Senator Murray –Bruce Urges FG To Address Airlines Continuous Dwindling Fortunes
…As Stakeholders Advice Govt To Always Honour Agreements With Concessionaires
The Chairman Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Ben Murray- Bruce has urged the Federal Government to immediately take steps to stop the dwindling state of the domestic airlines in the country.
This is just as he described the situation in the aviation industry as emergency, calling on the Federal Government to take more than passing interest in the aviation sector.
He said this while speaking at a Stakeholders Conference organised by Checked in Nigeria, an Aviation and Travel Consultant in Lagos today.
Speaking at the event with the theme, “Privatisation /Concession of Nigerian Airports, Murray–Bruce, said the Federal Government should assist domestic airlines in the country in securing soft loans
According to him, “The Aviation industry like almost every other sector of the Nigeria economy is going through desperate time and desperate times calls for desperate remedies. But above all, we must do something to intervene before we all have no choice than to drive from place to place.”
The Senator stated that airlines were now taking passengers from Nigeria and making a stopover in Ghana to refuel and exchange their pilot and crew because Ghana is the new aviation industry hubs in West Africa.
He said that what Ghana has that Nigeria do not have is the ability to separate critical sectors of her economy like power, aviation and the real sector from politics.
The Senator said that the Federal Government needs to hands of her airports and privatise them or at the very least concession them out to private sector managers with the experience and know how to run these facilities in a businesslike manner.
Also, speaking, the former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA),Dr Harold Demuren ,posited that he was yet to understand the area the government intend to concession .
He added that for any concession to yield the desired results , the Federal Government must learn to honour agreements , have good corporate governance and stop undue interference in matter concerning concession.
Demuren added that some years ago the Federal Government and the Chinese Exim Banks went into agreement to Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) and to manage these airports; Lagos , Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt , but that just as the Chinese were still building , the government is planning to concession the same airports to another sets of concessionaires.
Recalled that in the agreement, the Federal Government provided $100 million while the Chinese gave Nigeria $500 million loan to finance the projects and the Chinese would operate the terminal for 22years.
The former NCAA boss wondered why terminals that the Chinese have invested hugely in and still building would be concessioned to other concessionaires, warning that this may spark off another round of legal battle.
The former NCAA DG said that he really cannot say the model of concession the government wants to operate, adding that already the four airports had been concessioned.
According to him, “When you don’t keep agreement you destroy the aviation industry. We are still building and the Chinese have not transferred the terminals to us. What then are we concessioning?
He advised the Federal Government to resolve all the issues arising from the past concession agreements entered into by the Federal Government , adding that it is only when this is done that investors would be willing to invest in the aviation industry.
On his part, the Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt Nogie Meggison re-echoed Demuren’s position, saying that he also does not understand the area of the airport the Federal Government wants to concession.
He added that he does not understand if it is the landside or airside the Federal Government wants to concession.
Despite this unresolved issue, Meggison said that he favours concession of airports, as according to him, there are a lot of benefits in airport concessioning.
He listed some the benefits to include increase in operational efficiency and profitability of the airport, stimulate growth in the non oil sector of the economy, contribute to the country’s GDP, provide better service level, boost tourism and hospitality, better landing and navigation aids and create jobs
Earlier, the Organiser of the of the stakeholders forum, Chief Executive Officer of CheckinNigeria, said that stakeholders have expressed their concerns and asking critical questions such as determination of the extent of concession, areas of concession and duration.
He added that other stakeholders have asked if it is going to be privatisation, Public Private Partnership (PPP), Build Operate and Transfer (BOT), adding that some people have also raised the issue of having a legal framework for concession that would bind future administrations to existing agreements.
Chikeka posited that this legal framework most analysts believe is fundamental to securing both local and foreign investors which the industry needs now more than ever before.
He also posited that the issues raised by aviation unions are equally very important and that these issues should not be swept under the carpet if the industry must move forward.
He called on the Federal Government to address all outstanding rancour and smoothen agreements before embarking on a new concession process.