By Hessington Okolo

Yesterday the news hit that the Delta State Government led by HE Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa had seen fit to concession the Asaba International Airport to a consortium FIDC Mendes Consortium operating under the name Asaba Airport Company Limited. Immediately the news hit the airwaves certain person’s mainly from the opposition party went up in arms against the concession.

Now it is the right of citizens especially the opposition party to critique government policies and where necessary show their displeasure with any such government policies believed not to be in the overall interest of the people. However it is my firm belief that such interrogation of government policies should be fact based and not emotive. It should not be to mislead or to cause mischief or for pure political score points.

The facts as garnerned show that most people who took umbrage against the Government perhaps had not yet got hold of the whole facts, they only saw the #100m annual payment and went to bat, making it seem like the only term of the concession was the #100m annual remit to the state Government.

For the avoidance of doubt the concession of the Asaba Airport is not a bad policy of Government in my opinion, in fact it is a great step in the right direction. Majority of airports in Nigeria are running at a loss and this is because it is managed more as another arm of the state’s civil service conundrum than a going business concern that it should be. There are many things which make an airport a thriving business concern and it isn’t only the runways and airport buildings for arrivals and departures. Except perhaps for airports with heavy traffic, travels alone does not a great airport make.

The terms of the concession should be looked at with a clear conscience and I believe that if followed to the latter our dear Delta State and its people will be the beneficiaries.

First the concession is for a period of 30 years

Second the concessionaire consortium FIDC Mendes Consortium aka Asaba Airport Company limited is to pay an immediate sum of #1b and an annual remit of #100m for the period of the concession to the coffers of Delta State.

Third the Concessionaire is to undertake the development of Mandatory Capital Projects, such as Airport/Terminal Facility, Cargo Facility, Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) Facility, Tank Farm Facility, Industrial Park and Office Facility, and Hotel and Conference Facility. These capital projects are to be completed within three years from the date of the transaction. It is interesting to note that the above capital projects are MANDATORY meaning it must be done within the stipulated period! Imagine the amount of jobs the development of the above capital projects will create for our people including the artisans.

Fourth, the concessionaire is exempted from certain taxes for a period of five years to enable them concentrate on the completion of the capital projects, after the five years the concessionaire is expected to pay taxes on income earned on all its areas of operations. This means that aside the #1b and annual payments of #100m the state will get more money from taxes!

Also the  Concessionaire shall pay to the State a royalty fee of 2.5% of the annual Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization.

Now that doesn’t look like it is only #100m that will come to the state coffers!

Fifth, the Concessionaire is at all times under an obligation to maintain an employment ratio of twenty per cent (20%) of its staff for the operation of the Airport comprising indigenes of Delta State, this means a ready quota of jobs for our people who are qualified! What this means if well managed is that where an indigene of the state is qualified he/she would be first considered for the job before an outsider! And this clause is not only to the running of the airport itself but also the operations of the capital projects like the hotel and conference facility, Business park, office facility, tank farm, facility et al. Now again think of the jobs to be created!

I sincerely hope the above will help us all in coming to a better understanding of the concession and its positive implications for our people.

God bless Delta State.

Hessington Okolo is a lawyer, environmental rights campaigner, human rights activist and the self styled Rt. Hon. Speaker of the Masses Assembly

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