• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Aviation unions vow to keep resisting FG’s plans to demolish offices

Unions in the Nigerian aviation industry have once again vowed to resist any attempt by the Federal Government to demolish some office complexes belonging to the agencies at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos.

The unions vowed to continue vigorously kicking against the planned demolition of the buildings until the government complied with the Labour Act on relocation of workers.

Also, the unions accused Hadi Sirika, the minister of aviation of abysmal performance in the last eight years despite the “gigantic policies” unveiled by the government for the sector since 2015 it came to power.

The workers who had gathered at the Freedom Square of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) as early as 8a.m on Thursday carried different placards to press home their disaffection with the decision of the government.

Some of the placards read in part: ‘No to demolition of FAAN headquarters Annex,’ ‘F.G. stop the demolition of headquarters annex Lagos,’ ‘FAAN headquarters annex not for sale,’ ‘Build FAAN corporate headquarters,’ and ‘Demolition of FAAN headquarters is fraud,’ among others.

Speaking during the unions’ congress held at the Freedom Square of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Wednesday, Frances Akinjole, the General Secretary of the Air Transport Staff Senior Services of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), said that there was no any rationale for the planned demolition of FAAN office and others in Lagos.

According to him, the present administration had barely two months to exit office, yet demolition of aviation agencies topped its priority list.

Akinjole further described the planned action of the minister as unwarranted, warning that the unions and their members would not be taken unawares by the government’s plans.

Akinjole, however, said that the unions were not against the planned demolition of the agency’s annex office in Lagos, but said the government must ensure the payment of the staff’s relocation allowances and other benefits accrued to them.

He also declared that the unions would protest every avenue by some people in government to convert government properties to their personal asserts.

The union leader, lamented that almost three years after the first batch of some workers in some of the agencies were relocated out of Lagos to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, their relocation allowances were yet to be paid, adding that most of the agencies, including FAAN had no office complexes in Abuja.

The general secretary mentioned that the space at the headquarters of the former Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), now Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), which was demolished for the expansion of the new international terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos terminal, was still empty a year after the exercise, decrying that most of its staff lacked office accommodation in Abuja.

He declared that the unions in collaboration with their
members nationwide would continue to reject any attempt to demolish the buildings in Lagos and the relocation of the workers in contravention to the Labour Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Akinjole further observed that over 75 per cent of aviation activities happen in Lagos and wondered how the agencies would operate without office complexes in the state.

He said: “They want to demolish in public interest, but they will now be the beneficiaries of these properties. This is our common patrimony. We will fight this out. We all know the challenges the staff of the other agencies that were relocated to Abuja are facing.

“For instance, the staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) that are in Abuja don’t have offices of their own, while those in AIB (NSIB) were told to be working from home here in Lagos. FAAN does not have its own office in Abuja, yet they want to push everyone to where there is no accommodation for staff.”

Also, Safiya Araga of the Nigerian Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), accused the minister of maltreating the aviation workers since he came assumed office about eight years ago.

Read also: How Nigeria’s aviation sector can foster economic growth

Araga purported that despite the “gigantic policies” the government had for the industry, none was achieved in the past eight years.

She insisted that there must be adequate provisions for the workers before they are relocated outside their present offices, while insisting that the agencies’ offices would not be allowed to be demolished by the government.

She, also called on the incoming government to take a serious look at the activities of the present government in the sector in the past eight years, alleging that the sector had been stagnant for almost a decade.

“We had gigantic policies that never came to fruition in the last eight years. The NAMA case is a terrible one. Till date, NAMA uses a rented apartment in Abuja. For the past eight years, we have not been encouraged by this government. What does the Labour Act say about relocation? The workers need to wake up, defend their work-life and their families. We should all be on standby. A people united can never be defeated,” she said.

Sirika had at various occasions since last December unveiled the plan of the Federal Government to demolish some of the agencies’ offices in Lagos.

Sirika specifically said that the buildings would be develop into aerotropolis (airport city), arguing that the agencies could not continue to operate in shabby buildings.

He insisted that this was in the interest of the entire aviation industry, but the unions have continued to kick against the plan.