The Senate Committee on Aviation has advised the Minister of Aviation, Babatunde Omotoba and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa to suspend the planned handover of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited.
The hand over is scheduled to take place today amidst threats by Arik Airlines to suspend its services if the federal government hands over the terminal.
But in a swift reaction yesterday, the Senate through its Committee on Aviation called for the suspension of the handover of the terminal.
A statement issued by the Senator Anyim Ude-led committee indicated its interest in intervening in the matter and resolving the dispute to avoid what it called “the looming crisis in the aviation sector.”
The statement signed by the committee’s clerk, Aborisade Victor, reads: “The attention of the Senate Committee on Aviation has been drawn to media reports on a decision by the Federal Government to hand over the General Aviation Terminal to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited today.
“The committee has also noted media reports on the threats by Arik Airlines to suspend its services if the federal government eventually hands over the GAT to Bi-Courtney.
“The chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation has, therefore, advised the Aviation Minister and the Attorney General and Justice Minister to suspend the hand over until the committee intervenes in the matter with a view to resolving all the issues to avoid the looming crisis in the aviation sector.”
It was further gathered that the committee has scheduled a meeting for next week in Abuja involving the aviation ministry, Bi-Courtney and Arik Airlines.
Arik had threatened to shut down its operations sequel to the order by the federal government that Bi-Courtney Aviation Services should take over the GAT where Arik and some other airlines run their domestic operations.
Arik and Bi-Courtney have been locked in a legal battle for control of the terminal for some time.
Legal Counsel to Arik, Assam E. Assam told newsmen on Thursday in Lagos that the airline might stop operation if need be, because it could not operate in any facility “under the control and monopolistic management of Bi-Courtney.”
Assam said the Minister of Aviation told the Vice-President of Arik Air, Senator Anietie Okon that he was acting on the directives of the Attorney-General of the Federation to hand over GAT to Bi-Courtney on Saturday, September 19, for control and management.
Assam added: “The said directive from the Attorney-General is purportedly premised on the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja dated 3rd of March 2009 wherein Bi-Courtney Limited as plaintiffs took out a suit against the Attorney-General of the Federation claiming among other things, the right to own and manage the operations of the MMA2 and GAT for a period of 36 years with effect from April 2004.”
But Assam said instead of operating in a terminal managed by Bi-Courtney, Arik would rather close its operations.
Assam said: “What all of us as citizens of this country want is the rule of law. If GAT is listed for concession, that concession has to go through due process. There is an agency of the federal government, which is headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan responsible for infrastructure construction and development.
“Every property of the federal government that has to be concessioned either by way of BOT (build, operate and transfer) or by way of direct lease for management by any private individual must be approved by that commission and sent by a memo to the Federal Executive Council for approval.”
Arik is believed to be responsible for more than 50 per cent of all domestic passenger traffic in Nigeria with about 28 largely new airplanes and about 105 daily take-offs.
Bi-Courtney got a concession to develop and operate domestic terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport during the Obasanjo regime.
Controversy has trailed the content of that agreement, including the 36-year duration of the concession.
Its insistence that GAT is part of the property it should control in accordance with the agreement it signed with the federal government further compounded the controversy.
As at press time, it was not certain if the minister would go ahead with the handover today because of the raging controversy.