By Shitile Mbayansa, Abuja
The Federal Government is so broke it cannot carried the burden of running 22 airports, and has opted to concession their management to the private sector.
But the move is beginning with the juicier ones in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, and Abuja.
Also, according to the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in Abuja, the government has set aside N42 billion to settle former Nigeria Airways staff, who have been agitating for payment of their terminal benefits.
And for aviation sector workers opposed to the concessioning plan, Sirika said:
“You will agree with me that this is not news. They have done so in the past. We are a democratic government and we recognize that it is their right to protest and what they are protesting is whether there will be job losses and labour issues. And we have been very consistent and we have been engaging them. This time, it will be very very different.
“At a time the concessioning of some government assets started, we were not knowledgeable in what concession entails but today we have the knowledge and it will be transparently done with active participation of workers in both the delivery and the steering committees to drive this process.
“What is more, come this Friday a portal will be put up by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), where all matters of concession will be available for anyone to see. Is an extra effort by this government to be so transparent in dealing with this type of situation. So when it is transparently done, labour issues will be addressed within the process, you will agree with me is the best way to go.
“I had talked about concession as against the outright sale that was tried in by past governments. I read on the social media that I had stole N635 million but in the body of the story they said I had budgeted to spend it during concession.
“I have to say that we have been meeting with them but the policy of government is that we cannot fund aviation infrastructure today through public budgets. The money is not there. We intend to get private sector to come and put in their money.
“Just to illustrate, Murtala Mohammed airport was built to cater for 200,000 people per annum but today it is doing eight million. The toilets and lifts in the airport were meant to serve 200,000 people per annum but now is serving eight million per annum. There is no single addition on that airport and we are growing as a people.
“At the time it was built we were 60 million people today we are 173 million. And we cannot continue to let the airport be like that and we do not have the money to invest and develop this airport.
“In our opinion as a government and the policy has been done that it will go through concession, to give to some individuals who will build, operate, maintain, sustain, make money and government will also make money in the process and return to government after a number of years between 20 to 25 years. This will be transparently done, this is the catch phrase, so we are proceeding.”