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Trouble Brews in Nigeria’s Aviation Sector

-By Adeniyi Onifade

Trouble is brewing in Nigeria’s aviation sector over the planned concession of some airports by the federal government, especially with planned amendment of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Bill 2019.

The proposed bill if amended, will eventually distort airline operations in the country especially in the area of commercial operations.

Perhaps, the most controversial part of the FAAN amendment billing causing stir among stakeholders especially those opposed to airport concession is the fact that the Minister now holds absolute power to concession airports.

According to the proposal before the National Assembly, the Minister of Aviation would have the statutory power to concession any of the airports. Part V of the bill which deals with general powers of the FAAN says: “The authority shall, with the consent of the Minister, discontinue the use of any airport maintained by it pursuant to this Act.”

The bill adds: “Where the use of an airport is discontinued pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, the authority shall submit a valuation of the airport to the federal government which shall cause compensation to be made to the authority as appropriate.”

Hadi Sirika, Aviation Minister

Reports had earlier suggested that the federal government is on the verge of concessioning four major airports in the country – Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja; Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa Rivers and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano.

It was also learnt that the amendment bill before the National Assembly was to pave way for concession as the extant FAAN Act did not recognise concessioning. Apart from the four airports slated for concessioning, FAAN also manages 18 other airports which are largely considered as unviable.

The major opponents of the concession are the workers represented by the unions which have been very vocal in their opposition to the proposal. But as the government remains adamant, the unions are spoiling for war over the amendment bill which they say gives the minister “enormous powers. The aspect of the bill relating to concession is not in the national interest, according to a union leader. He said the union would protest it.

The union further opined that the provision is at variance with the power given to the board of directors in the same bill. The board, according to the amendment shall have the power to, among others “formulate and provide the general policies and guidelines relating to the authority; monitor the implementation of the policies and programmes of the authority.

Already, aviation unions in the country have already begun mobilization against the bill, describing it as a deliberate attempt to undermine the sector.

Earlier, General Secretary Nigeria Aviation Professionals Association (NAPA) Comrade Abdulrazak Saidu said the unions would kick against the bill. According to Saidu, the unions would protest to the presidency and the National Assembly any portion of the bill that is skewed against the interest of workers in particular and the nation as a whole.

He said: “We are going to oppose the bill sent to the National Assembly because an aspect of it talked about concession of airports, and we are going to protest and we are sending it to the president and the Senate president.”

As it stands, the National Assembly is expected to conduct public hearing on the four aviation bills recently submitted to it by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The bills include Civil Aviation Bill 2019, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Bill 2019 and Nigerian College of Air Space Management Agency Establishment Bill 2019.

Others are Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Establishment Bill 2019, Nigerian Meteorological Agency Establishment Bill 2019 and Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau Establishment Bill 2019.