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Govt has no money for aviation infrastructure – Minister

Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, yesterday defended the plans by the Federal Government to concession some major airports across the country, saying government has no money to invest in aviation infrastructure. This is coming as Director- General of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Haruna Yusuf, said the agency would review concessions at all the airport terminals before the process that would throw up new bidders for the infrastructure. Haruna promised that the exercise would be transparently done to avoid mistakes of the past.

The implication of this is that all existing concessions inside the terminal at Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports may either be terminated or allowed to run their course. The minister disclosed that what is at stake is the concessioning of the terminals, not the airports as being insinuated by people. Sirika, who joined a webinar put together by Aviation Round Table (ART) entitled, “Nigerian Airport Concession: How Far, So Far”, from Enugu Airport where he had gone to inspect facilities at the airport, said unlike what the past administration was trying to do by selling off the airports, the government’s dwindling revenue has made it imperative for it to consider private partnership in airport infrastructure.

Panelists comprised chairman, African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA), Nick Fadugba; former Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren; Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru; aviation consultant, Dr. Daniel Young; Chief Executive Officer, Spring Fountain, Mr. Tunde Fagbemi; Chairman, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), and Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), among others. He disclosed that the Murtala Muhammed International Airport terminal was built in 1979 for 200,000 passengers, adding that the airport terminal currently processes nearly eight million passengers, lamenting that the facilities have been overstretched. “What we are trying to do is to keep assets of the people for the people. We are not trying to sell the assets of Nigerians like the last administration tried to do. What we are doing is for good service delivery.

They will revert to the people. What they are doing is to assist to provide these facilities. Government has no money to pump into airports. “Lagos airport was built for just 200,000 people in 1979. Today, Lagos airport processes about eight million passengers. We are not able to put money into Lagos airport.

The private sector is capable of doing that.” Babalakin stated that the inability of the Federal Government to stick to agreements have stunted the infrastructure growth of the sector. He, however, expressed joy at FAAN’s position to engage his firm with a bid to settling all litigations arising from the concession of MMA2 instituted by FAAN. Demuren, on his part, warned that nobody will invest in aviation in the country until all concession issues pending in court are resolved. Stakeholders, however, called on government to make the concession exercise very transparent with a view not to replace public monopoly with private sector monopoly and one that would truly serve the interest of Nigerians.

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