Concession of airports plan by the federal government sparks trouble over an existing debt and agreement with China to build four new terminals at the rate of $500 million.

The “concession within concession”, according to the coalition of aviation workers’ unions, is untidy and not in the best interest of the country. Hence, this among other concerns regarding the airport concessioning should first be resolved.

A group of former Managing Directors and Directors of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) warned against a Mezzanine Clause in all Chinese sponsored projects, adding that any contravention of agreement with China on the $500m loan for the construction of the new terminal buildings may lead to invocation of the clause.

In reaction to these concerns, the House of Representatives has set up a sub-committee to interface with the Ministry of Aviation, the financial adviser (FAD) and the project delivery team (PDT) on the proposed airports concessioning. The sub-committee is to review the reports of the FAD and the PDT, which according to the House Committee on Aviation chairman, Nnolim Nnaji, fell below expectations.

Government had since 2017 begun moves to concession all the 22 airports, beginning with the big four in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. Coincidentally, the big four are beneficiaries of a 2013 loan deal between Nigeria and China to build four new terminals for the four airports. Abuja and Port Harcourt currently use the new terminals, while those of Lagos and Kano remain yet uncompleted seven years after.

Following the recent concession approval by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the workers’ unions became more agitated over imminent job losses.

Besides, they requested for the details of the $500 million worth of Chinese loan deal to build the four terminals, especially the add-on plan to concession the terminals. Government’s response didn’t come their way.

General Secretary of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Aba, observed that there was no clarity on the question of a semi-concession that already exists through the Chinese loan facility.

Aba said: “Equally important is the loud silence over the issue of primacy of national security, especially at this time and the foreseeable future. They failed to situate issues within the national security architecture, the potential fact of the four foremost international gateways being held in private, most likely foreign hands.

“We hasten, though, to let it be known that we are unambiguously strewn to the national cause and the genuine interest of the workers of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). We are completely extricated from any narrow or selfish motives. Therefore, we shall remain unwavering in our stated commitment to deny this clandestine Public Private Partnership (PPP) the benefit of daylight.

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