With the race to delivering national carrier, concession of airports and others hotting up, WOLE SHADARE writes that there is need to resolve all issues pertaining to these project to ensure their success
Race hots up
There is no doubt that the pressure in handling the concession of the four international airports, the establishment of a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO), development of cargo/agro allied terminals, establishment of an aviation leasing company, establishment of a National Carrier, development of Aerotropolis by the Ministers of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika have warranted the call for another Stakeholders’ Forum.
This to consolidate his position, which was hitherto shrouded in secrecy. Only few people are in the know of what the Minister is up to as he races against time to deliver on them. Many are delighted that he has unveiled the transaction advisers for the projects. There are indications that the enthusiasm that trailed the roadmap is waning by the day, less than one year to elections and stakeholders are wondering why it took Sirika so long to come with a road map years after assuming office or looking for transaction advisers when there are seasoned experts and professionals who can deliver on them abound in the industry.
Stakeholders have advised the government to ensure that all the legal tussles of various concession deals are resolved before the four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano are concessioned to avoid litigations that may derail the projects. There are so many concession deals that went awry. The two concession deals notably the ones involving Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), which has dragged on for over 10 years in spite the firm reportedly winning at the Supreme Court to protect its N35b MMA2 investment. Also contentious was the Maevis deal.
Notwithstanding the company’s alleged indiscretion over certain matters, the concession assisted the country in seamless passage of passengers at most of the major airports, especially Lagos airport, which witnessed congestion sometimes ago and made air travel in and out of the terminal cumbersome. Also in dispute for nearly 20 years, is the hotel project, AIC Limited owned by Chief Harry Akande; Promoworld among others are having issues because of lack of respect for agreements and the rule of law, which has been the fundamental problem with FAAN and the Federal Ministry of Aviation, leading to loss of billions of naira by the investors.
A former Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah in conspiracy with a former Managing Director the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), George Uriesi, allegedly chased them away with security operatives from their offices at the Lagos airport like thieves in the night. The case is still in court and has caused FAAN like many other concession litigations more than N2 billion. If Nigeria must make any progress this time in moving the aviation industry forward, wellthought out plans into the future must be conceived. Looking at local needs, the world aviation requires direction and bearing in mind the economic projections of the nation, the country need to have an articulated and well-thought out concession programme that will address all the components required for this industry. This must be done by professionals and industry players who must submit memoranda on their ideas and thoughts. Thereafter, information must be processed by unbiased independent international consultants before unveiling such programme to industry players first for review. Then, the implications of such projects and financing by local and international reputable companies must be examined.
An expert in airline operation who spoke on condition of anonymity decried the attitude of people saddled with the process, describing it as alarming. His words, “It is alarming that the same actors who were once involved in the same process that led us to near calamity are the same people promoting this process. Meanwhile, they are hesitant to address the lingering historic concession issues entered into by private investors with the Federal Government and its agency, FAAN. We suggest that this process be independent of both the ministry and its agencies Further to this, the Transaction Advisers should work in collaboration with committees of critical stakeholders in the industry. “These committees should be endorsed by the Presidential Committee on Ease of Doing Business. It is a good thing that the Transaction Advisers have said that they are going to engage Bi- Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) on the MMA2 concession. Stakeholders in the industry are looking forward to this and will be hoping that this will be the issue to be resolved first before going ahead with the proposed concessions”. Speaking on the matter, respected aviator and former Director of Operations of liquidated Nigeria Airways, Capt. Dele Ore, stated that the government must assuage the pains and anguish of concessionaires already bruised by the indiscretion of its agencies and resolve all the issues slowing down the progress of the sector. He insisted that this is the only way to boost the confidence of would-be investors who are ready to do business with the government despite the biting economic hardships in the country. A travel investor told New Telegraph that “MMA2 concession, executed by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), is the first successfully executed concession in the country. It continues to suffer multiple breaches of the concession agreement since inception, including the redevelopment of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT). Despite several court judgements and decisions of the Co-ordinating Committee, as well as the recommendations of various consultants, FAAN has continued to flagrantly flout the rule of law over this concession and also oppresses and hinders the development of the concession ideals”.
It is expedient to have a robust plan for these proposed concessions. If we are to be successful, the government must first resolve all the issues surrounding the earlier concessions by adhering to its obligations and negotiate the way forward. This will build confidence in would-be investors. If this proposal is not considered and the old brigade continues to use the same propaganda by legitimising their cronies as fronts, the resultant effect will be another failure of the whole projects. Unfortunately this time, it will be at a tremendous cost to Nigeria as litigations will be global and multiple because of the nature of these proposed concessions.
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