What started as a mild argument between the Presidency and Ministry of Aviation over plans to concession five major airports in Nigeria has snowballed into a real faceoff which, if not resolved, might put the exercise on hold.
Senior officials of the ministry who attended a meeting, at the instance of the Presidency, on Friday were seen wearing long faces after, an indication that all is not well with the programme targeted at raking in about $2.5bn to government.
All efforts at having the ministry or presidency officials speak on the outcome of the meeting failed as they were not forthcoming with information on what transpired.
But the issue of supporting the concession programme without more detailed documentary facts on its benefits to the economy was said to have dominated the talk.
A source said there was a flag down on the concession plans as soon as some loopholes were sighted, especially as there was no commitment by the prospective concessionaires to the deal despite the fact that the plan has been within the public domain in the past one year.
According to the source, before the last meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have personally intervened when the ministry complained that the president’s aides were not showing expected zeal on programme.
“But after what seemed like a briefing by his office, Buhari referred the matter to a subcommittee, made up of both the Presidency officials and those from the ministry,to take a second look of it with the view to fast tracking it or possibly re-starting the process, the source revealed.
For example, one of the contending issues is which of the named airports will be concessioned first and whether the terms will be different from the MMA2 under the management of Bi-Courtney Company.
Another burning issue is the security question over who is to man the airports after they might have been given out.
There is also the concern over the condition of the terminal buildings at the airports and the runways, as well as aeronautical services, fire service, apron control and others.
Details of all these are to be provided failure of which there will be no deal.
The news of the face off among the officials was received with courteous optimism by the FAAN workers, who have remained in opposition over the exercise since its conception.
By Emma Eke…..
Ripples Nigeria…without borders, without fears