FG shuns National Assembly, goes ahead with Abuja, Kano airports’ concession

Despite the resolution of the House of Representatives to suspend the concession process for Nigeria’s four major airports, two of the facilities were already nearing commercial closure.


Officials of the Federal Government said that the concession of the airports was approved by the Federal Executive Council and, as such, there would be a need to get FEC to reverse the process.


Nigeria’s major international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Kano were put up for concession by the immediate past government of President Muhammadu Buhari.


In May this year, the Federal Government announced that it had successfully carried out the concession of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.


The then Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the immediate past Minister of Aviation, James Odaudu, had announced in a statement that the concession of the airports came after the approval of the Federal Executive Council.


But last Wednesday, the House of Representatives resolved to suspend the concession of the airports, as it argued that the exercise did not follow due process. It also mandated its Committee on Aviation to probe the concession. The House is due to inaugurate its various committees by Thursday.


The House of Representatives resolution was a sequel to a motion by Kama Nkemakonam, titled “Need to Investigate the Concession of Airports in Nigeria,” during plenary.


Nkemakonam had stated that the most viable airports in Nigeria were commissioned to foreign firms through resolutions by the Federal Executive Council, which deviated from due process, public accountability, and established laws of the land.


But while responding to inquiries by our correspondents, on Sunday, the Head, of Media and Publicity, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Manji Yarling, revealed that the concession process of two of the airports were nearing completion despite the call for suspension by the House of Representatives.


Providing an update on the current stage of the airports’ concession exercise, she stated that while the Abuja and Kano airports concession projects were approaching commercial closure, that of Lagos airport had been stalled.


For the Port Harcourt airport, the commission’s spokesperson stated that there was still no investor yet for the facility.


Yarling said, “The Abuja and Kano International Airport concession projects have been approved by FEC. The Project Delivery Team and the preferred bidders are finalising the draft agreements. Going by the PPP process, once this is finished, there would be a commercial close.


“The initial plan was to concession four airports – Lagos, Abuja, Kano, and Port Harcourt. Whereas Abuja and Kano International Airports got FEC approval, the concession of Lagos was stalled after the issuance of the ICRC Outline Business Case Compliance Certificate, due to a court case by one of the bidders during the procurement process.


“The Port Harcourt Airport was also advertised, but no investor bid was received. The process of procurement will be re-initiated.”


The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had on February 6, 2023, ordered that the planned concession of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and cargo terminals be stopped pending the hearing and determination of a suit filed by Sifax Group of Companies Limited challenging the bidding process.


Meanwhile, when asked if the preferred bidders for the Abuja and Kano airports should not go ahead with their plans based on what the House Representative had said, the ICRC official replied, “This clarification needs to be given by the Reps.”


On whether the ICRC would review or reverse the decision on the preferred bidders for the airports, Yarling said, “The ICRC is an agency of government.


“FEC is the highest decision-making organ of the executive arm of the Federal Government, ICRC cannot reverse the Federal Executive Council’s decision. After FEC approval and commercial close, they (preferred bidders) become concessionaires.”


On why the Federal Government had yet to hand over the airports to the preferred bidders, the ICRC official replied, “The concession of the Abuja and Kano International Airports was approved by the Federal Executive Council on May 17, 2023.


“Going by the PPP (public-private partnership) process, there should be a commercial close which is contract signing between the preferred bidder and the MDA (Ministry, Department, and Agency) ‘Grantor’, after which the project can fully commence.”


Reacting to the claims of the House of Representatives that the concession of the airports did not follow due process, the Head, of Press and Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Aviation, Oluseyi Odutayo, argued that the FMA followed the stipulated process.


“At the ministry, we are doing the right thing and we believe that there is no secret about the matter. It is left to the government to decide. The ICRC is the regulatory body and they will be able to tell the world and the ministry if we followed due process, which I know we did.


“So the decision will be taken by the government. The ministry will not take any decision or state any opinion on that for now. That is our take on that matter.”


Preferred bidders


In October last year, the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, named the preferred bidder for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, as Corporation America Airports Consortium, adding that ENL Consortium was selected as the reserve bidder for Abuja airport.


According to Sirika, TAV/NAHCO Project Planet Limited emerged as the preferred bidder for Murtala Muhammed International Airports, Lagos, with Sifax/Changi Consortium as the selected reserve bidder.


He had further added that Corporation America Airports Consortium also emerged as the preferred bidder for Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, noting that there was no reserve bidder for the airport. However, Port-Harcourt International Airport did not meet the RFP deadline.


‘Lawmakers can’t suspend’


On whether the ministry would suspend the concession of the airports, as resolved by the lawmakers, a senior official at the FMA stated, on Sunday, that the ministry had no power to suspend what was approved by the Federal Executive Council.


The official also argued that the House of Representatives lacked the powers to suspend the exercise, insisting that anyone who was aggrieved should go to court.


“They (lawmakers) can advise the executive but they cannot suspend it. Also, the ministry cannot suspend what was approved by FEC, which is the highest decision-making body of the executive arm of government.”


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