Battle over concession deals in aviation sector shifts to courts

THE battle for cancellation of concession agreement in the aviation industry has shifted to the law courts with Bi-Courtney being the latest firm to file a suit to protect its N34 billion Murtala Muhammed Terminal 2 investment, said to have increasingly come under threat by the Ministry of Aviation.

Also, the concession agreement with I-Cube International, managers of the Lagos airport access gates may have been terminated. With the development, officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are now expected to do the collection of toll at the gates.

But the management is requesting a refund of over N2.8 billion as money paid upfront to FAAN as bank guarantee. This may trigger another legal battle between the concessionaire and FAAN. I-Cube pays N4 billion monthly to FAAN and it does not concern the regulatory agency whether the concessionaire recoups its money or not.

Maevis, with reported N9 billion investment, had, through its counsel, Prof. Yemi Osibajo, gone to court to stop FAAN from revoking its concession deal, accusing the agency of disclosing the actual amount it remits to it.

While FAAN accused the concessionaire of withholding its money, the firm, armed with payment vouchers from two reputable banks, denied owing the aviation agency. The case is still in court.

Bi-Courtney on the other hand has gone to Federal High Court, Lagos to stop the Ministry of Aviation from terminating the concession deal. The firm (Plaintiff), in the suit, listed the Attorney General of the Federation, Minister of Aviation, Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as defendants.

Bi-Courtney, in a motion ex-parte dated August 1, 2011, prayed the court to grant leave to the applicant to issue and serve its originating summons, and other accompanying processes in the suit on the 1st and 2nd defendants in Abuja at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja and for such order or further orders “as this honourable court may deem fit to make in the circumstances coming before the court for hearing.” The affidavit was sworn to by one Yemi Yejide, legal practitioner in the firm of Messrs Wale Babalakin.

An aviation consultant, Chris Aligbe, noted that to bring Nigerian airports to global standards, concession remains the only solution.

His words: “It is not possible for FAAN to financially manage 22 airports, therefore, all airports, beginning with Lagos airport should be concessioned to bring them to global standards. Government should call in the private sector like Gatwick and Heathrow airports were developed by a Nigerian and a Spaniard.

“It is obvious that government can no longer handle the decay, it will get money when the airports are functioning well. Government should immediately put in place a major framework for private sector investment in the sector.

“We urgently need a mental and perception reorder to reposition the aviation industry.


By Wole Shadare 

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