Aviation industry stakeholders have raised a red flag on the planned concession of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja; Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, and the Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers State by the Federal Government.
The stakeholders are worried that the government is looking at concessioning the airports to foreign firms while there are tested indigenous firms that can do the job efficiently.
According to them, besides the capital flight associated with using expatriate firms, the Federal Government may be unwittingly compromising the nation’s security.
The airports, the stakeholders pointed out, are the gateway to every country, arguing that the architecture and operations of “such assets should be handled by nationals who have the security interest of the country at heart.”
In a chat with newsmen, Mustapha Bello, a retired engineer with the defunct Nigeria Airways, advised that security and national interest should be the first consideration when handling national assets.
His words: “Nigeria should not forget the experience of Uganda during the reign of the late General Idi Amin.
“The Entebbe raid was successfully carried out because the Israelis had the architectural plan of the Uganda Entebbe International Airport in their palm.
“Since there are some Nigerian companies who have successfully operated airports terminals like Bi-Courtney Aviation Services, who are currently running Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2, MMA2, Lagos, they should be considered first.
“There is another successful Nigerian whose company is operating at the Gatwick Airport in United Kingdom, UK. Such companies owned by Nigerians should be considered first “.
Also, another official of a Lagos-based aviation company, who pleaded anonymity, noted that indigenization of national assets is “very important in order to create jobs for the teeming population and prevent capital flight.
“For obvious reasons, it is necessary for the airports to be concessioned to local firms with track records, merit and competence, rather than foreign companies that you cannot vouch for.
“Some of the foreign companies being touted don’t even have the required records.
“Bi-Courtney Aviation Services, BASL, has proved to be the best private terminal manager in the last 14 years and so should be supported by government because of its antecedent in terminal management.
“Luckily, I was informed that they also bid for the terminals to be concessioned”.
When reminded that Bi-Courtney had been locked in legal battle with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and consequently, the Federal Government may be biased against the company in the bidding process, he said that most of the legal issues at MMA2 had been resolved in favour of BASL.
“The late President Musa Yar ‘Adua set up a reconciliation committee that resolved most of the disputed sections of the concession agreement.
“On MMA2 terminal, as a stakeholder in the aviation sector, I learnt that from the outset, both parties, BASL and the Federal Government, set up a coordinating committee comprising BASL, FAAN and an independent body to address any challenge that may arise from the agreement on MMA2.
“On each occasion that the committee was called to address some of the challenges emanating from the concession, judgments have been in favour of BASL,” he pointed out.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had recently announced that at the end of the submission of interest to bid for the four international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, some foreign companies also submitted bids.
However, it was gathered that some of the foreign bidders in the process are said to be creating problems as they have been accused of breaching the process.
Again, Femi Falana’s Chambers had written Sirika, alleging that three of the foreign bidders for the four airports to be concessioned violated the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Est.) Act 2005 and the National Policy on Public-Private Partnership (N4P).
The law firm, therefore, called for the disqualification of the three firms from the bidding process to avoid litigation, which might derail the exercise.
In a letter signed by the legal firm to the Aviation Minister entitled: ‘Request to Disqualify TAV Consortium, GMR Consortium, and ADP’, it said it had confirmed that two consortia owned by ADP submitted an expression of interest.
The letter reads in part: “The first consortium was led by TAV Airport Holding (where ADP owns 49 per cent) and the second submission was done by GMR Airports Limited (where ADP owns 46 per cent).
“We are a firm of Legal Practitioners dedicated to the defense of human rights as well as the promotion of the rule of law and Public Accountability in Nigeria.
“Our attention has been drawn to the public notice published by the Ministry of Aviation sometime in August 2021 wherein Requests for Qualification (RFO) were invited for the Concession of four Airport Terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Kano in accordance with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Est.) Act 2005 and the National Policy on Public-Private Partnership (N4P).
“It is pertinent to note that it is expressly stated in Section 2.2 of the RFQ that no applicant single or a consortium can be part of more than one bid.
“Section 2.2.3 is further clarifying that the eligibility shall apply to an applicant and/or to the parties consisting of the applicant i.e. shareholders.
“Contrary to the misleading impression that both TAV and GMR are separate entities, a search on the Internet has revealed that ADP owns 46 per cent of GMR and 49 per cent of TAV.
“Having contravened the Requests for Qualification (RFO) without any legal basis whatsoever, the TAV-led consortium and the GMR submission as well as ADP as a stand alone party should be disqualified from participation in the tender.
“It is hoped that you will accede to our request to avoid any litigation over the proposed concession of the four airports terminals”.
Following the letter, Aviation stakeholders are of the opinion that the Federal Government deals with indigenous companies whose track records are known, as well as to avoid encumbrances.