those of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Lagos, Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, and the Port-Harcourt International, Port-Harcourt.
According to those who spoke with Saturday Vanguard, airports are gate ways to every country and the architecture and operations of such gateways should be handled by nationals who have the security interest of the country at heart.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, a retired Engineer with the defunct Nigeria Airways, Mustapha Bello said security and national interest should be the first consideration when handling national assets.
According to Bello, “Nigeria should not forget the experience of Uganda during the reign of late General India Amin. The Etebbe raid was successfully carried out because the Isrealis had the architectural plan of the Uganda Etebbe international airport in their palm.
“Since there are some Nigerian companies who have successfully operated airport terminals, like Bi-Courtney Aviation Services who are currently running Muritala Muhammed Airport terminal 2, MMA2, Lagos, they should be considered first.”
“There is another successful Nigerian whose company is operating at the Gatwick Airport in United Kingdom, UK.
“Such companies owned by Nigerians should be considered first”.
Also speaking with Saturday Vanguard, a Chief Executive Officer of an aviation company based in Lagos, said indigenization of national assets is very important in order to create jobs for the teaming population and prevent capital flight.
According to the CEO who crave anonymity for “obvious reasons” according to him, “ It is necessary for the airports to be concession to local firms with track records, merit and competence, rather than foreign companies that you cannot vouch for. Some of the foreign companies being touted don’t have the required records”
“Bi-Courtney Aviation Services, BASL, has proved to be the best private terminal manager in the last 14 years and so should be supported by the government because of its antecedent in terminal management. Luckily, I was informed that they also bidded for the terminals to be concessioned”.
When Vanguard reminded the CEO that Bi-Courtney had been locked in legal battle with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, and the federal government may be biased against them in the bidding process, he said most of the legal issues at MMA2 have been resolved in favour of BASL.
He said the late President Musa Yar’Adua set up a reconciliation Committee that resolved most of the disputed sections of the concession agreement.
“On MMA2 terminal, as a stakeholder in the aviation sector, I learnt that from the outset, both parties BASL and the federal government set up a Coordinating Committee, comprising BASL, FAAN and an independent body to address any challenge that may arise from the agreement on MMA2. On each occasion that the committee was called to address some of the challenges emanating from the concession, judgments have been in favour of BASL”.
Recall the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika recently announced that at the end of the submission of interest to bid for the four International airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, some foreign companies also submitted bid.
Meanwhile, interestingly, the foreign bidders in the process are already creating problem as they have been accused of breaching the process.
Recall Femi Falana’s Chambers recently wrote the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika alleging that three foreign bidders for the four airports to be concessioned have violated the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Est.) Act 2005 and The National Policy on Public-Private Partnership (N4P).
He, therefore, called for the disqualification of the three firms from the bidding process to avoid litigation which might derail the entire exercise.