By Sunday Isuwa, Abuja
The Senate has demanded that the executive branch reassess the concessioning of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
Expressing strong disapproval of the concessioning process, the Senate highlighted suspicions of shady dealings throughout the entire process.
This decision by the Senate follows a resolution on a motion titled “Urgent Need to Reverse the Concessioning of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja,” sponsored by Senator Suleiman Kawu from the ANPP representing Kano South.
During his opening argument, Senator Kawu informed his colleagues that the Federal Executive Council had approved the 30-year concessioning of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport to the Corporación America Airports Consortium on May 17, 2023.
He emphasized that the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace does not own or manage any airports in Nigeria. According to the governing Act of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the ownership and management of all federal government airports are vested solely in the Authority.
The lawmaker further noted that the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) procedure document stipulates that for an agency to concession a facility, the public entity must possess the necessary authority to transfer its responsibility, either through an enabling legislative and policy framework or an Administrative Order.
A section of the motion reads: “Considering the combined implications of the FAAN Act and the ICRC procedures manual, it is evident that the entire airport’s concession is built on a fundamentally flawed foundation. It is undeniable that it is the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, not the Ministry of Aviation, that possesses the power ‘to transfer its responsibility’ to a prospective concessionaire. It is also FAAN, not the Ministry, that has the required ‘legislative and policy framework’ for such a transfer.”
“Convinced that if the claim that the FEC has approved the concessioning of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport has any substance, then the FEC has indeed been misguided in its decision, and that action cannot amount to anything more than a nullity.”
“Concerned about the rationale behind borrowing and utilizing public funds to upgrade the airport only to hand it over to foreign businesses for a 30-year concession.”
“Alarmed that Nigeria is receiving a concession fee or upfront payment of $1.5m, while the total revenue generated by the Kano airport for the government amounts to $97.4m.”
“Disturbed by the apparent dubious nature of this concession, which raises questions about the process and the motives of the actors involved. It should be noted that unions in the aviation industry went on strike to question the integrity of the concession exercise, emphasizing that the concession of the airport away from FAAN would inevitably result in the involuntary termination of employment for all staff members.”
“Concerned that the concession by the Buhari-led administration raises a fundamental question of injustice regarding why a major project with significant public investment would be executed so close to the end of the administration. It is also worth noting that the inherent flaws in the concessioning agreement are likely to result in a slew of lawsuits, which would be an embarrassment to the current administration.”
Contributing to the debate, the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Ali Ndume from the APC representing Borno South, lamented that certain government agencies and officials took advantage of what he described as President Buhari’s passive leadership to exploit and short-change the Nigerian people.
All other senators who participated in the debate expressed their condemnation of the hasty manner in which the concessioning was carried out. They unanimously supported the resolution to denounce the actions of the previous administration and called for a thorough review.
During the consideration of the motion, an amendment was proposed, leading the senators to decide that the investigation and potential reversal of the deal should also include the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
The Senate’s call for a reevaluation of the concessioning of the Kano and Abuja airports reflects the concerns raised by Senator Suleiman Kawu and other senators regarding the flawed foundation of the concession process. They highlighted the lack of authority of the Ministry of Aviation in transferring responsibilities and the fact that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should be the governing body in such matters.
Furthermore, the senators expressed their worry over the use of public funds to upgrade the airports, only to hand them over to foreign businesses for an extended period. The discrepancy between the concession fees received by Nigeria and the total revenue generated by the airports also raised suspicions about the fairness and transparency of the process.
The potential loss of jobs for airport staff due to the concessioning was a significant concern for the senators, as it would have a detrimental impact on the aviation industry. They questioned the integrity of the concession exercise, leading to labor unions in the sector going on strike to protest the move.
Additionally, the senators raised doubts about the timing of the concession, occurring towards the end of the previous administration. They viewed this as an issue of justice, questioning why a project of such magnitude, involving substantial public investment, was initiated at that particular time.
The flawed nature of the concessioning agreement was deemed likely to result in legal disputes, which would be an embarrassment for the current administration. This further reinforced the need for a comprehensive review of the process to rectify any irregularities and ensure transparency.
Senator Ali Ndume, the Senate Chief Whip, expressed his disappointment in the government agencies and officials involved in the concessioning, criticizing their exploitation of the perceived passiveness of President Buhari as a leader, which resulted in a disservice to the Nigerian people.
The Senate’s resolution to reevaluate the concessioning of the Kano and Abuja airports highlights the concerns raised regarding the flawed foundation, potential loss of jobs, inadequate financial arrangements, and lack of transparency in the process. By calling for a review, the Senate aims to rectify any shortcomings and ensure that the best interests of Nigeria and its citizens are safeguarded.