The Federal Government says the planned concession of major airports across the country will go on as planned.
This is just as the government announced that a N45bn severance package would be given to ex-workers of the defunct Nigerian Airways.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated this while fielding questions from State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Wednesday.
He was reacting to the protests by members of the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association and the National Union of Air Transport Employees who kicked against the planned concession.
Sirika said the government could no longer sustain the funding of the 22 airports across the country and thus had to enter into concessions.
The minister said the Murtala Muhammed International Airport for instance was originally built to handle 200,000 travellers per annum but today it is serving eight million per annum, stressing that the government did not have the resources to upgrade the facilities to handle the increasing number of travellers.
While acknowledging the rights of the workers to protest, Sirika said the government would try its best to ensure that jobs were not lost.
He said, “At the time the concession of some government assets started, we were not knowledgeable in what concession entails but today we have the knowledge and it will be transparently done with active participation of workers in both the delivery and the steering committees to drive this process.”
Sirika added that a portal would be set up by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission where all matters of concession would be available to ensure transparency.
He added, “I have to say that we have been meeting with them but the policy of the government is that we cannot fund aviation infrastructure today through public budgets. The money is not there. We intend to get the private sector to come and put in their money.
“The policy has been done that it will go through concession, to give to some individuals who will build, operate, maintain, sustain, make money and the government will also make money in the process and the airports will be returned to the government after a number of years between 20 to 25 years. This will be transparently done; this is the catch phrase, so we are proceeding.”
He revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the concessions since 2015 but things were being put in place to ensure that it was a success.