A decade-long protracted face-off between Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) and the Federal Government over the concession agreement of the N36 billion Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) terminal could be over soon. The Federal Government, through the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed that the Federal Government would honour the agreement of 36 years and not 12 years as being peddled by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The government signed the concession agreement with Bi-Courtney to build the ultra-modern terminal under the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement.
With the implementation, the aviation firm can now do regional flight operations from the terminal.
Four years ago, the government prevented the aviation firm operating from MMA2 after reportedly spending over N1 billion to provide facilities at the terminal.
Speaking at the quarterly Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) held in Lagos yesterday, with theme, “Aviation as a catalyst for economic growth”, Mohammed stated that flouting of agreements by government would send a very wrong signal to the international community that the country does not respect business pact.
His words: “Agreements must be obeyed. We cannot continue as a government to look at colour, religion and ethnicity in making decisions. When you draw an agreement, it is not the fault of the other party if you don’t come with competent people to draw up an agreement. You can’t blame the other party. Agreements must be obeyed. We will obey the agreement as a government with the case of MMA2.”
He stated that the multi-billion airport terminal was the best in Nigeria that should be replicated, adding that: “If MMA2 was a mistake, we need to make more of such mistakes. We know what the problems are and we need solution to the problem.”
Chairman of BASL, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), said aviation could be a catalyst for economic growth, but lamented the breach of agreement between his firm and aviation authorities.
Babalakin noted that the face-off between his firm and FAAN prompted the intervention of former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua.
“The late president ordered FAAN to implement the agreement after listening to the argument of both parties,” he said.
Babalakin said the controversy over the concession sprang up as a result of the alleged breach of contract by the government.
He noted that the MMA2 concession agreement stipulated that all domestic flights from Lagos, as well as revenues accruing from such flights, were to be operated by BASL.
According to him, the company was shocked when Arik Air began to operate from the General Aviation Terminal (GAT).
“Our lawyers had anticipated that it was possible that somebody would try to break the law. Even if you break that law, the agreement will now say all revenues must come to us and we should be given the first option to make any such development. When this happened, we complained. We now went to the arbitration panel set up by the Attorney General of the Federation. It has three members from Bi-Courtney and three from the Federal Government,” he said.
Babalakin alleged that the agreement unanimously reached by the panel was never implemented, leaving the company with no option than to go to court, which ruled in BASL’s favour in 2009.
“We went back to court to seek for damages. After considering every submission, the court awarded us N132 billion damages in 2012, which remains unpaid till date,” he said.
He added that six appeals were filed by the Federal Government, Arik Air, National Association of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), and two others, which were all dismissed.
“Arik went to the Supreme Court, but the case was dismissed in five minutes. Since 2012, the same authorities have been accumulating this money, which is now N200 billion,” Babalakin added.
He further stated that there was an agreement that Bi-Courtney Services would reconstruct the terminal for N2.7 billion, saying that “government had wanted to construct a shed and not a terminal building.”
Chairman, Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema, carpeted the aviation agencies for lack of infrastructure at most of the aerodromes, causing a huge dislocation in operations.
The airline chief urged government to look at the arbitrary hike and multiple charges that reduce the lifespan of airlines.