Again, FG, aviation unions set for showdown over airports concession

Posted by Sade Williams

 

Aviation unions, comprising the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professional (ANAP), have again planned a nationwide protest against the concession of Nigeria’s airports.

 

The unions in a statement signed by Comrade Ocheme Aba Comrade, Frances Akinjole; General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary for NUATE and ATSSSAN respectively and Comrade Abdul Rasaq Saidu, Secretary General for ANAP, said said it will reject what it termed ‘attempt to share our common patrimony in the guise of a phony concession exercise’, it its entirety.

 

In the statement titled, ‘There Must Be A Limit To Perfidy’, the unions posited that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, further exposed the desperation of the Ministry ‘to foist a hidden agenda on Nigerians’ by an earlier response by the Minister to their cry against ‘unwholesome airports concession program’.

 

The Unions, which claim that Sirika was of the opinion, in his reaction, that the union members are ignorant of the concessions or Public Private Partnership (PPP) procedures as being overseen by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), noted that the reverse is the case.

 

“Contrary to the above assertion, we are not ignorant of the ICRC processes. As a matter of fact, our well-considered contention that the ICRC has not performed due diligence on the concession programme, and that the Ministry has not acted altruistically in the matter is borne out of our knowledge that both the Ministry and the ICRC have gravely failed to comply with the established PPP due process.

 

The unions listed  some fundamental infractions in the handling of the airport concession project by the ICRC and the Ministry of Aviation to include:

Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika

 

i) A major pre-requisite for enabling a PPP, according to ICRC regulation, is that, “The public entity should have enabling authority to transfer its responsibility – enabling legislative and policy framework OR an Administrative Order to that effect”. But, we find nothing in the Federal airports Authority of Nigeria Act that grants power to the Ministry of Aviation “to transfer its responsibility”, nor is there any clear “legislative & policy framework” for such, nor is there an “Administrative order” in that respect. Therefore, the airports concession is being undertaken in the absence of a basic pre-requisite, and in contravention of its major policy guideline.

 

ii) The mode of operation of the ICRC is to deal directly with the concessioner Ministry, or Department, or Agency (MDA); in this instance, the FAAN. But, as we all well know, FAAN has not even as much as done any project identification, or prioritization, or concept note to the ICRC on concession of any airport in Nigeria to the ICRC as required by the publicly stated ICRC procedures. And the only role FAAN has played so far is that of a representative member on the Project Delivery Team and the Steering Committee as appointed by the Minister. Therefore, the ICRC and the Ministry, by carrying on with the airports concession project outside the purview of FAAN is indicative of an unwholesome agenda. Such action is, in fact, unlawful as it contravenes Part II, 3(g) of the FAAN Establishment Act, 2004 as well as the Civil Aviation Act, 2005. As a matter of fact, for a PPP project by an Agency as in this case, the only role prescribed for a Minister by the ICRC is that the Agency “would submit the FBC (Full Business Case) through the line Minister for approval”, by FEC, ostensibly.

 

iii) According to the National PPP processes of the ICRC, the Transaction Adviser (TA) is to be appointed through a “competitive bidding process”. We all know that the only way to assure a truly competitive bidding process is through open bidding. But in the case of this airports concession project, there was no such bidding exercise known to the public. As a matter of fact, we are aware that the Project Delivery Team were at a meeting discussing the issue of TA when they learnt that the FEC had just then announced the approval of the appointment of a TA. Magic.

 

iv) While we agree that the project delivery Team (PDT) is not an approving authority, we must nevertheless state that the PDT is a vital organ of the PPP process with definite functions and mandates. Its functions form the foundation upon which the success of the entire PPP project rests. Therefore, by circumventing the functions of the PDT as the ICRC and the Ministry have done, particularly by the clandestine appointment of Transitional Adviser (TA), there is a clear case of violation of the process as well as a travesty against the Nigerian people. All the above information can be verified at www.icrc.gov.ng.

 

The unions also fumed at the claim that the Minister said that ‘it is entirely false and malicious to say that the Ministry has in any way single-handedly driven this concession  process’.

 

They noted that such was even ‘an understatement to state that the Minister has single-handedly driven the entire airports PPP processes thus far, adding that any effort to contradict this solid fact flies in the face of overwhelming evidence of the over-arching actions of the Minister on this matter.

 

They claimed further that:

 

  1. i) The Hon. Minister, with naked power, completely hijacked the airports concession project from FAAN and prevented the ownership of the process by FAAN in disregard to procedure established by the ICRC, the FAAN Act and the Civil Aviation Act. In this regard, take note that it is the Minister, instead of FAAN that set up the Project Delivery Team (PDT). It is under the Minister’s auspices, instead of FAAN, that all the documents for the processes were produced. It is the Minister, instead of FAAN, that received the ICRC certificate of Compliance. Clearly, the Minister, instead of FAAN, is driving the concession exercise.

 

  1. ii) Whereas the Hon. Minister has always showcased his pride in including two union representatives in the PDT, and constantly states that this was to serve the purpose of assuring transparency and accountability, his actions have advertently eroded the advertised transparent disposition. First, the clandestine approach to the PPP process has rendered the PDT redundant, and the participation of our Unions in tow. Second, his expressly stated disdain and low esteem for the PDT as contained in his rejoinder clearly shows that he does not reckon with the PDT. Therefore, his oft-stated value attached to the Unions participation in the concession process through our membership of the PDT is a charade, an instrument to blackmail labour, and a calculated effort to mislead government and the public.

 

While also faulting the Minister’s claims that ‘the concession programme has the most noble of goals’, the unions explained that for instance, ‘the concession programme has nothing in it to cater for the demise that faces the remaining eighteen airports when the life support that the four airports represent is switched off by the blood sucking concession programme’.

 

They also accused the Minister of giving the false impression that the workers are totally objectionable to concession of airports, adding that this is not true at all.

 

Apart from raising security issues, which they said Sirika failed to address in his rejoinder, they are also asking for explanation on the Chinese loan facility being utilised for ongoing new terminal buildings at the same four airports, including remodelling of the old terminals.

 

“Furthermore, there remains no clarity on the question of the semi-concession that already exists through the Chinese loan facility being utilised for ongoing new terminal buildings at the same four airports, including remodelling of the old terminals. There is yet to be any explanation on that.

“Based on the foregoing, it is obvious that the rejoinder in question did not help the Minister’s cause in justifying the airport’s concession project as presently conceived which we consider potentially damaging to national interest. To the contrary, the rejoinder further consolidated widely held view that this particular PPP does not serve any national cause, and its motive is not wholesome.

 

“We hasten, though, to let it be known that we are unambiguously strewn to the national cause and the genuine interest of the workers of FAAN. We are completely extricated from any narrow, or selfish motives. Therefore, we shall remain unwavering in our stated commitment to deny this clandestine PPP the benefit of daylight.

 

“Furthermore, we hereby publicly dissociate ourselves from any notion of being against the concession of airports as being insinuated in some quarters. This lie is defeated by the fact that we did offer an alternative concession model, along with alternative approaches in our earlier press conference. On the strength of that, we shall stand firm against any attempt to share our common patrimony in the guise of a phony concession exercise. And we enjoin all Nigerians who love the fatherland to join us as we prepare for nationwide public protests to be kicked off shortly in order to compel a rethink in a positive direction. There is no going back.

 

“However, we welcome the Hon. Minister’s promise to engage with us on these issues, and we make ourselves available and look forward to such engagement soon enough. For, should it be that the Hon. Minister does have altruistic motive after all, and we are only mistaking his overzealousness for ill motive, then this statement represents a valuable chance for the Minister to step back a bit and take another look at his approach thus far. In that case his intended engagement with our unions may prove auspicious and useful indeed”, the unions said.

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