A bunch of aviation workers have been protesting the concession of the Lagos and Abuja airports. These guys don't really care about us.
“I'm pleased to say the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the concession of the Lagos and Abuja airports," announced Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, rather gleefully.
Under the terms of the concession, private companies and investors will be more involved in the day-to-day running of the Lagos and Abuja airports.
I considered the decision by FEC some cause for cheer by everyone, until September 19, 2017 when workers under the aegis of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) protested the move during a peaceful rally at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos.
“FAAN workers say no to Lagos and Abuja airports concession…“Selling our international airports is an invitation to terrorism”, the placards of the protesters read.
Explaining why they are opposed to the concession, the National President of ATSSSAN, Mr Ahmadu Ilitrus who spoke for the protesting Unions, said:
“We have also learnt from our comrades in the power and telecommunications sectors and so on.
“I have gone through the document of the proposed airports concession which includes the transaction advisers, the terms of reference and so on.
“But sincerely, I have not seen anywhere in the document where labour issues have been proposed or being addressed.
“If FAAN is providing services and you concession the airport and give it to a third party, it is the investor’s decision to either lay off everybody and recruit his own staff or to retain few of the FAAN workers.”
Fair enough, but in handing over the part running of our airports to private investors, it is inevitable that jobs will be lost and that persons who haven’t improved themselves on the job or who can’t guarantee quick return on investments for the new owners, will be asked to go.
It’s cruel, but that’s how the world works, unfortunately. Job security these days is tied to key performance indicators from everyone because it really is a jungle out there.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika should go ahead and include the unions in further concession discussions but on no account must government yield to the blackmail from the Unions.
As a matter of fact, the 2016 committee constituted to look at the concession of federal airports, also penciled Port Harcourt and Kano airports for part auctioning.
And besides, a concession doesn’t mean government will completely hands off the airports. It just means that government will retain a stake but the private sector will be in charge of running the airports daily. There’ll be a share of the profit between the private sector and government based off a pre-agreed percentage.
We have to arrive at a point in our country where we realise that government cannot run anything or shouldn’t be trusted to run anything. All government run businesses are going under because in this part of the world, ‘government business is nobody’s business’.
In the 21st century, the job of governments has morphed from running businesses to setting up enabling environment for businesses to thrive. The private sector takes the front-row seat in economic matters around the globe. The government only regulates these days.
It’s called capitalism and it sometimes sucks. But that’s just the way it is and that’s just the way prosperous nations do it.
Nigeria’s airports have been poorly run for far too long. The Port Harcourt airport is an absolute disgrace. In Lagos, sometimes the baggage carousels and elevators don’t work. At the international wing of the Lagos airport, when it rains it pours—buckets are brought in to stop the place from getting submerged. The staff is unprofessional, de-motivated and rude, and touts mill around the place.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo finally liquidated national carrier ‘Nigeria Airways’ in September 2004 after the business had been run aground by persons who will soon receive N45B in severance package from the federal government.
We have to get serious if we intend to get this country out of recession and well on the path of economic growth. Those workers who took to the streets to protest the sale of the airports should be told how misguided they are. Those who are good enough to keep their jobs, should be retained and those who have contributed to the bureaucracy that has run this country aground, should be thanked, paid off and shown the door.
And then, let the technocrats and private investors be ushered in. We need them like yesterday.