Airport Privatisation;Govt Should Allow Investors To Develop For Market Purposes———Ojikutu

Port Harcourt Airport Courtesy

Port Harcourt Airport

Recently, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi spoke on plans by the Federal Government to privatise the aviation industry. He also hinted that government would adopt the Public Private Partnership (PPP) of the four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt in view of the limited resources for capital projects development towards the realisation of the industries’ potential. However, the Chief Executive Officers of Centurion Securities, Grp Capt John Ojikutu, in an interview monitored by on “Fact File” a Ray Power Radio Programme stated that the Federal Government should ensure it privatise any of the four major airports with other unviable or smaller airports offered in the same area with any of the four bigger airports. He also spoke on other issues. Excerpts.
What is your take on Federal Government plan to concession the four major airports?
My take on that is that I am glad that the new government has seen reasons to go back to the privatisation and commercialisation Act of 2000. It was that Act that actually gave birth to MMA2 managed by Bi-Courtney Aviation Service Limited (BASL). The question we need to ask the immediate past government; is what was the reason for jettisoned that Act and the privatisation and commercialization of all the airports and we started spending money and borrowing money to build airports, which could have been built by another BASL or Babalakin or people like Alhaji Aliko Dangote. So what the present government is doing now is to revert back to the Privatisation and Commercialisation of 2001 but one thing I would appreciate this government to do is that they cannot just privatise the four major airports. Because we all know that all the funds that are generated from the viable ones especially the airport in Lagos is what is being used to manage other 12 airports. So while privatising an airport like Lagos, whoever is buying Lagos should at least also be ready to buy other smaller airports; at least two smaller airports. The same thing for Abuja, the same thing for Port Harcourt airports .Government should avoid selling to anybody more than one of these airports. Whoever is buying any of these viable airports should also be ready to buy alongside the smaller airports.
Some governments all over are against outright sale of airports that is why they are proposing PPP option to bring about some control where you have the investor maximising profit to the detriment of the passengers and security.
All over the world, that is what is happening but what areas of the airport is been sold? I don’t expect the Federal Government to sell the control towers, landing runways. The terminal building like I always say is like a shopping mall .What the government should seek to sell is the terminal buildings. We have spent money in building airport terminals that are not regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 17. So, the area the government should concern itself is the safety and security aspects. So that is part of the partnership while the government is handling the security areas, the comfort areas such as the terminal, air-conditioners, car park, conveyor belts, those are public things the government should sell out and that is where the private sector comes in. Those are the areas we have spent too much money and have not yielded anything in aviation and it has not progressed aviation because most of the Nigerian airports today do not have landing lights .Apart from the four we have just mentioned others have no landing lights .Government should concentrate on all these and open all these airports in the night for private airlines to operate to whereby some them can even start flying into these airports .Since government has decided to privatise Nigerian terminal buildings, it should not privatise only that of the major airports .That again will tell the state too that they cannot just be building airports all over the place hoping that the federal government will take over. We got six state airports now that they have built .They too should be thinking of how to privatising their airports. Again, not the safety and not the security part of it because that is the responsibility of the government. So, if the government is privatising Lagos airport, it should privatise other smaller airports along with it.
Some investors will argue that most of the airports are not viable and why will the government want to sell to them viable ones and some dead airports that will not yield any returns
They will only make returns If and only if they themselves find ways of generating traffic to those areas. One of the ways to generate traffic to that area is that if you are paying N1, 000 for landing and parking, you can reduce the landing and parking to about N500. You find out that you can use the bigger airport as a hub for the smaller airports. You can even give them free holidays landing and parking for three years and this can develop traffic for these areas .The businessman knows how to get these airports working .It is only government that has problem with managing business. The airport is a business environment provided you sell it to the right people. I am not saying the government should sell it politicians because what they are going to do now is to sell it to politicians. There are people outside, who can come in and develop these airports for market purposes .A Nigerian bought Gatwick Airport for about four billion Pounds .There are people outside who would come into this country and make these airports work so that all the money we are wasting on terminal buildings, building cold rooms and warehouses for vegetables that we have not even planted. What the government should do is exactly what they are doing in aviation by giving the terminals and other service providing areas to the private sector and face safety and security of aviation.
Countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand took part of the privatisation so that they can control and maintain some matter that affects public good and check the monopolistic tendency. Recalled also has been arguments back and forth that monopoly is one of the reasons why concession that was done in the case of MMA2 has not extended to other airport terminals?
That is just politics it has nothing to do monopoly and I have asked that question; what was wrong in the privatisation of MMA2? If there is anything that was wrong with the privatisation they should look for a way to correct them. When you correct it, you also go ahead to go and do same with the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) also known as Terminal 1. Government spent money on GAT. Most of the airport terminals the government built cannot be compared to MMA2. I just hope that the way you are talking everything will be corrected .The terminal buildings should be corrected so that government can fix the issues of safety and security. What we are saying is ;remove politics from the sale ,let people tender for it ,put it public domain let both local and foreign investors bid for these terminals .Don’t just sell it to ;people close to the government, somebody who funds the party. That is what they are doing with aviation .The same thing they are doing with terminal building is the same thing they are doing with private airlines .They go and get funds give it to private airlines are these airlines don’t pay back .Some of them have in even taken money out of the country N35 billion. I just hope government will look for away to recover that money .They have politicise every aspects of our lives and aviation industry and aspect is one area they politicise in such a way that they keep putting peoples live in danger and when you tell them they are doing the wrong thing they don’t believe but thank God for this government and I just hope that the way they have started now may be everything is going to be corrected.
On the Turkish Airlines passengers issue?
Look at what happened in Abuja, it is the same thing. They have only one person manning the gates. When they were supposed to have escorted people and manage the Access Control Gate, they say passengers forced themselves into the tarmac. They are shot of about 1000 AVSEC personnel. The way the passengers forced themselves into the tarmac ,that is the way hoodlums would force their way into the tarmac .These are the issues and these are the areas the government need to concentrate on and leave the terminal building in the hands of the private sector.
Labour unions in the aviation have also argued that there would be loss of jobs when you privatise airport terminals.
No no no. Aviation sector is one that can employ a lot of people. How many people have they employed in all these airports that are not operating? How many people are there? But if they become viable, those airports are going to employ a lot of Nigerians. Like I said, the Federal Airports Authority (FAAN) is shot of about 1000 security men to control the 26 airports including the state government owned airports. FAAN is manning them. And they have not recruited in the last 10 years but if you give these airports to the private sector, they know the need to employ people to manage the terminals. Those that are in the unions that are crying knows where the problem is .They don’t expect to fund government to fund airport that is somewhere that is not getting modern traffic a day. But when private sector takes over these airports, they know how to attract traffic to those airports .How do they attract traffic to Ilorin? It was a private sector driven that attracted traffic to Ilorin .The same thing to Ibadan and Akure. These are the things we have asking government to do; leave these airports in the hands of the private sector and face the issue of safety and security.