Workers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Tuesday staged a protest against moves by the Federal Government to concession the facility as well as three other vibrant airports across the country.
They also vowed to embark on subsequent protests, adding that they might be forced to shut down the country’s main airports if the government continued its moves to concession the facilities.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, on several occasions had announced the Federal Government’s resolve to concession Nigeria’s four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.
Sirika had argued that the government lacked the required funds to improve the airports as expected, which was why it was important to concession the facilities as this would make them more efficient.
But workers under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees urged the Federal Government to avert the concession of the four vibrant airports and focus on the dormant ones across the country.
The Chairman, NUATE, Abuja State Council, Mr. Lanre Popoola, while leading the protest at the NAIA, said, “We are not saying they should not concession airports, they should go to dormant airports like Minna. I wonder what Minna is doing with two airports.
“They should go to dormant airports like those in Gombe. Katsina and Akure. They should go there and concession. The Abuja, Lagos airports, the four vibrant airports are the heritage of our nation. We are not going to allow some contractors, in the guise of a minister, to come and sell our heritage.
“We are not going to take that any longer. We must put a stop to this. This is going to be a continuous exercise, we are not going to relent until and our message is carried straight to Mr. President.”
Popoola urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow the aviation minister to give him a bad image, saying, “This is a clarion call to you, Mr. President. We call on you to talk to your people, talk to your minister to have a rethink; our four vibrant airports are no go areas.”
Some of the executives of the NUATE told our correspondent that the workers had planned to shut the toll gate of the NAIA, adding that this was moved to stage two of the protests.
“The one (protest) of today is a milder one. We had planned to close the main toll gate that leads people unto the premises, but we decided to do it during our next protest if they fail to listen. And even after that, if they still don’t listen, we may be forced to close the runway,” an official, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, said.
Meanwhile, the union called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to come and investigate the aviation sector, alleging that there were serious ongoing corruption cases in the industry.
Popoola alleged that there was illegal recruitment going on in all aviation parastatals without any known publication of vacancies in the agencies.
When contacted for comments, the spokesperson for the aviation ministry, Mr. James Odaudu, told our correspondent that Sirika was not in town and that he (Odaudu) could not speak on the issue.
In a text message response, Oduadu said, “The minister is not in town and I am unable to respond, having no knowledge of the issues canvassed at the protest.”