Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, said, Thursday, that the Federal Government does not have the money to maintain or invest in the Lagos and Abuja airports which informed the recourse to the concession option of the facilities.
This is also as the Minister disclosed the sum of N45 billion has been approved by the government for the settlement of entitlements of former workers of the defunct national carrier, the Nigeria Airways.
Sirika who said this after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, also conveyed Federal Government’s regret over the reported deaths of some workers of the defunct Nigerian Airways occasioned by the delay in the payment of their entitlements.
“We don’t have the money to invest and develop these airports. In our opinion as a government and the policy has been done that we will go through concession to give some individuals who would build; who would operate; who would maintain, sustain, make money and government will also make money in the process and return back to government after certain number of years (20 to 25 years).’’
Sirika disclosed that the concession of airports had since been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the Federal Executive Council. A move which also dismisses the series of protests that has trailed the concession plans by governments led by aviation sector workers’ unions.
Sirika who also dismissed social media reports that he “stole or intend to spend N635 million’’ on the concession project, noted that government would not be able to fund infrastructure in the aviation sector, as such it would continue to partner with the private sector in financing such facilities in the sector.
He, however, assured that the process would be transparently carried out and the workers would be fully engaged in the process.
The Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association and the National Union of Air Transport Employees have vowed to resist the plan, saying, if necessary, the workers would mobilize and buy over the airports themselves.
On the defunct Nigeria Airways workers’ entitlements, Sirika said: “Governments, in the past, decided just to liquidate Nigerian airways without tending to the issue of the entitlements of the workers and they have been struggling to get that paid and we came in government and we took it very seriously.
“I’m happy to announce that Mr President has approved N45 billion which has been confirmed to be the entitlements of these workers and Ministry of Finance has been instructed to pay and the ministry has written to me last week, to say that they have received the instruction to pay these workers, and therefore, they are setting up the modalities to pay.
“You should know it won’t pay through my ministry before somebody will say I take some of it. It will be paid by finance through a process, and that process will commence very soon,’’ he said.
The defunct national carrier was liquidated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo regime in 2005, and since then the workers had held series of protests over their unpaid entitlements.