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FAAN, MAEVIS FACE-OFF

By NBF News
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Passengers travelling via Murtala Muhammed international airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport, Abuja have experienced some tough times recently. This is as a result of a dispute between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the aeronautic data service provider, Maevis Ltd, over concession agreement between both parties.

The issues in dispute may have reached an irredeemable settlement following the termination of the contract agreement by FAAN. Already, FAAN has appointed another data service provider, Societe International de communication Aeronautic (SITA) to take over the services hitherto provided by Maevis. SITA has reportedly moved in its equipment at both the Lagos and Abuja airports.

Until now, Maevis which became the airport concessionaire contractor in 2007 was the sole provider of airport operations and management services at both MMIA, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. The firm was also in charge of the deployment of Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) and other systems used in the monitoring of aircraft take-off and landing and other essential data services.

However, matters boiled over between FAAN and Maevis following allegations of fund diversion against Maevis, among other accusations. For instance, FAAN had alleged that Maevis cheated the airport authorities by not remitting the required amount stipulated in the contract agreement based on $1.40 per passenger.

The Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. George Uresi, claimed that Maevis was duly notified of its dissatisfaction with the revenue collection process. Subsequently, FAAN said it served Maevis a termination notice which expired since May, 2011. The termination of the contract, FAAN said, was necessary to carry out a seamless turnaround. Not satisfied with the termination of Maevis contract, FAAN has petitioned the anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offices Commission (ICPC) to investigate the activities of Maevis, in particular, two of its bank accounts.

The management of Maevis has rebutted the allegations by FAAN and insists that the action of FAAN was in contempt of a court order which urged both parties to maintain the status quo ante, pending the determination of the substantive suit currently before a Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Binta Murtala Nyako. Maevis also claimed that its services were forcefully disrupted by its employers (FAAN) and its staff manhandled by security men reportedly deployed at the behest of FAAN.

Also, Maevis avers that FAAN has ignored the arbitration option as provided by the contract terms in the case of disagreement. Again, FAAN insists it acted legally in enforcing the termination of the concession agreement.

All considered, and without prejudice to the merits or otherwise of the substantive case in court, the dispute which is a matter of huge public interest is a painful development. It is not healthy for the efficient operation of our airports that are in dire need of meeting acceptable international standards as stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and other statutes. That the row also disrupted essential services at the airports which resulted in manual check - in of passengers, is one embarrassment too many.

From the explanations offered by both parties in the dispute - FAAN and Maevis - it is clear that the matter has not been handled with maturity and clarity of purpose. Resorting to inappropriate conduct to enforce the contract termination is not the best way to go about such a seemingly sticky issue.

Whatever the case may be, we suggest a quick resolution of all the contending issues so that there will be a transition of operations to the new concessionaires. Passengers' safety is of utmost importance. The fact that the new service provider, SITA is reportedly battling to synchronies its equipment and facilities with the operational system of the airlines may be a clear indication of the messy situation that this standoff has created. It should better be resolved now in the interest of Nigerian air travellers and for the image of the country.