Aviation Workers Ground Activities At All Airports Over Planned Concession

Aviation workers yesterday stepped up their protests against federal government’s planned concession of four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt .
The workers comprising the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP) shut that the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) yesterday.
They were carrying placards with inscriptions such as, "Sirika our airports are not for sale’"; "Airport concessions will lead to national security breaches"; "Airport concession is economic terrorism"; "Our airports cannot be sold in bits", among others.
The planned airport concession comes about 10 years after Nigerian seaports were also concessioned.
This protest is coming barely days after the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, assured that the concession would follow a framework and would not go against national interest in anyway.
It would be recalled that the Minister had earlier in the year unveiled the plan of the government to concession four airports.
Mr. Sirika disclosed that the government had already earmarked some amount of money for their rehabilitation and eventual concession.
He argued that the government could no longer handle some of the critical sectors like aviation and it was pertinent for it to handover the running of airports to competent and capable hands.
“We are not saying the government should not concession airports, but it must be transparently done. As unions, we have written to the government three times on its planned intention. We actually seek audience with them, but we have received no response from them,” Mr. Okewu said.
“Also, we have given the government three ultimatums in the past, but the government did not deem it fit to reply to any of our letters or even the ultimatums we issued previously.”
The protest is said to be going on simultaneously at Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano and Port Harcourt Airport.
The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) alleged that the planned concession of the airports was skewed in favour of the concessionaires.
The protest, which started at 10 AM, ran through noon on Monday continued yesterday, during the period, vehicular movement was restricted, which led to massive gridlock on the airport road.
Leading the protest were the President of the ATSSSAN, Benjamin Okewu, and the Acting General Secretary of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye.
The Lagos rally started from the Freedom Square close to the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) to the international wing of the airport.
The unions declared that the partial grounding of activities would continue till today. Apart from the Lagos Airport, other airports affected by the partial grounding included the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja and the Kano Airport in Kano State and Port Harcourt Airport.
Speaking at the rally, Mr. Okewu noted that the government had in the past few months been making lots of statements concerning the planned concession of the airport, but was yet to speak with the unions on the fate of its members despite several letters written to it.
Mr. Okewu emphasized that before the peaceful protest, it had previously given three ultimatums all to no avail, stressing that the FAAN workers and the unions were opposed to the planned concession because of lack of transparency.