Controversy trails concession of MMIA to French firm
MMIA

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

The plan by the Federal Government to concession the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, is currently enmeshed in controversy as one of the bidders has alleged impropriety in the award process.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, it would be recalled, had on October 26, 2022, announced the preferred bidders for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja; the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano.

According to Sirika, the Request for Proposals (RFP) phase of the Nigeria Airports Concession Programme (NACP), which came to a close on the 19 of September 2022, has seen the emergence of preferred and reserve bidders for three out of four airports and cargo terminals approved for concession by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).

“The preferred bidder for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, is Corporacion America Airports Consortium, while ENL Consortium has been selected as the reserve bidder.

“The preferred bidder for Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, is TAV/NAHCO/PROJECT PLANET LIMITED (PPL) Consortium. Sifax/Changi Consortium has also been selected as the reserve bidder for MMIA.

“The preferred bidder for Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano, is Corporacion America Airports Consortium. There are no reserve bidders for MAKIA as at the time of this announcement”, Sirika had announced.

The minister also disclosed that there are no preferred and reserve winners for the Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Port Harcourt, as his ministry did not receive any proposal for the airport at the expiration of deadline for the submission of request for proposals.

Sirika further disclosed that the next process would be the negotiation stage where the successful bidders will be invited to enter detailed negotiations with government representatives, with a view to developing a Full Business Case (FBC) before the agreements are transmitted to the ICRC for review and approval.

“The next stage of the programme is the negotiations and due diligence stage, during which the Federal Government will invite preferred bidders to enter detailed negotiations with its representatives, with a view to developing a Full Business Case (FBC) before onward transmission to ICRC for review and approval.

“Only after successful conclusion of the negotiation and due diligence stage will the FBC and all other approvals be presented before the Federal Executive Council for final approval by the Federal Government of Nigeria,” the aviation minister had explained back in October.

However, spanners have been thrown into the concession plans, with one of the interested investors who lost out in the bidding for the Murtala Mohammed International Airport threatening to scuttle the whole process.

According to court documents obtained by Business Hallmark over the weekend, the reserved bidder for the MMIA, Sifax Group of Companies Limited, has approached a Federal High Court in Lagos to disqualify the successful bidder for MMIA, TAV Airports Holding Company, from taking possession of the airport.

Sifax Group alleged that Tav Airports Holding erred by submitting two different bids for the airport through two companies it has controlling interest in, an act it claimed contravened the laws guiding the exercise.

According to the court papers, Sifax Group alleged that the two French firms which bidded for the MMIA, Tav Airports Holding Company and GMR Airport Limited are owned by the same company, Airport De Paris (ADP).

The Nigerian company alleged that the French company submitted two separate bids for the MMIA and the two were shortlisted for the next phase of the concession – contrary to the rules.

In its submission to the Federal High Court, Lagos, Sifax Group argued that that Tav Airports Holding Company breached the specific precept of the Request for Qualification (RFQ), which states that no applicant is entitled to bid for any of the specific Assets twice under any guise or form.

It, therefore, asked the court to disqualify the two companies from the bidding exercise, a prayer that will ultimately lead to Tav Airports Holding Company and GMR Airport Limited forfeiting the concession if granted by the court.

Joined in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Aviance Plc, Tav Airports Holding and GMR Airport.

Meanwhile, workers in the aviation industry have vowed to resist the planned concession of four of Nigeria’s International airports by the Federal Government.

The workers under the aegis of NUATE, warned the Federal Government to halt the concessioning process or face their wrath.

NUATE’s General Secretary, Comrade Ocheme Aba, who spoke on behalf of other aviation workers unions, vowed that the unions would not allow the move to sail through without due consideration for workers and strict adherence to the rule of law.

He explained that none of the six aviation road maps promised by Sirika had been delivered by the government in the seven years of this administration and wondered why the government was in a hurry to implement most of the projects in its last minutes in office.

“Ever since the decision to concession the four major airports, our unions have been strongly opposed to the idea. And when the Outline Business case was made open to the public, we have been firm and vehement in our opposition to the type of concessioning envisioned by the Transaction Adviser, for good reason.

“We unearthed several booby traps, outright falsehoods and deliberate manipulation of facts to skew the transaction against the interest of Nigeria, which we communicated to the minister and other arms of government.

“Some of the loopholes we found include extending the scope of the concession to the surroundings of the terminals, up to FAAN housing estates without taking such into account in the assets valuation.

“Whilst stating that the terminals require no further investments for the envisaged period of the concession, yet without any real basis determined humongous investment budgets for intending concessionaires. Also, arbitrary fixing of profit sharing ratio (60:40) in favour of the concessionaire,” the NUATE boss stated.

In his own submission, the Chairperson, ATSSSAN, FAAN branch, Comrade Danuja Ahmed, argued that the planned concession of the four airports by the government lacks transparency.

“Our position is clear; no concession will be concluded until all labour issues are concluded.

“We have our own Plan B. This is the time for us to activate our Plan B and we will do it henceforth,” Ahmed threatened.

BH findings revealed that previous attempts by the government to concession the Lagos Airport were dogged by controversies and opposition from stakeholders.

For instance, rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), had in a letter addressed to Hadi Sirika, dated November 3, 2021, demanded that three foreign firms, TAV Consortium, GMR Consortium and ADP be disqualified from the bidding process for contravening the Requests For Qualification (RFO) process.

Falana had argued that two consortium owned by ADP Airport De Paris submitted expression of interest in a public notice published by the Ministry of Aviation in August 2021.

According to the Lagos lawyer, ADP, the first consortium led by TAV Airport Holding, owns 49 per cent of its shares, while GMR Airports Limited which submitted the second bid, owns 46 per cent of ADP’s shares.

“Contrary to the misleading impression that both TAV and GMR were separate entities, an internet search revealed that ADP owns 46 percent of GMR and 49 per cent of TAV”, Falana had argued in the letter.

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