Published On: Mon, Oct 22nd, 2012

Anxiety as new Lagos air terminal threatens concessioning pact

BY WOLE SHADARE

A FRESH legal battle may recommence in the nation’s aviation industry, as the commissioning of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) at the Ikeja Airport, Lagos, re-opened investment protection issue, under the law in the country.

In contention was the alleged violation of the terms of agreement earlier reached between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services, which consummated in the construction of the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) by the later.Already, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has raised concern over the new GAT’s commissioning, with a subsisting ruling, which favours the protection of Bi-Courtney’s N35 billion investment in the MMA2, which could be compromised by the new terminal.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, the Assistant Secretary-General of AON, Mohammed Tukur, said Section 2.2 of the agreement vests exclusive responsibility for scheduled domestic terminal operations on Bi-Courtney, but regretted that the FAAN has continued to run parallel services at the GAT, leading to a huge revenue loss to the concessionaire.
Brandishing a copy of the of a meeting called by former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2008, where he called the fueding parties, Bi-Courtney, represented by its Chairman, Dr. Wale Babalakin; former Aviation Minister; Babatunde Omotoba; former Managing Director of FAAN, Richard Aisuebeogun; Chief of Staff to the former President among others, Tukur said “this is a great violation and abuse of power by the aviation minister”.

Spokeman for FAAN, Yakubu Dati, explained that the minister embarked on the project in the interest of the country, saying the 2003 pact was however, not in the interest of Nigerians.

After listening to the parties, the late President said since the pact was duly signed a government official, he directed that Bi-Courtney should be allowed to recoup its investment.

He equally said the firm should be allowed to develop the General Aviation Terminal, run it to recover its over N35 billion over a 32 years period as enshrined in the agreement.

Meanwhile, an airline chief told The Guardian yesterday that the Ministry of Aviation, through FAAN, has surreptiously directed all airlines operating from the MMA2 to the new terminal, set for commissioning today.

The airline chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the threat to the airlines that breaches the directive was real, but stated that they were ready to remain at the more spacious MMA2, rather than the congested GAT.The source said the relocation from the MMA2 would lead to a loss of revenue and the compromise of Bi-Courtney’s earnings.

In July, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, dismissed an application by the FAAN challenging a 2009 judgment in favour of Bi-Courtney Limited, over a concession agreement at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal 2 (MMA2) in Lagos.

FAAN had gone to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it was a party to the concession agreement dated April 24, 2003, which was the subject matter of a case between Bi-Courtney and the AGF that was settled in favour of Bi-Courtney at the Federal High Court on the date.

The agency argued that it was not made a party to the suit that was said to have affected its interest, rights and obligations under the concession agreement.But in its ruling, the court submitted that FAAN “is an agency of the Federal Government and as a result, it is a part of the Federal Government. And its interest cannot be different from that of the Federal Government. There is also no interest which the applicant can advocate in the appeal, which the Attorney General cannot argue and protect”.
FAAN was represented by Messr. M. Okojie and N. Okonta; while Bi-Courtney was Messr Olawale Akoni SAN, K.E. Akanbi, B.B. Lawal, F. Badmus, and P. Ogunsuyi, Festus Jumbo and Judith M. Gaduk appeared for the Attorney-General of the Federation.The judge added: “In the circumstance, it is my view that the Attorney General of the Federation, being the chief law officer, is at all times responsible for conducting the case of the Federal Government and its agencies whenever their interest is an issue.

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