Posted by Sade Williams
Workers of the Federal AirportsvAuthiruty of Nigeria (FAAN) and members of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), on Thursday, embarked a warning strike and barred Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, from holding the proposed Town Hall Meeting with the workers of FAAN.
The unions ‘ protest paralyzed activities at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos at they protested against the planned concession of four major airports in the country.
The unions, which accused the minister of planning to sell the future of Nigeria to his cronies, insisting that the planned concession of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano was against the interest of FAAN staff and the general public.
The unions’ members which carried placards with inscriptions: ‘FAAN Mgt should stop playing politics with our CoS,’ ‘FAAN workers need better motivation,’ and ‘Our workers morale is low and poses danger to aviation safety”, had barricaded the main entrance to the headquarters of FAAN at the airport as early as 5.30 a.m with vehicles, locked up the various entrances to offices with padlocks and ordered their members not to be a part of any town hall meeting with the minister, saying that the minister was not transparent with the implementation of the Federal Government’s policy.
Others inscriptions read, ‘Immediate implementation of the new minimum wage,’ ‘Remittance of N105.3bn outstanding pension contribution to P.F.A,’ ‘Immediate preparation of 2020 acturial valuation,’ ‘Immediate payment of outstanding arrears of overtime and other allowances,’ among others.
Speaking on behalf of other unions, Comrade Ocheme Aba, the General Secretary, NUATE, lamented that the agency’s management had continued to flout the rights of the workers.
He alleged that the salaries of the agency’s workers were still staggered despite the ease of Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the planned concession of the four terminals was in bad test.
He explained that the unions were against the model of concession applied adopted by the government, stressing that this model would shortchange Nigeria and Nigerians.
Aba revealed that the four airports designated for concessioning were already concessioned to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) that was building the new terminals in the country.
Accordibg to him, “CCECC and FAAN already have an arrangement of sharing the proceeds from the terminals. If you now concession these terminals to another company, who will pay the 60 per cent of the proceeds on these terminals?
“It means you are living FAAN with 40 per cent from which they will have to pay for the loan, return 25 per cent to the Federal Government based on the Fiscal Responsibility Act and they also have to maintain the other 18 airports, which is crazy, fraudulent and an act of foolishness of the highest order.
“Such important national assets are handed over to a few individuals when the nation will be bleeding and the individuals will continue to smile to the bank. These individuals are not contributing anything because these are brand new airports. So, the investors have nothing to invest, but rather to inherit our national wealth.”
He said that if the concession plan is allowed to go on as planned, it would be a monster on the over 12,500 workers of FAAN, noting that FAAN was still on the old pension scheme because it lacked the financial resources to pay to the Pension Fund Administration (PFA), which is about N200 billion, excluding the exit benefits of the 12,500 staff.
Also speaking, Mrs. Sarah Rindams, the Deputy President, ATSSSAN, alleged that accrued pension to staff of FAAN as at 2016 was N103.5 billion and wondered if the new concessionaire would be ready to pay such humongous amount of money.
She lamented that salaries of workers are being staggered, while the several allowances of staff remained unpaid by the management, noting that accrued pension of FAAN staff had grown to over N200 billion as at 2020.
“FAAN does not have a culture of saving for the raining day. If the unions are telling you there is fire on the mountain, truly, there is fire on the mountain. Nobody has compromised on this issue.
“Tomorrow, they say what is next is concessioning of the terminals. If a concessionaire comes in, it will run FAAN for two years and can decide to sack anyone, yet, our money will not be sent to the PFA. We have been abused and told that we don’t have commonsense. It is true that sense is not common, but we want to prove to them that we have commonsense. If we continue to keep quiet, who will fight for us?”
Meanwhile, Aba said that the planned concession was done in a way to cripple and finally destroy FAAN saying that about from the debt incurred from the Chinese terminal which has grown to $1billion, monies accruable to FAAN will be used for debt servicing, maintenance of other 18 airports and other expenses leaving nothing for FAAN to survive with.
”The new Chinese terminals are going to be concessioned where the concessionaire will receive 60% of the sharing formula while FAAN will retain 40% and what will happen to the 40% that FAAN will retain? From that 40% FAAN will pay the Chinese loan, FAAN will return 25% to the Federal Government according to the Fiscal Responsibility Act from that 40% FAAN will maintain the other 18 airports including all of you who are workers of FAAN.
“So the point is this terminal is already on concession and what is happening is that the Federal Government is seeking to concession a concession. Now this concessionaire will take 60% I’m sure you’d want to ask me what is his contribution what is he going to do? According to the plan which is based on study according to the traffic flow there will be no need for any expansion in this terminal until the year 2045″, he added.