Staff of Port Harcourt International Airport on Monday joined the staff of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and affiliate unions in a nationwide peaceful protest against planned airport concession.
The protest was carried out by four unions – Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ASSAN), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (NUATE), National Union of Air Traffic Employees (ANAP) and Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP).
The aviation sector had staged the peaceful protest in expression of its disagreement with the Federal Government on its plan to concession four major international airports – Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja and Kano.
Comrade Ajuru Emmanuel, National Vice-President of NUATE, during the protest, condemned the plan saying that it lacked respect for labour laws.
“The reason we’re saying no to concession is that it is a tactical strategy that has a political undertone capable of bringing aviation workers and the entire nation into crises and unemployment.
“When the aviation minister started the concession process, we advised him on engaging the various unions in execution of the plan to enable us discuss holistically and to see if there’s need for further synergy.
“But they’ve refused to listen to us,” Emmanuel said.
Similarly, Comrade Jerry Victor, a representative of ANAP, expressed optimism that the protest would re-position government’s decision as it directly affected all facets of the aviation industry.
He said that though workers were not totally against the idea of concession, “We are saying that due process be followed.
“There should be consultation and dialogue to ensure that all labour-related issues are properly handled.”
Comrade Felix Ohwoefe, also representing NUATE, said that aside the issue of airport concession, the sector had a huge challenge with the operations of the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
Describing the operations of PenCom as non-beneficial to the Nigerian workers.
Meanwhile, a private logistics operator at the airport, Mr Richard Perewi, has condemned the protest.
He urged that the federal government should rather speed up moves towards actualisation of the planned concession.
Perewi added that the concession move, when realised, would enhance optimal economic growth of the sector.