I AM TOTALLY IN SUPPORT OF CONCESSIONING OF FACILITIES.
“We must therefore not shrink from accusing our friends or praising our enemies, nor should we be afraid of praising and blaming the same people at different times; since it is impossible that men who are engaged in public affairs should always be in the right and unlikely they should always be in the wrong. We must therefore detach ourselves from the actors in our story; and apply to them only such statements and judgements as their conduct deserves.”
Polybius, c200-118 BC.
Polybius, one of the great historians of the Hellenic Age – the Age of Socrates, Plato, Archimedes etc – provided one of the strongest compasses with which have guided my writings in newspapers – especially with regard to Nigerian public office holders. None of them, irrespective of whether elected or appointed, under civilian or military government, male or female, political affiliation, Northerner or Southerner, Muslim or Christian, ever admits to making a mistake. Every policy or programme proposed by them and implemented is perfect in concept and execution. Among the first things they do on reaching office is to reach into the media – especially print media – and appoint the Editor of a leading paper as Commissioner for Information ( and Strategy) or Senior Special Adviser on Media – or some such self-deceptive title. Nigeria has lost a great deal from it.
Only the hard earned good reputations of few journalists, unfortunately, have survived the close association with the Executive branch. To me, it has been pathetic how relative poverty had turned people trained to pursue truth and publish it if it is in the public interest, into people engaged in suppressing or twisting the facts. And, they want their former colleagues in the media to help them to spread falsehood!!! Only three people had decamped from the Fourth Estate of the Realm to the First and returned without their reputations in shreds – Double Chief Duro Onabule ( Babangida’s spokesman), Tunji Oseni and Mrs Remi Oyo (both served Obasanjo). The reader needs to be aware that I wrote the first article in 1987. Hundreds of “journalists” have come and gone since then.
That is a lengthy introduction to the issue on hand – the plan to concession airports by the Federal Government which I support more than 100%. Why more than 100%? Because, only by putting all our airports to the test of viability will we ever know which of them can be self-sustaining and which are just monuments to somebody’s ego and a cash draining white elephant. But, permit me to point out why it is dangerous to support the Buhari administration even when they are right. They are a confused bunch and nobody can believe whatever they say at the moment. Here is why.
AND NOW THE BAD NEWS FROM THE VP.
“FG has started implementing Economic Sustainability Plan – Osinbajo.”
VANGUARD, August 11, 2020, p 19.
The announcement by the Vice President was contrary to the statement credited to the Minister of State, Clem Agba, who gave the impression that the new plan is still work in progress. My article merely pointed out the difference. The VP got one of his aides to send a ridiculous rejoinder which failed to answer the questions: Is there a new plan? What are the details? Now, to show how nonsensical the VP’s response was, please read what follows.
“Buhari’ll unveil new economic plan in December – Minister”.
PUNCH, September 4, 2020, p 26.
The story went on to state as follows: “The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, on Thursday announced that a new economic plan to guide the country’s development in the next four years would be unveiled in December.”
Somebody – either the VP or the Minister — must be lying. The new economic plan was either already in operation in August before the end of the disaster called Economic Recovery and Growth Programme, ERGP, which is scheduled to end December as claimed by Osinbajo. Or, it is not. And if it the new plan is not operative, why for God’s sake would the VP make that claim? Mischief? Ignorance of what goes on within the FG? Or peddling Fake News? The Minister, however, has been consistent. And, his position is also in line with multiple-year economic policy programmes. ERGP does not end until December 2020 – even if the Buhari administration and the incompetent Economic Management Team, EMT, which crafted it are too embarrassed by the results. Failures want to bury their disasters as soon as possible.
“Even a broken down clock is right twice a day.” An old Swiss adage.
This brings me to the issue of the plan to concession some of Nigeria’s airports by the FG. It is not only a step in the right direction, it is a step not taken far enough if what we are reading is how far the government intends to go. Contrary to the falsehood which organised Labour groups in the aviation sector are spreading, privatising the operations at airports has never meant total disengagement of workers. It had invariably introduced global quality service delivery and more reliable automation to operations. What Nigerian Labour organisations seek to preserve are the inefficient service delivery systems associated with them which only governments can tolerate. They abhor modernisation and progress. They only seek to hold Nigeria down in order that most of them who are un-trainable and lack the motivation for self-improvement can continue to hold jobs within an obsolete uncompetitive paradigm.
Every government has a duty to society to move strategic sectors of its economy to global standards. Granted governments are expected to generate jobs. But, no government has the duty of guarantying jobs to those whose means of employment have been rendered uneconomical by improvements in technology, economy, society etc. When governments commercialise economic units, they transfer the responsibility for raising the funds to run them to others. Instead, revenue is generated from units which formally drained resources. I applaud.
Since Federal Airports are the first entities being contemplated for concession, they serve as the best examples for the benefits Nigeria and the states can derive. Several studies have established that only three airports in Nigeria are viable – that is, making profit from their operations. That also means that long after construction FG and states are still spending money generated from other sources to keep them open. But, less then two (2) per cent of Nigerians use airports. I am one of the few. Thus ninety-eight (98) per cent of Nigerians are being forced to subsidise the flights of the elite. All the noise by the aviation sector workers amounts to nothing more than wanting government to continue to rob the poor to help the rich.
Concession, on the other hand ensures that only the users of airports and aviation services pay and nobody else. And, how the operators operate is nobody’s business — as long as it meets global safety standards and is not fraudulent.
I have only two objections to the concession plan proposed. First, instead of offering only the profitable three, the FG should offer bundles of airports with one profitable one as core. Second, concession other units also – sea ports, railway stations, expressways, Teaching Hospitals, Aso Rock Clinic….
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