Confusion in Aviation sector as NASS moves for zero allocation
Before now, the position of the Senate Committee on Aviation chaired by Senator Ben Murray-Bruce has been back and front without clear roadmap.
Two weeks ago, the Committee said the sector may get a lion share so that it can complete all ongoing renovation and expansion works in major airports only for the same Committee to weekend make a U-Turn and say Zero allocation will greet the sector.
The committee, based its policy change on the fact government has concluded plan to concession the airports on one hand, and readiness of private investors to assume responsibility for the expansion works.
They argued that hence concessionaires are coming early next year; the Federal Government would no longer need to commit revenue to run the facilities.
The same NASS had penultimate week told Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) that nothing will be concessioned until existing concessionaires are given all they paid for.
The lawmakers took this hard line after the concessionaire of the MMIA 2, Bi-Courtney presented its challenges in the redevelopment of MMIA 2 and associated assets.
Already, the committee is at the verge of summoning the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to explain why the Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MMA2) terminal concession agreement failed and still not resolved till date.
The chairman said that the invitation was ultimately to broker a solution to the problem, which past committees had not been able to address.
He said further that the Senate would ensure that agreement signed by government are henceforth honoured, otherwise officials that participated in the deal are tried for sabotaging the Federal Government.
Recall that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Bi-Courtney Limited in 2003 reached a Build-Operate-Transfer concession agreement on MMA2 terminal that was burnt in 2000. Shortly after the terminal was rebuilt, years of operations (15 or 35years), before it is transferred to FAAN, became a subject of protracted legal battle between FAAN and Bi-Courtney.
While Bi-Courtney insisted on 35, FAAN in disagreement began to violate the agreement with the construction of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) to rival the MMA2, prevention of the Regional Operations to take off at MMA2, among others that led to loss of revenue to the concessionaire.
Business Hilights gathered that the botched agreement, according to them, remains a bad reference point for future dealings with the Federal Government and would make no sense continuing with privatisation of other airports without first resolving the MMA2 impasse.
Explaining more, Committee chairman, Murray-Bruce noted that from his understanding of happenings in the aviation sector, the private sector is able and willing to fix problems in the industry.
According to him, “I will lobby my colleagues to give aviation zero allocation henceforth. There is no point giving them money where private investors can do better. When you don’t give them money, then you’ll solve a lot of problem.
“The advantage is that the billions we could have spent in aviation can now be spent in education, healthcare and in the north east where children are hungry due to the catastrophe of the Boko Haram. So, we’ll give up this economy completely to the private sector as it is done in other parts of the world.
Murray-Bruce, shortly after the tour of the MMA2 terminal in Lagos recently, said underlining such project, and others like it, were legally binding agreements reached by the Federal Government and private investors.
He said Nigerians need to know why agencies of the government would not honour agreements they freely entered and onus is on the minister to explain.
He said “We have listened to Bi-Courtney’s side of the argument and we will summon the Minister of Aviation to the Assembly to present his side of the argument. It is not enough to tell me what FAAN is doing or not doing. FAAN is a parastatal of the ministry of aviation and there is no point talking to FAAN on this”.
The federal government has approved about N1 billion for the project, while the Kaduna airport has been designated as an alternative to Abuja airport while the repairs last.