It was with great alarm that we learnt of the renewed efforts by the Federal Government to concession Nigeria’s major airports, namely: the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport – Abuja, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport – Lagos and the Port Harcourt International Airport, to private sector interests.

Nigerians may recall that the current concession drive of the present government did not start today. It has been part of the neo-liberal predilection of successive governments in Nigeria, stretching from the military era up till the current democratic dispensation, to deregulate, concession, and privatize critical national assets to their cronies and friends. Organized labour has identified this approach to governance as reactionary, predatory and self-serving. We rejected concession of our core national assets yesterday. We are rejecting it today!

The unwholesome and unpatriotic attitude of giving away our prized national property to private sector operatives is not only unjust and immoral but also in ultra-violation of Chapter 2, Section 16 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the Fundamental Objectives and the Directive Principles of State Policy which states that the Nigerian government must manage and operate the major sectors of the economy and ensure that that our economy is not operated to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group.

It is important to note that when our airports especially the ones earmarked for concession were in states of eye sore and dilapidation, private capital did not invest towards their rehabilitation. It would be a grand insult to the collective intelligence of the Nigerian public for the Federal Government to invest a lot of public funds into the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our airports and then hand them over to private sector players for profit maximization and at the expense of the tax paying public. This is unjust. It is immoral. This cannot stand.

Apart from the hemorrhage to government revenue that this concession portends, Nigerian workers are concerned over the security of their jobs. Our experience in the past has been that of massive layoff of workers once private sector players gets the concession on national assets. The reason is very overt – profit maximization – as very few workers would be engaged as slaves to do the work that many workers would ordinarily be required to do. Organized Labour would resist this.

As far as we are concerned, there is no compelling reason for the Federal Government to gift away our national airports to private companies to manage. The truth is that this presents the government as being incapable of managing anything. We are sure that no responsible government wants to be seen in this light. The failures of private sector intervention in our public electric and telephone services speak volumes of the inherent danger in using public assets to service private interests or massage the ego of those in the corridors of power.

The truth remains that once public workers are properly motivated, trained, capacitated, and given the enabling work environment, there are no limits to what they can achieve. Furthermore, once government is committed to allowing the professionals do their job without undue interference and ensure optimum maintenance standards especially by enforcing the rules in the public procurement process, our workers are more than capable to maintain and manage our national assets. The success story of the Ethiopian Airline and their Airport hub instructs.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and Organized Labour in Nigeria warns the Federal Government to desist from further contemplation, discussions and arrangements to concession our international airports. We call for social dialogue between government and labour on this.

Organized labour and the entire Nigerian working class would resist any attempt to unilaterally concession any of our public airports thus undermining the directive principles and fundamental objectives of our national constitution which is actually the fulcrum upon which our collective identity and aspiration rests.

We will not give up or surrender our public assets to a few well-connected Nigerians, regardless of how powerful they think they are.

Once bitten twice shy!

Aluta Continua … Victoria Ascerta!

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni


31st August 2020

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