Strong Middle East interest in Nigerian airports worries stakeholders
Abuja Airport. Pic The Guardian Nigeria
London, Oct. 30, 2017 (AltAfrika)-Some stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation sector, including members of the National Assembly, are worried about strong interests from investors from some Middle East countries in the planned concession of Nigerian airports.
In year 2009, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) specifically warned African countries not to concession their airports sighting strong security implications.
A local tabloid, The Guardian is reporting that interests from countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are bothering the stakeholders because of the security implication for Nigeria and alleged “northern agenda” currently put forward either by coincidence or deliberately in the concession buildup.
Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently granted approval for the concession of the four international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. The approval, currently being worked out by the Ministry of Aviation, is the first phase of the plan to concession all the 22 Federal Government-owned airports nationwide
A member of a civil society organisation, who was at the hearing, said some lawmakers were of the view that if the biddings were restricted to the middle east, then it will not get the buy-in of Nigerians who “will see it as coloured by a northern and religious agenda.”
Aviation union members present at the meeting said it was to prevent the airports from falling into the wrong hands that they demanded to be part of the concession process for transparency. The unions were, however, happy that the Federal Government has promised to ensure transparency by involving them.
On the implication of such concerns for the concession plan, aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said he was as disturbed as the lawmakers, though he was quick to add that it was still early to conclude.
Ojikutu told The Guardian that “whereas we cannot but be skeptical with the biddings, expression of interest is also coming from Europe and Canada, and all need to be patient.”
He said from his conversation with the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, there were several hurdles in the concession process and it was less likely that the wrong bidders would be able to grab a pie in the exercise.
Ojikutu, who is also the Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), said: “I am as worried as you, no doubt about that. The National Assembly is also as worried. I think, from what I’ve heard, the minister too is very cautious with what he is doing. Just the way he handled the Abuja airport’s runway is the way he is handling this.
“So, it is too early to start speculating because in any case, all these things will still have to go through the infrastructure concession commission, the PPP, Ministry of Justice and then the Federal Executive Council for approval.
“But in lieu of the security concerns, I have advised them to focus on concession of the terminals, cargo sections and car parks among others, but not the aeronautical side. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has even warned African countries since 2009 not to concession aeronautical side in the light of security issues around us,” Ojikutu said.
The Guardian Nigeria