Airports concession must be done right | Dailytrust

Airports concession must be done right

Runway of the new Anambra Airport
Runway of the new Anambra Airport

After about five years, the federal government last week took practical steps towards the concession of four major commercial airports. The airports are; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Murtala Muhammed Internatıonal Aırport, Lagos; Malam Amınu Kano Internatıonal Aırport, Kano and the Port Harcourt Internatıonal Aırport.  Whereas the decision to concession the airports was taken in 2016 by the Federal Executive Council, the federal government did not commence the process. Only last week did it openly invite Requests for Qualification (RFQ) from companies interested in taking over the running of the non-aeronautic assets of the airports located in the passenger and cargo terminals, consisting of assets from the entry door of the airport to the point of embarking and disembarking from an aircraft to the exit doors.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Mr Hassan Musa, in a statement issued to newsmen in Lagos by the Director, Public Affairs of the ministry, Mr James Odaudu, said the request is in compliance with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and National Policy on Public-Private Partnership (N4P).

He said, “The execution of this project is meant to achieve the federal government’s objective in terms of air transport value chain growth.

“The project will develop and profitably manage customer centered airport facilities for safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world-class standards of quality”.

We welcome the effort by the federal government to concession the airports as we believe it will indeed ensure efficiency at the facilities. However, it is a delicate operation that must be conducted with utmost transparency and sincerity.

While it is within the right of Nigerians to question the process and be skeptical about it, after all, memories of what happened to the Nigerian Airways that eventually led to the collapse of the national carrier are still fresh, the airports are a slightly different proposition.

Despite their huge potentials, the international airports in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano, have been run at a sub-optimal level for years, their operations far too often marked by inefficiency.

The example of the government’s concession of the Terminal 2 of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services has proven to be of some merit. The functionality of the terminal has indeed improved, given the circumstances.

If done properly and the airports are handed over to the right companies to manage, it is expected that this move by the government will yield better results and move the airports from the sub-optimal performance level to a state where they can yield optimal services and profit for the concessionaire and the government and comfort and convenience for passengers.

At the moment, the aviation ministry has made the appropriate comments about securing the interest of the current employees of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), promising that the concession would ensure not a loss of jobs but more jobs as the airports are currently understaffed.

The importance of holding the government to its words on this cannot be overemphasised. The plight of the employees of the defunct Nigerian Airways who were laid off without due compensation or benefits must not be replicated.

The federal government must be mindful not to commit to a long term agreement with a firm that will fail to deliver or default on its obligation. The interest of Nigerians and their stakes in the airports must be protected adequately. In this light, the decision to peg the pre-qualification asset base of the interested concessionaire at N30 billion, with added financial guarantees provides a measure of security for the airports. But to protect the interest of Nigerians, certain targeted goals with reasonable timelines must be set, failure of which could necessitate the review of the agreement.

If handled appropriately, through transparency and in compliance with the regulations of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and the National Policy on Public-Private Partnership (N4P), this concession will bring the much-needed sanity to airport services in the country. The airports are the country’s gateway and they must be in a position to deliver efficiently at all times.

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