Air transport unions have asked the ministry of aviation to shelve plans to demolish buildings housing the sector’s agencies.
The unions made the demand at a joint news conference held recently in Lagos.
The three aviation unions include, the national union of air transport employees (NUATE), the air transport services senior staff association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN, and the association of Nigeria aviation professionals (ANAP).
Last week, Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation, had said the office spaces occupied by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), would be demolished for a more ambitious plan: turning the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, into an aerotropolis.
An aerotropolis is a city or urban area centred around an airport.
Sirika said the idea was part of the ministry’s road map for the aviation industry and particularly for Lagos.
But at the press conference, the unions said the plan should be suspended to ensure proper evaluation, planning, and timing.
The groups also threatened to go on strike, if the ministry embarks on the plan.
”We call on the honourable minister of aviation to put his plan to demolish the headquarters of FAAN, NAMA, and NCAA in Lagos on hold pending proper evaluation, planning and better timing. We consider that this plan, in the name of the so called aerotropolis, is ill intended, ill advised, and wrongly timed. We hereby serve notice that any attempt to demolish any of these buildings at this time will be met with immediate action of cessation of work at all airports in Nigeria accompanied by public demonstrations nationwide,” the unions said.
Speaking on behalf of the groups, Ocheme Aba, secretary-general, NUATE, also called on the federal executive council (FEC)to halt further approvals on the airports concession programme, and indeed any other aviation road map projects, pending a comprehensive forensic audit of the projects undertaken up to this point.
”It is our firm belief that such audit will expose the activities so far to be wasteful of public funds, and to be tilted away from national good. This is the least the council can do in order to redeem itself, in the face of the accusation that the federal executive council has so far been railroaded into giving consent to bad deals for the country,” he said.
”The projects include establishment of a national carrier, maintenance, repair and overhaul, aircraft leasing company, agro-allied airports, aerotropolis, and concessioning of the four major international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. For inexplicable reasons none of the above projects has been delivered up till now. It is therefore not surprising that the Honourable Minister is presently in a frenzy in an effort to deliver these projects, being that this administration is at its twilight. This rush to deliver at all cost has expectedly occasioned suspicion and a plethora of missteps which if not corrected will spell doom for the aviation industry in Nigeria, and which may prove exceedingly costly to amend in future.
”We call on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), and civil society organisations to mobilise all Nigerian workers and the Nigerian people to join in our effort to rescue our common patrimony from the grasp of the powers that be in the aviation industry, we call on FAAN staff and pensioners, and indeed the entire aviation workers, to stand ready for the fight of our lives in defense of our genuine rights and interests, and to save our industry from ruination, we also call on all patriotic Nigerians to join this once and for all battle to tell our elected leaders that our national assets do not belong to the few opportune individuals in government and their cronies for them to share and plunder, nor do they have powers to act as they please over national interests without our consent.”
The unions also warned firms showing interest in taking advantage of the opportunities in the aviation road map, asking them to wait a while before committing funds to the current arrangements in respect of the road map projects.
The groups added that any firm that chooses to neglect this advice does so at their own peril.
“For our unions will do everything rightly possible to ensure that all such unwholesome efforts do not bear fruit until the right things are done. Particular reference must be made to the airport concession bidders and those related to Nigeria Air. We are shouting, ‘buyers beware’.”