To concession in layman’s language simply means to give or contract out a project to another body to manage for a given period of time. This is a modern way of running government corporations where profit is expected to be made. By concessioning, government will hand over either the management or the whole entity to private companies to manage. In the period of private management terms and conditions may include payment of certain amount to government coffers from time to time. Also, the private entity may reserve the right to hire and fire.
So in this case, the Federal Government, which is the owner of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja have always wanted to hands off those two airports to private people for efficiency purposes but always met brick wall. This time, despite stiff opposition by various stakeholders against the privatisation of the nation’s leading airports, Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday, disclosed that the Federal Executive Council, FEC has agreed to concession the two busiest airports in the land.
Prof Osinbajo disclosed this while speaking at the fifth edition of the presidential quarterly business forum, which held at the State House, Abuja. Osinbajo said, “I am pleased to say that FEC has approved the concessioning of the Lagos and Abuja Airport”. this singular pronouncement has put paid to years of conjecture whether the concession will ever take place going forward. Opposition mounted, especially by unionists, who fear that national assets were to be handed to private hands or indeed for job security.
Recall that in 2016, the Federal Government indicated interest in concessioning the Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports to increase their capacity and efficiency. But Labour unions, especially in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) expressed their lack of trust and confidence in the process, vowing to take all reasonable measures to stop the planned concession of the airports.
This was even as the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, assured that the process of concessioning the airports would be transparent. “Public Private Partnership (PPP) and concession in the airports have never been done in a structured and transparent manner,” he had earlier said.
“The contracts are not properly prepared, no risk analysis and no financial models. Consequently, it is not surprising that they ended in litigation. I want to assure stakeholders that we will be transparent and the concession is in the best interest of the country. We will ensure that Nigerians are given priority in getting jobs in the aviation sector. We will give adequate time for the airlines to prepare themselves but for sure, we will ensure that it happens soonest.”
Sirika has already inaugurated two committees, Project Steering Committee and Project Delivery Committee, for the concessioning process. In 2007, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had set in motion a new paradigm in aviation management when he concessioned terminal two of the Murtala Muhammed Airport to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), the first PPP initiative in the history of Nigeria’s aviation sector. To be fair, terminal two has shown that our airports can look better, feel better and make returns to both investors and all stakeholders. Terminal two is a perfect example of what is possible within the aviation sector if the right private investors are chosen.
As we move along in our national development dynamics will change, new business cultures will be introduced, it is up to us to adapt and make the best of it. On the other hand, government must ensure that they do as they have promised by promoting the interest of the Nigerian public who are the owners of the airports and on one hand and the interest of the flying public on the other. From the success of the impending concession, and the expected success,we are hoping that this model is effected at other airports going forward. This is international best practice.and Nigeria must key in so that private sector efficiency can re-enact our airports in way to brighten our pride in the comity of gold standard airports worldwide.