THE BURDEN OF FAAN
The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), in the recent times has continued to appear on the news. Likewise, aviation industry news, anywhere in the world, attracts public attention because, airports, by what we all know, is a sensitive place and the gateway of every country. That is why Government tries to ensure that those who operate within the ambience of the airport do that according to rules, governing aviation industry globally.
In this era of war against terrorism, by extension has placed heavy hands on airport management around the world. No wonder the Federal Government unequivocally condemned and demanded immediately from the United States of America (US), the exclusion of Nigeria's name from the terror list, after the unpatriotic role of Umar Faruq Abdulmutallab, who was identified to have passed through Mohammed international Airport (MMIA), prior to 25 Dec, 2009 unsuccessful terror attack on American Airliner.
That singular development even when it is obvious that Nigeria is not a terrorist country no doubt has thrown the country's aviation, where FAAN is the landlord into public glare. Tongues have continued to wag at the same time eliciting comments from all stakeholders on what should be done to prevent the airport environment from further act of lawlessness. No thanks to the latest development at the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar, where a taxi driver also rammed into one of the leading local carrier· Aircraft, Arik Air.
At the moment, the underbelly damage done on the aircraft is yet to be ascertained by the maintenance company, Lufthansa Technik. While that was happening, two weeks ago, the workers of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), in a commando style chased away staff of Terminal Zero; the 'concessionaire that was in charge of Murtala Mohammed International Airport Car Park. Reason was that, the concessionaire defaulted from the remittance of the agreed N4 million monthly concession fee, due to the authority.' To say the-least, this type of action has once again put Nigeria on the world stage, yet again, in negative light' and has left many asking what is wrong.
Did FAAN in anyway exhaust all the known legal means against the company before taking the laws into its hands? Whose responsibility is it to terminate contract, FAAN workers, the union or its management? Now that the company has been chased away, who will pay legal fees if awarded the concessionaire against FAAN? Do all the FAAN workers, including the union belong to Commercial and Business Development Department of the authority?
The questions are legion but require urgent attention before our airports are declared unsafe by the international community. It is sad to note that, our airports which should be a prime area for genuine commercial activities have now been reduced to mere motor parks where people can be chased out at will, if their personal or group obligations are not met. Those who are behind this unlawful act, may not know the harm they are doing not only to the aviation industry but also to the image of the Country generally.
The news making round today is that any concessionaire that failed to come for personal/ group settlement is doomed to fail. This is usually done by asking the Commercial Department of FAAN to declare outrageous revenue generation as a bargaining power, against the concessionaire.
Sometimes, this department investigation revealed uses the staff to declare up to Nl00m per month as revenue generated from a. particular point, whereas, the actual figure may not be more than Nl0m. This initial set up however is with a view to chasing the concessionaire away if the expected personal/group interest, are not met.
No wonder the concessionaires of General Aviation Terminal (GAT), International Car Park, Domestic port charge, Terminal Zero, Toll Gate and the ICI, at one time or the other had had problems with FAAN workers and the union in particular, who have failed to allow the public private partnership (PPP), initiative the Federal Government, to work in the aviation industry.
The situation is such that all concessionaire in FAAN are now afraid; such that, they try to avoid any form of brush with F AAN worker or the union because of their, dear lives. FAAN has told every body that cares to know that its vision is to be among the best 20 airports around the world. To achieve this, the management should settle down to work by addressing the decay in the system. The public private partnership (PPP), now prevalent in almost every sectors of the Nigeria economy, as promoted by the Federal Government, should be embraced wholly in the aviation industry.
It is true that the burden of FAAN over the years had remained the issue of late payment of salaries, industrial disharmony between the unions, infrastructural decay, late payment to contractors, delay in payment of pension 'and gratuities among others.
The MD/CEO, Mr. Richard Aisebeogun, in April 2008, in an interview, granted to Aviation Review Magazine, declared 'obviously it is my own desire to lead FAAN to the next level. We have always said we want to be one of the best airports in the world and be among the first 20 airports in the world. We strongly believe that we can be one of the first 20 airports globally and we can be one of the best airports in the world when we begin to develop the potentials we have within our environment. The potentials we have seen are the investment potentials and we will support them.'
If this statement is anything to go by, it then means that the authority should look inward and review its strategy and quickly embark on programmes that would not only promote· the growth· of FAAN but would equally put it on a sound pedestal, where it can compete with other airports around the world.
*Chinecherem John. writes from Lagos.