March 30, 2023

Aerotropolis: Aviation unions kick as FG pushes for MMA office complex demolition 


Murtala Muhammed International Airport

*Fault Sirika’s 8-year ‘gigantic policies’ 

By Prince Okafor 

Aviation unions have again faulted the Federal Government move towards the demolition of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, headquarters annex at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, MMA, Lagos.

They also accused the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, of what they described as ‘abysmal’ performance in the last eight years amidst ‘gigantic policies’ unveiled during his inauguration.

The unions which comprises of Air Transport Staff Senior Services of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, Nigerian Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, ANAP, vowed to resist any attempt by the Federal Government to demolish the properties. 

Vanguard had reported that Sirika, in December 2022, unveiled the plan of the Federal Government to demolish some of the agencies’ offices in Lagos.

The minister disclosed that the buildings would be develop into aerotropolis (airport city), stressing that it was in the interest of the entire aviation industry.

But in swift reaction, aviation workers yesterday, gathered at the Freedom Square, FAAN with different placards to press home their disaffection with the decision of the government.

Some of the placards read in part: ‘No to demolition of FAAN headquarters Annex,’ ‘F.G. stop the demolition of headquarters annex Lagos,’ ‘FAAN headquarters annex not for sale,’ ‘Build FAAN corporate headquarters,’ and ‘Demolition of FAAN headquarters is fraud,’ among others.

Speaking at the sideline of the protest, ATSSSAN, General Secretary, Francis Akinjole, stated that there was no any rational for the planned demolition of FAAN office and others in Lagos.

He said: “The present administration had barely two months to exit office, yet demolition of aviation agencies topped their priority list.

“The planned action of the minister is unwarranted, and the unions and their members will not be taken unawares by the government’s plans.

“The unions is not against the planned demolition of the agency’s annex office in Lagos, rather we want the government to ensure the payment of staff’s relocation allowances and other benefits accrued to them.

“The unions will protest every avenue by some people in government to convert government properties to their personal asserts.”

He lamented that almost three years after the first batch of some workers in some of the agencies were relocated out of Lagos to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, their relocation allowances were yet to be paid, adding that most of the agencies, including FAAN had no office complexes in Abuja.

Besides, he mentioned that the space at the headquarters of the former Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), now Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), which was demolished for the expansion of the new international terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos terminal, was still empty a year after the exercise, decrying that most of its staff lacked office accommodation in Abuja.

“The unions in collaboration with its members nationwide will continue to reject any attempt to demolish the buildings in Lagos and the relocation of the workers in contravention to the Labour Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Over 75 per cent of aviation activities happen in Lagos, how will the agencies operate without office complexes in the state.

“They want to demolish in public interest, but they will now be the beneficiaries of these properties. This is our common patrimony. We will fight this out. We all know the challenges the staff of the other agencies that were relocated to Abuja are facing.

“For instance, the staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) that are in Abuja don’t have offices of their own, while those in AIB (NSIB) were told to be working from home here in Lagos. FAAN does not have its own office in Abuja, yet they want to push everyone to where there is no accommodation for staff,” Akinjole added

On her part, NUATE’s, Mrs. Safiya Araga, accused the minister of maltreating the aviation workers since he came assumed office about eight years ago.

“Despite the “gigantic policies” the government had for the industry, none has been achieved in the past eight years.

“There must be adequate provisions for the workers before they are relocated outside their present offices. Also, the agencies’ offices will not be allowed to be demolished by the government.

“We’re calling on the incoming government to take a serious look at the activities of the present government in the sector in the past eight years, the sector had been stagnant for almost a decade.

“We had gigantic policies that never came to fruition in the last eight years. The NAMA case is a terrible one. Till date, NAMA uses a rented apartment in Abuja. For the past eight years, we have not been encouraged by this government. What does the Labour Act say about relocation? The workers need to wake up, defend their work-life and their families. We should all be on standby. A people united can never be defeated.”

Also, ANAP’s General Secretary, Abdulrazaq Saidu, described the action of the minister in the past eight years as illegal.

According to him, the failure of the minister to constitute Board of Directors in the various agencies contravened the Acts setting up the agencies and the directive of the presidency.

He declared that the unions would challenge the attempt of the minister in the court of law.