Federal Government’s approval of N10.5 billion worth of projects to a couple of airports awaiting concession has raised an eyebrow among stakeholders in the industry.
The concerned stakeholders are seeking the rationale of investing heavily in the automation of the major airports right on the eve of their transfer to private operators.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved the sum of N10.5 billion for the automation of five international airports: Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu airport.
Minister of Aviation, Capt. Hadi Sirika, had said that the contract was awarded to Arlington Security Nigeria Limited with the timeline of 12 months.
Sirika said that the system would facilitate Common Use of Terminal Equipment (CUTE) system that is required for sharing airport resources in accordance with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Recommendation 1797.
The automation allows flexible sharing of resources for check-in and boarding, such as servers, work stations, associated peripherals between airlines and handling agencies present at the airport.
Except Enugu airport, all the other four airports had been approved for concession by FEC about five years ago, and are already at the advance stage of the transfer.
President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Dr. Gbenga Olowo, said a number of initiatives in the aviation industry were getting “cloudy” and against the long term interest of the sector.
“Private sector participation in aviation with this administration, safe for airlines, remains cloudy. National carrier rebirth itself remains a contradiction. In six years, Arik, Aero, and the national carrier remain a mirage.
“Policy statement on concession of airports to evolve total private sector participation is not here in six years, when Ghana Airport’s transformation took barely two years. One would have expected the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to concession the airports after resolving the many bugging issues already identified by industry experts, workers unions and the general public, and utilise these funds on more pressing issues in the sector. Pardon my ignorance,” Olowo said.
Head of Research, Zenith Travels, Olumide Ohunayo, observed that the money approved had to do with the airport operating system.
“All these departure gates, cameras and other systems, that were approved for were equipment to be used at terminal buildings for the five major airports.
“Now that we are once again investing in our airports, we can as well look at a management company that will take over the management of FAAN for a period of eight to 10 years to restructure FAAN for profitability as a full airport company.
“It remains government ownership during that period. The idea is just to restructure, be ready to pay people off, train staff and be ready to pay those who are available well, and prepare the airports for profitability and for the benefit of the passengers and the country in general,” Ohunayo said.