As the Federal Government gears up to concession the four major airports in the country in the first phase of the exercise, Dr Wale Babalakin, the Chairman, Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) has said that the company is qualified to handle any of the airports slated for concession.
Babalakin whose company is the terminal operator of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2), Lagos and the first private terminal operator in Nigeria, said that BASL should be considered as a preferred bidder for the concession of the airports based on its wealth of experience in airport management.
Babalakin explained that as a company with experience in terminal management and capacity, Bi-Courtney should have been given the right of first refusal, stressing that if given the right to participate, the company would change the face of terminals in the country.
Speaking with aviation correspondents at the terminal on Friday, Babalakin regretted the crisis that had engulfed the MMA2 concession, saying that he was not against the out-of-court settlement, but insisted it must be fair to all parties.
On the construction of MMA2, he explained that the company was invited to construct the new terminal after the former General Aviation Terminal One (GAT 1) was engulfed in fire and the preferred bidder, Sanderson Limited, failed to meet the deadline for commencement of work.
According to him, what the government wanted the company to construct was “a shed,” but in one of his visits to South Africa, he discovered that that the South African Government was equally constructing a new domestic terminal for the country and he decided to replicate the same facility in Nigeria.
He explained that his patriotism for Nigeria, made him enhance the capacity of the terminal to what it is right now and with a plan to improve it in the future.
Babalakin emphasized that the coming onboard of Bi-Courtney had spurred on other state governments like Bauchi, Delta, Akwa Ibom and lately Anambra states to invest in terminal facilities.
He, however, said that the crisis thrown at it by the government and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) stopped the expansion of the terminal.
He insisted that the present GAT at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos belonged to Bi-Courtney and appealed to the government to hand it over to it.
The Bi—Courtney boss told journalists that the present state of the terminal was just 30 per cent of the original plan, stressing that policy summersaults by the government would discourage potential investors from the country.
He lamented that the domestic airlines that operate regional flights are incurring extra costs by taxiing to the international wing of the airport to airlift passengers who are within the local airport, stressing that if the terminal was allowed to operate regional flights as entrenched in the contract, such extra cost would have been avoided.
He added: “We were supposed to operate regional flights from this terminal as part of the agreement we had with the government. We were ready for it and it is only fair for us to operate regional flights from here. We had permission to expand our structure beyond this place, but where we were supposed to use is still lying fallow.
“At a time, we discovered that the international wing of the Lagos Airport is responsible for 85 per cent of revenue generation by FAAN, while the present GAT is about 9 per cent and ours (MMA2) is just 6 or 7 per cent.”