There are bold hints that the Federal Government will soon resume its retrenchment exercise in the agencies under the Aviation Ministry. The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, disclosed this on Saturday night during his second Aviation Stakeholders’ Forum in Lagos. Mr. Sirika explained that there are at least 88 General Managers on Grade Level 17 in the three agencies in the sector, saying that the number is more than what is required.
The agencies to be affected by another round of “proper placement and sack,” according to him, are the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). He assured that the government will continue to weed out unrequired personnel in the system, stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari has already given his approval for proper restructuring to take place in all the agencies.
“In all, we have 88 General Managers in these agencies. Most of them are not required and were just given portfolios. As I’m talking to you now, we have approval for proper restructuring in the agencies. We have started with FAAN. Very soon, we will get to other agencies in the sector. “But, we have to do it according to the Acts that set up these agencies so that we don’t run into a problem,” he said The Federal Government, acting on the recommendations of a committee set up by the Head of Service, had recently sacked and demoted some staff in FAAN.
Though industry unions claimed that some names initially pencilled down for demotion or sack were deliberately removed from the list by influential figures in the agency, the allegation, it was learnt, is currently receiving attention from the government. About two weeks ago, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) petitioned Mr. Sirika to continue with the purge in other agencies. NUATE specifically submitted 29 names from NAMA to Mr. Sirika, which it said were wrongly employed and placed in positions above their qualifications since 2012.
At the forum, Mr. Sirika also insisted that there is no going back on the planned concession of four major airports in the first phase of the exercise. He described infrastructure at most of the nation’s airports as laughable despite the billions of naira expended on them by the government over the years. He, however, allayed fears that many of the over 6,000 FAAN staff will be laid off when the airports are eventually concessioned. Rather, he claimed that more staff will be engaged to meet the new standards.
But industry unions, in a meeting with the minister, maintained that their members would be affected by the concession plan and urged the minister to rescind the policy. A source close to the meeting with the minister said the unions raised several questions on the policy, warning that if the government goes ahead with the plan, they will make the policy inoperable for the concessionaires. A source also said that four foreign companies have been pencilled down to take over the running of the airports from FAAN. But former President of Aviation Roundtable (ART), Captain Dele Ore, argued that there is no way the concessionaires will not sack staff.
“Those who are untrainable or expired would be shown the way out after concession. So, there must be job loss after the exercise. To me, concession of the airports is the way to go. We can’t continue to do things the same way and expect a different result. “There must be a deliberate policy for Nigerians, who are out of job to be engaged by the system. We need to move on, but we can’t achieve that with our present way of thinking,” Mr. Ore said.