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Flights to Nigeria may be dispruted

Following the court order that caused the freezing of the accounts of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), employees of the agency, on Wednesday, threatened to halt the general operations of the authority if the court fails to lift the order in its ruling today.

Speaking to correspondents in a joint meeting of both Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), and National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) – the two umbrella unions for the workers, at the authority’s headquarters in Lagos – the employees argued that the freezing of the authority’s account came as a result of the court injunction in favour of Royal Sanderton Company over the withdrawal of the latter’s contract by FAAN.

The agency had, in 2003, awarded the contract to Royal Sanderton Company for the construction of the domestic terminal after the old terminal got burnt, but the contract was withdrawn and re-awarded to Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), due to the perceived non-performance of Royal Sanderton Company.

Shutting down operations

Ekanem Ekanem, the Chairman of ATSSSAN, said that the case, which is being handled by a Federal High Court in Lagos, was taken to the court in June this year, adding that the situation has crippled the operations of the authority.

“We understand that the court will be in session today being the 23rd of September 2010, we are helplessly watching the procedures and we believe that the garnishee order will be lifted; but if it is not lifted by today, we are going to decide on the option of grounding the operations of FAAN because we don’t have anything to work with,” he said.

“There is no money to run our overhead cost and to carry out our duties effectively. We are drumming it to the world to know so that by the time it happens they will not blame us.”

Mr Ekanem said that the authority no longer has access to its funds, and that its activities are negatively affected. “If you don’t have access to your account, how can you operate?

That is why we are saying that FAAN’s operations is crippled and we can no more operate under such a hard condition because nothing is being done and this has certain implication because if we don’t take care of the safety aspect of the airport operations then, there is problem as this will put the passengers at risk,” he said.

According to the union chairman, workers of the authority, who are becoming restive, are yet to receive their salaries for the past three months, adding that this is mainly because of the court order. Uka William, the Chairman of the Lagos branch of NUATE, said that the freezing of the authority’s account will lead to the demise of the agency if the order is not lifted.

“FAAN’s responsibility is to maintain the airport facilities,” he said. “It is customer centric, and if these facilities are not there, there is a lot of implications. Safety is compromised and Nigerian passengers as well as foreign passengers would be at risk.”