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FG okays concession of Lagos, Abuja airports

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced on Monday that the Federal Executive Council had agreed to the concession of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.

Osinbajo also asked the private sector to report Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government stalling the implementation of the ease of doing business, saying naming and shaming was the only way to improve the business environment.

The vice president said these at the 5th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum in Abuja on Monday.

He said, “First, we want to do a general overhaul. Second, we want to enter into concession of the airports. I am pleased to say that the Federal Executive Council has approved the concession of the Lagos and Abuja airports,” he stated.

On naming and shaming those demanding rents and gratification, Osinbajo said, “We are ready to confront the system that is used to rent and gratification. In order to reverse that and for things to be done properly, we need to call out officials involved. If we don’t, we will never solve the problem.

“Part of the problem is that nobody is willing to report anybody asking for gratification.”

Osinbajo stated that though change was always slow, those involved in the process must remain focused.

“Change is often slow but we must remain focused. We’ve issued four executive orders so far and we’re training civil servants to implement them,” he added.

He urged regulators to see the interactions as meaning that “our work is far from being done. It is a systematic change that is required.”

The vice president, who said that government’s approach to ease of doing business in Nigeria was dynamic, delved into the current challenges confronting the power sector.

He said while the country was currently generating 6,700 megawatts of electricity, 2,000MW was being wasted daily because of problems associated with connection difficulties as well as problems between the transmission and distribution companies.

Osinbajo said the distribution companies also expressed their unwillingness to take the 2,000MW because of the unwillingness of some consumers to pay.

He also stated that part of the business overhaul initiatives of the government was to ensure the provision of power in some notable business environments such as the Ariaria Market in Aba, Abia State; the printing industry in Somolu, Lagos; and a Kano market, without the necessary connection to the national grid, describing it as “all sorts of off-grid initiatives to get power.”

He stated that the government was promoting solar power initiative as well as the construction of integrated power plants in nine universities to boost electricity supply.

While reacting to the news, stakeholders in the aviation industry said that the concession of the two airports as approved by FEC was long overdue.

The Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd), said the development was not unexpected as the process had been ongoing since the last administration.

“We as a country have spent too much public funds on airports. The concession is long overdue so that the government can concentrate on other things,” he said.

He stated that the concession would give room for the government to focus on safety issues.

Ojikutu added, “If the MMA2 can be managed properly by a private investor and is considered one of the best in the country, then the others should be given to private investors as concessions.

“There is nothing like terminal buildings under the 18 annexes of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. It is nothing more than a shopping mall.”

Ojikutu, however, said that the concession should be limited to the terminals alone so that safety and security would not be compromised.

He explained that areas such as the runway and safety facilities like the air navigational aids should not be included in the concession agreements.

The President, Aviation Roundtable Initiative, an industry pressure group, Mr. Gbenga Olowo, said the concession would help to address some of the issues that airport users had been contending with for a long time.

Olowo, who is also the chief executive officer of Sabre Network, West Africa, said, “The concession is long awaited and I am happy it is finally happening. I hope the terms will be clear and will be respected by subsequent governments.

“The government should also take lessons from the existing concession of the MMA2 and avoid some of the mistakes made.”

The Accountable Manager of Dana Air, Mr. Obi Mbanuzuo, said it was a welcome development as airlines were in need of functional airports.

“Unfortunately, airlines have not been carried along in the process, we need more information on who is involved, the areas and aspects of the concession,” he stated.

A former Director of Operations, Nigeria Airways, Capt. Dele Ore, who was the Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Airport Concession in 2009, said the move was long overdue, adding that the Federal Government needed not to delay the process of handing over the management of the nation’s airports to private hands.

Ore, however, advised the government to ensure that the process was transparent.

The former DC aircraft pilot said, “The advert seeking for investors must be international such that foreign investors will get to see it. Privatisation should not be the transferring of state assets to cronies of those in power.

“For the workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, my advice to them is that they should embrace privatisation, otherwise their fate will be like those of the liquidated Nigerian Airways.’’

An aviation consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Belujane Konzult, Chris Aligbe, while welcoming the news, congratulated the Minister of State for Aviation for securing the approval.

Aligbe said, “I feel extremely happy with this development. What is left is for the concession to be done transparently.”

A former Director of Operations, IRS Airlines, Capt. Ken Wemambu, also described the development as a good move, saying nothing better could happen to the nation’s airports that had become public shame.

According to him, FAAN has not been able to manage the airports and there is a need to give them to private investors.

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