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Senate condemns hurried concession of Abuja, Kano airports

The Senate yesterday condemned the hurried concessioning of the Aminu Kano International Airport and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by the Federal Government with barely six days to the expiration of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

It also urged the Federal Government to, if need be, review the entire airport concession exercises and give a level playing field to all stakeholders. Although Senate committees are yet to be constituted, the Senate also charged its yet to be constituted Committee on Aviation, to probe all airport concessions embarked upon by the last administration and make necessary recommendations to the Senate.

These resolutions of the Senate followed its consideration of a motion titled: “Urgent need to reverse the concession of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano” sponsored by Senator Kawu Sumaila (NNPP – Kano South).

Sumaila, in his lead debate, urged the Senate to note that the Federal Executive Council, on 17th May, 2023, approved the concession of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano for 30 years, to Messrs Corporación America Airports Consortium.

According to him, Nigerians are overly worried about the rationale in borrowing and spending public money to upgrade the airport only to hand it over to foreign businesses for a period of 30 years in the name of a concession.

He lamented that by the terms of the concession, Nigeria would be receiving an upfront fee of $1.5million whereas the total amount of money that the Kano airport is accruing to government is $97.4million.

He said it was highly disturbing that the concession was clearly dubious and raised questions on the process and what the actors stood to gain.

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Besides, he said that unions in the aviation industry embarked on a strike to question the integrity of the concession exercise, stressing that the concession of the airport away from FAAN would necessarily cause a cessation of the employment of all the staff involuntarily.

He insisted that concession by the Buhari-led administration raised a fundamental question of injustice on why an elephant project with huge public investment would take place just at the end of the administration.

He observed that the faulty gaps inherent in the concession would lead to array of lawsuits and thus be a source of huge embarrassment for President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

He said the Senate was aware that the Federal Ministry of Aviation (and Aerospace) does not own, or run, any airport in Nigeria and that by the dictates of the governing Act of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), ownership and management of all Federal Government airports are fully vested in the Authority;

He urged the lawmakers to further note that the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) procedure document provides, with respect to the agency, that wishes to concession a facility that, ‘The public entity should have enabling authority to transfer its responsibility enabling legislative and policy framework or an Administrative Order to that effect’,

He insisted that the combined import of the FAAN Act and the ICRC procedures manual, evidently shows that the entire airports concession was based on an incurably faulty foundation.

He added: “For, there is no doubt that it is the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, not the Ministry of Aviation, that has power to transfer its responsibility’ to a would be concessionaire. It is also FAAN, not the Ministry, which has the requisite ‘legislative & policy framework’ for such.”

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He further argued that the claim that the FEC had approved the concession of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport had no substance, adding that, if not, “FEC has indeed been misguided in its decision, and that action cannot amount to anything than a nullity.”

Senators Abdul Ninigi, Adamu Aliero, Ali Ndume, David Jimkuta, Rufai Hanga and others supported the motion.

The prayers of the motion were approved by Senators when they were put to vote by Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin who presided during plenary.

In his contribution, the Deputy Senate President noted that while the resolution of the Senate to probe the concessions was in order, concession of infrastructure management was the order of the day in advanced countries.

He noted that presently, the Heathrow airport in America is being managed by a Nigerian following its concession to him by the American government, saying: “Let’s not throw the baby away with the bath water.”

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