The chairman of Bi-Courtney Services, operators of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2) in Lagos, Wale Babalakin, has declared that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) cannot take over the management of the terminal when it clocks its twelfth year of operation in the next two years, as threatened by the FAAN.
Babalakin explained that doing so would violate MMA2’s contractual agreement with the federal government, adding that such disregard for contracts discourages potential investors from investing in Nigeria’s aviation industry.
“FAAN even went as far as lying that we wrote the agreement ourselves, meanwhile, it was the government that wrote the agreement,” he said.
“There is inadequate education, consistency and failure to honor agreements in everything we do. Professor Akande wrote the agreement as solicitor to the federal government and we only inherited the agreement. A government that does not honor its own agreement can’t be taken seriously by outsiders.”
Speaking at the Aviation Round Table (ART) held in Lagos on Thursday, Babalakin insisted that the final agreement reached between the company and the federal government was a 36-year contract, and not 12 years as being peddled by the FAAN.
He explained that there were three agreements for the reconstruction of the former terminal one building, which the company took over.
The first, he said, 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.”
Babalakin maintained that his company eventually spent N36 billion in constructing the terminal and both parties involved in the contract consented to a 36-year agreement for a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) scheme.
He maintained that if FAAN carried out its threat, it indicated that the agency did not obey the presidency, office of the Attorney General of the Federation, and even the courts on the matter.
“We are waiting for FAAN to carry out its threat of taking over the MMA2 from us when it is 12 years old. We are waiting for them to do that, but if they attempt or do that, it shows that FAAN does not obey the presidency, office of the Attorney General of the Federation and others,” he said.
Babalakin also disclosed that in order to address the situation, Bi-Courtney had approached the arbitration panel set up by the Attorney General of the Federation with three compositions each from both parties and the panel unanimously ruled in favor of the terminal operator.
Subsequently, he explained that six appeals from different bodies, including the FAAN, Arik Air, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Ojemaie Holdings, and one other were all in favor of Bi-Courtney.
He, however, said that Arik Air went as far as the Supreme Court, but was equally dismissed within five minutes by the judges, adding that former president, the late Umaru Yar’Adua, also after a meeting with the parties involved in the contractual crisis, supported the company.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Minister of Information, Tourism, Art and Culture, Lai Mohammed urged every government agency to respect agreements reached with any investors, not only in the aviation industry, but in every aspect of the economy.