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Former Nigerian aviation minister rejects airport concessions

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Nigeria’s former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka has rejected the concession approach taken by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), arguing that any concession approach would give the best parts of FAAN over to private investors who may not be able to handle the project.

The former minister who spoke during a virtual stakeholder meeting addressing the concession of four international airports compared what is happening now to the state of the power sector where the discos do not have the funding to even provide meters to their customers and constantly blame the government.

In his view, state capitalism is the best solution for running airports instead of handing over money spinners to a private sector that may not be ready for these responsibilities.

He said,” I want to speak as a Transport expert that is what I studied and gave been doing and I want to speak as a Nigerian a before I start talking about partisan politics. Number one issue is that I fundamentally disagree with the ICRC and the BPE on the approach of the concession and my fundamental disagreement is that the federal government has no business in some of these activities like management of terminal buildings but it is what it is, we have those responsibilities and the FG has been discharging it.

“Therefore my approach is that the first thing I think we should have done is corporatize that is turn these terminals in blocks of terminals, Lagos Zone into a company owned only by FAAN and make FAAN a regulator that FAAN would be the regulatory agency of the terminal buildings which will be part of their responsibility and the responsibility of the aeronautical side of it would be handled by a department in FAAN while FAAN serves as a regulator of airports.

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“So if we take the Lagos airport zone and take the airports in Akure and the Airports in Ibadan and rope it together and make it a company then we can sell 51%of that to a concessionaire to come and run the airports and let the Nigerian state, either the state governments that ran the airports before they took it over, the airport workers or unions have shared so that if the airports are successful tomorrow we can sell our shares in the stock market without having to go back to any concessionaire.

He argued,” Now the reason why I said this is to imagine what it would have been if the FG granted MTN a 51% stake in a concession to do mobile telephones, our 49% equity in MTN today would have been worth the price in gold so I believe in state-capitalism, I think the minister has been sold to BPE, they want to take the best in FAAN and give it to the private sector

He continued, “The problem of Africa is lack of private capital if you take these airports just as you did the discos and give it to private companies just like you did the disco companies, the 80% given to the private sector they have not been able to afford metering to buy meters they don’t have the wherewithal to meter customers and they keep blaming government for shifting the goalpost.

Hadi Sirika was advised by the former Minister to always seek advice from his predecessors so he can borrow from their experience.

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