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Security fears as mainly M’East investors top in bids for airports

In what may look like a coordinated expression of interest, stakeholders in Nigeria aviation sector, including members of the National Assembly, are developing cold feet following discovery that mainly investors from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are topping the list of expression of interest to take over Nigerian key airports. There are also European and Canadian bidders, but they are in clear minority.

The main fear is the security implication for Nigeria and alleged “northern agenda” currently put forward either by coincidence or deliberately in the concession buildup.

Before now, Turkey had been in the news as the origin of all the illegal arms (Pump Action riffles) imports that are impounded by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and since recently, Qatar had also been in the news over its closeness to terrorist groups.

Otherwise, several nations of the world had severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar over the trending issue including the US and many European countries.

During last week’s stakeholders meeting, some of the Aviation union members present at the meeting noted that their presence is to monitor and make sure Nigerian major airports are not given to the wrong hands.

Besides, their participation is to monitor the concession process for transparency.

In an interview with an aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), he said “I am as worried as you, no doubt about that. The National Assembly is also as worried. I think, from what I’ve heard, the minister too is very cautious with what he is doing. Just the way he handled the Abuja airport’s runway is the way he is handling this”.

“From the look of things now, they have not left the level of getting the consultants of about three or four to package things together. When they get to that stage, there must be a stakeholders’ meeting, and there would be. It is not only the concession, but also the national carrier, maintenance facility and aerotropolis that are being packaged.

“So, it is too early to start speculating because in any case, all these things will still have to go through the infrastructure concession commission, the PPP, Ministry of Justice and then the Federal Executive Council for approval.

“But in lieu of the security concerns, I have advised them to focus on concession of the terminals, cargo sections and car parks among others, but not the aeronautical side. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has even warned African countries since 2009 not to concession aeronautical side in the light of security issues around us,” Ojikutu noted.

Before now, all the aviation union had expressed fears of job loss if the concession is done with the speed being applied by the Ministers in charge of transportation.

Only last week, the Joe Ajero led United Labour Congress (ULC) joined some aviation unions to conduct a peaceful protest at the Lagos Airport complex to register their rejection of the concession deal.