Nigerian News Update: ‘Local investors, operators should undertake airport concession’

Nigerian News Update: ‘Local investors, operators should undertake airport concession’

Nigerian News Update:

•13 bidders await verdict

Aviation stakeholders have urged the Federal Government to give local investors and operators priority when awarding airport concession rights.

They said local operators that are equipped with the right competencies and years of experience are better choices for the Nigerian economy than foreign bidders jostling for the aerodromes.

No fewer than 13 bidders showed up for the Federal Government’s request for qualification (RFQ) for the concession of international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.

The bidding, towards running the airports efficiently and profitably, was open to firms or consortia with track records in airport terminal management and net worth of N30 billion per firm or consortium. The concession is billed to run for 20 to 30 years tenure in a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model.

As at last week, the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has concluded the evaluation of the 13 bidders and turned in the report to the Ministry of Aviation to make a decision on companies that are best suitable for the concession.

In the interim, the Group Executive Director, Resort International Limited, Luqman Balogun, noted that Bi-Courtney Aviation Service Limited (BASL), which manages the Murtala Muhammed Airport terminal II (MMA2) had run the terminal exceptionally well in the last 14 years to deserve consideration in the larger concession.

Balogun told journalists that the MMA2 concession was the primus inter pares in the aviation sector and the premise upon which to grant BASL more facilities to run.

“This (MMA2) is the only place we can claim good relevance that we deserve what our request. The facility (MMA2) we are managing is on behalf of the Federal Government. It’s not ours; it belongs to the government.

“That facility, at the end of the concession, goes back to the government. We need to ensure that we follow the rules of engagement, because if the government is going to advance things, we are going to be the reference point.

“It is necessary for other airports to be concession to local firms with track records, merit and competence, rather than foreign companies that you cannot vouch for. Some of the foreign companies being touted don’t have the required records. BASL has proven to be the best private terminal manager in the last 14 years and so should be supported by the government because of its antecedent in terminal management

“BASL generates only eight per cent of total airport revenues in Nigeria, yet regularly maintains its terminal since establishment in 2007. We are a totally indigenous company that operates locally, employs Nigerians and keeps the money in the local economy.

“Government needs to do some reflection on the fact that they won’t attract investors, if they do not follow the rule of law. There are a lot of issues, court cases that were awarded in our favour and the regional section awaiting approval. But till now, the government is yet to do the needful.

“This round of concession, it would have been wrong of us if we did not apply. The only way you can win a lottery is when you buy a ticket. Inasmuch we have participated, you feel we are qualified, not just by word of mouth, but based on the requirement the government listed in the advert for the concession and we supported our RFQ.”

Chairman of BASL, Wale Babalakin, also urged the Federal Government to look inwards for credible bidders and investors in the ongoing concession of its four major airports.

Babalakin said it diminishes the country and discourages potential foreign investors to find no local capacity on the bidding priority list.

“In other places, those who have demonstrated such expertise and have the capacity will be the first choice. But in Nigeria, we are looking for investors from people that do not have proven track records, especially at a time when credible companies are leaving Nigeria for neighbouring African countries. Why look for expertise from outside when you have tested technical hands that are proven for 14 years?

“BASL is interested in anything that is intelligent infrastructure development. I have had people say are you a businessman? I am not a businessman, I am a lawyer and an infrastructure developer, I don’t trade, I don’t import and export. What is my interest? Infrastructure development and that’s where you find me.

“So, we are interested but we are more interested in the process leading to the emergence and we believe that we are entitled to be the first option. In any very organised country, we would be given the first option,” Babalakin said.

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