Aerotropolis: Aviation unions threaten to shut down airports nationwide

•Reject FAAN, NAMA, NCAA buildings demolition

•Stakeholders frown at FG’s move

By Prince Okafor

Passengers travelling in and out of Nigeria might be hit with a major setback in the coming days.

This is coming on the heels of threats from various aviation unions to shut down airports nationwide over the Federal Government move to demolish the former headquarters buildings of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA in Lagos.

The unions expressed their disapproval in the demolition move, stressing that it is ill timed and suspicious at a time the country is going into electioneering activities.

Vanguard Aviation World had reported that the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had disclosed that the buildings will be demolished to pave way for the proposed aerotropolis.

The Minister noted that the move was in line with the airport cities project contained in the aviation development roadmap

Aerotropolis is a metropolitan subregion whose infrastructure, land use, and economy are centered on an airport.

But the aviation unions have called on the Minister of Aviation to put on hold his plan to demolish the Headquarters of FAAN, NAMA, and NCAA in Lagos pending proper evaluation, planning and better timing.

The unions include, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals ANAP.

Speaking on behalf of the union, Chairman, ATSSSAN, FAAN branch, Ahmed Danjuma, said: “We consider that this plan, in the name of the so called aerotropolis, is ill intended, ill advised, and wrongly timed. We hereby serve notice that any attempt to demolish any of these buildings at this time will be met with immediate action of cessation of work at all airports in Nigeria accompanied by public demonstrations nationwide.

“We call for the urgent review of the Concession of the MMA2 being operated by Bi-Courtney Aviation. The continuation of this concession without a valid agreement with FAAN, and the unending alterations of the concession period by the concessionaire unilaterally without challenge is clear evidence that those in power care little about national interest. Our unions will commence our dissent against the current opaque exercise by declaring operation occupy of the MMA2 in conjunction with the NLC, TUC, and Civil Society.”

Stakeholders react

A former commandant at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, MMA, Capt. John Ojikutu, said: “Building Aerotropolis is the responsibility of FAAN and not the Ministry whose responsibility is only policy while the operational guidelines are the responsibility of the NCAA.

“If there must be Aerotropolis at the MMA,  it cannot be within but outside the Airport but around the surroundings which was identified at areas and lands own by FAAN at Egbeda, Akowonjo, Shasha, Ejigbo, etc  all around the Airport about five years ago.

“What is taking the government Administration officials, not FAAN and NAMA officials, to their headquaters buildings as the appropriate areas for Aerotropolis is what we need to ask from them.

“Moreover, has the NCAA approved such development within the Airports because the … that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) National Civil Aviation Security Programme, NCASP provides for the approval of the NCAA on the design, reconstructure or constructure of any structure within the airport area. I am a witness to the oversight compliance on the construction of the MM2 from the design to the construction.”

Similarly, an aviation analyst, Olumide Ohunayo, while expressing dissatisfaction over the demolition plan, described it as a ploy for a much bigger agenda.

He advised the Minister to take the aerotropolis construction plan to Abuja where, according to him, about 12,000 acres of land lies unused.

He said: “I do not support the demolition of those buildings. I feel there is a need to look out for reasons why those buildings were put in place. Some of those buildings are there to provide critical residence and back up for operations and emergencies at the airport.

“Also, if you look at the asset there, it can be converted to other commercial uses rather than go into demolition. We already have 12,000 acres given to the airport authority in Abuja. Why don’t they start the aerotropolis there and let us see how it is before coming down to a place that is already built up. I feel it is not an appropriate decision and I am sure the union would strongly resist the demolition of all those properties.

“We have demolished an international airport for the expansion of a terminal that was placed in a place where it was not supposed to be. That was wrong planning that has pushed us in a terminal which is underutilized. We cannot come to progress concurrently in error. We need to take a breeder and allow some commercial sale and other important perspectives in the industry to take its course.

“I think for me the target is a multi story building hotel facility. I think that is where they are moving to. I think they are using the aerotropolis as a kite. But, if the aerotropolis is the priority then go and give the makers in Abuja. Let’s start with that and see it flow.

“The airport is getting congested everyday and the little land they have to do some other activities within the airport you want to aerotropolis it. You have an airport that you are supposed to pay loans for yet major airlines cannot use it because of airstrikes. They keep demolishing. Why are we not following the master plan of the airport?”

Meanwhile, workers of the affected agencies chanted solidarity songs, and carried placards with different inscriptions in protest of the development In Lagos.

The placards read: Demolition of Aviation Headquarters must be resisted; MM2 is an example of bad concession; concession is against Nigeria interest No, No, No;  etc.

Efforts to speak to the spokesperson of FAAN, Mrs Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, proved abortive as she refused to respond to our correspondent.

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