President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joseph Ajaero has said the body is fully in support of the national carrier project, while condemning federal government’s plan to concession the four major airports in the country.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had at various fora, explained that government’s plan to concession the airports was to inject private sector funding to develop state-of-the-art airport facilities that can meet international standards, so that Nigeria, which has the highest flight traffic in West Africa could be sun-regional hub.
He said government also insisted on establishing a national carrier in order to have an airline that could be effectively competitive and could harness the benefits of the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) through reciprocity by operating to such destinations like London, New York, Paris, Dubai and other destinations whose airlines also operate to Nigeria.
But NLC has insisted it would support the national carrier project and that it is against airport concession. While Nigerian airlines could be alternatives to a national carrier, government has reiterated that it does not have funds to upgrade and modernise the international airports, insisting it wants to concession the terminal facilities at airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano and that work is already at advanced stage in the two projects.
However, speaking during a visit to one of the aviation unions, the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), in Lagos, Wednesday, Ajaero explained that Nigeria needed a national carrier because the country cannot continue to depend on foreign airlines and stressed that the country establishing a national carrier was long overdue, but insisted that due process must be followed in establishing one.
He said the country cannot be supporting foreign airlines to rip off the country to the detriment of its local airlines. “We would demand as a matter of right, a national carrier. Nigeria must have a national carrier and we can’t be depending on foreign carriers,” Ajaero said.
He assured the union not to fret over the proposed concession of the four major international airports in the country and the demolition of the office buildings of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and others in Lagos to pave way for the airport city project called Aerotropolis, insisting that the idea is a joke of the century and will be dead on arrival.
“I don’t think any human can concession here without paying entitlement. Anybody that takes over here as a concessionaire is spending his money for nothing. We have passed through privatization and so we know how it works and we know the dangers, so they are joking.
“I equally saw the Minister of Aviation talking about illegalizing the unions in the aviation and that is the highest joke of the century because he doesn’t have such powers. Don’t listen to anybody that is telling you he wants to take over the aviation industry, he cant without following due process and then, you cant shave somebody’s hair in his absence, you can’t say that you concession here and there, there can’t be an abortion without pregnancy, things must follow due process, that is the way it is, so nobody should panic”, he said.
The NLC President also condemned the failure of the Aviation Minister to inaugurate Boards of Aviation Agencies, alleging that all contacts awarded and appointments made are illegal, null and void.
He expressed surprise that there was no Board of Directors in the different agencies and said this, no doubt, has led to some strange practices in the sector like the appointment of some persons from outside the aviation industry to head some directorates, stressing that this does not allow growth of career civil servants in the system.
He said: “The issue of interim board is an illegality, because an interim Board is not the same thing as a Board. A properly constituted Board by the Act and even in the Act, you see people who are supposed to be the Board members and their responsibility. If anybody is running his office, with his wife, his children, his personal assistant (PA) as a Board, he can’t take over the responsibility of a properly constituted board and until that is done, he can’t even take any major decision including the decision to concession airports. He cannot, so whatever they might have done as at now is void ab-initio; it is not only voidable but void ab-initio so, it is good we understand it.”
Earlier in his welcome address, Secretary General, ANAP, Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu said they were elated to have the NLC President visit the union describing his visit as a great honour to them.
He listed the challenges the union wanted to be addressed by the national body to include the concession of airports, Condition of Service (CoS), planned demolition of agencies buildings, weakening the power of the unions as regards aviation workers and the absence of Boards of Directors in the past eight years.The President General ANAP, Comrade Kabir Gusau, also added his voice calling on the NLC to urgently address these issues.He applauded the NLC President’s call for the establishment of a national carrier, saying it will not only create jobs for the teeming unemployed pilots, engineers and technical staff, but will also help to stimulate business activities in the industry.