Business Hilights
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Osubi Airstrip: Another Concession deal collapses

Less than one week after the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) sacked the concessionaire of tollgate at the Lagos International Airport on grounds of poor remittance and issues with labour unions bordering on incompetence, the same Federal Government has approved the hostile takeover of Osubi airport over alleged debt, mismanagement.

Whereas the embattled Osubi Airstrip concessionaire claimed in an interview that they are yet to be informed, Business Hilights gathered that the endless face-off between aviation service providers and management of Osubi Airport, in Warri, Delta State, has been cloudy since the second quarter of 2019 over maintenance and even remittances as spelt out in the concession agreement.

The government, in a letter to all the aviation parastatals, terminated the contract of Shoreline Oil Services Limited, the operator of the airport, with immediate effect, citing incompetence.

It was further gathered that the facility has been a subject of controversy since it changed hands from the original owner, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), to Shoreline in partnership with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 2015. Apparently unable to get the private operator to comply with the provisions of the service providers, some parastatals had written to the government to revoke the contract of Shoreline.

Federal Government, through the presiding Federal Ministry of Aviation Safety and Technical Policy Department, in a letter dated, February 7, 2020, and signed by its Director Captain T. Alkali, directed the Director-General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Director-General Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET), to carry out the termination of Shoreline’s contract seamlessly.

Parts of the letter read as follows; “I am directed to refer to the above subject and convey Mr. President’s approval of the termination of the appointment of Shoreline Oil Services Limited, as interim operator of the Osubi Airstrip as well as the engagement of the Honourable Minister of Aviation by NNPC to put in place a mechanism to ensure operation of the airstrip pending the appointment of a competent operator.

“Consequently, you are directed to take the necessary action by ensuring seamless operations at the airstrip with immediate effect,” the letter said.

SPDC opened the facility in 1999, to enhance offshore operations. With the dip in oil exploration over a period, the airstrip was sold to Shoreline and NNPC in 2015.

NAMA, in October 2018, had alleged that Shoreline owed over N500million for air navigation services since 2015. Shoreline described NAMA’s claim as ‘frivolous charges’, and an attempt to keep extorting its management.

Confusion had reared its head when the Osubi airstrip was closed for about two months following NAMA’s withdrawal of air traffic controllers and embargo on aircraft to and from the facility.

FAAN also withdrew safety-critical services from the airstrip in December 2018, over an alleged debt of N77million. Shoreline also debunked the claim, saying their operations were independent of FAAN’s support.

NAMA recently gave a 30-day final demand notice to debtor airlines and private/state-owned airports to settle all outstanding debts owed to the agency.

The demand notice, which expires on February 28, expects all debtors to settle their indebtedness or risk sanctions.