Don't Miss

FAAN vs. Maevis: One Impunity Too Many

By on April 10, 2012

The disagreement between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and its concessionaire, Maevis Nigeria Limited has again exposed the underbelly of the warped way of doing business in Nigeria.

As the both parties to the concession agreement slug it out, Nigerians are again the victims here. Air passengers endured the indignity, stress and hardship as they have to be manually screened and processed to board flights. A careful analysis of the situation however shows that this is nothing compared to the security breach that Nigerians would contend with if the FAAN is allowed to go ahead with its plan as it has announced a South African data service provider, Societe Internationale de Communication Aeronautic (SITA) to take over the operations earlier handed to Maevis.

It is crucial to understand the genesis of the crisis that is now threatening to hand over the personal details of Nigerians in millions over to a company that is directly linked to a colonial outpost. On October 1, 2007, FAAN entered into a concession agreement with Maevis Nigeria Limited. The agreement gave Maevis the task for the acquisition, installation, operation and management of an Integrated Airport Operation Management System (AOMS), Common User Self Service System (CUSS), Flight Information Display System (FIDS), Airport Pricing and Billing System, a proactive revenue management system and an electronic payment gateway. It was meant to do this in four of Nigeria’s major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port-Harcourt.

Maevis would contend that it was able to surpass revenue target, install hard wares and softwares in addition to plug loopholes inherent in FAAN operations before the concession. FAAN is however contending that the concessionaire unilaterally exceeded agreed investment cost, diverted and under collected revenue. A notice subsequently issued by the Authority to the concessionaire which ended the agreement May 23, 2011 was challenged in court before its expiration.

A Federal High Court in Lagos, presided over by Justice B.F.M Nyako first ordered the parties to go to arbitration in her ruling of December 17, 2010. Justice Nyako again“re-emphasised” her directive for both parties to go for arbitration on May 19, 2011. Five days after this last directive, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) wrote the Minister of Aviation on May 24, 2011 to direct FAAN to “stay further action on the termination of the Maevis Agreement pending the outcome of the intervention of the ICRC”.

The hardship to Nigerians referred to in a preceding paragraph was unleashed on Saturday March 24, 2012 when FAAN officials in company of dozens of security operatives stormed the Murtala Mohammed Airport to end the operations of Maevis there. But the concessionaire maintains that its operations were disrupted by thugs brought in by FAAN and that they destroyed the CCTV cameras to ensure that their atrocities were not documented. SITA has since resumed operations earlier handled by Maevis with the expected length of time needed to adjust and synchronise its act.

There are however pressing issues that key players in this matter are not doing much to address. First is the fact that this is a heavy knock on the government’s policy of pursuing foreign direct investment (FDI). What potential investors would still be willing to bring their money and resources to Nigeria when they know they can be thrown out of their investment any day without recourse to the agreement signed or even the judicial processes of the country? If the government does not address this matter the proper way, subsequent trips abroad to woo investors would be nothing but delusion. Plus, regardless the myriads of treaties, protocols, agreements and other international document Nigeria is signatory to, there is still something called national interest.

Secondly, the federal government’s mantra of public private partnership (PPP) may just as well be put on hold because the FAAN-Maevis debacle is a heavy assault on the concept of PPPs. Many private firms, especially those who know about the global best practice in running PPPs, would shy away in future. Maevis has become a metaphor for the fate of companies that do business with government. It is especially sad that it did not matter to FAAN that it is dropping a company with local ownership in favour of a foreign company. It is being widely suggested that the Minister of Aviation is being manipulated to go along with the FAAN in this matter, but her action in other matters that affected Nigerians has put the lie to this line of thinking.

Next is the fact that the legal process could be flagrantly disregarded as happened in this case. Yes, when it comes to arbitrating in political matters, the legal system is widely seen as corrupt. But this has not been the case with legal intervention in business matters and this is why most Nigerians believe that it works for them and is usually their last hope. For a competent court to order the parties to go for arbitration and for one of them to opt to disregard same amounts to the FAAN embarking on self-help against a subsisting court order. The Authority also acted against quality advice and intervention from regulatory agency like the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. In doing this, it would seem the Authority was able to successfully mislead the Minister of Aviation to side with them in pursuing this culture of impunity and illegality. If the law does not come to rescue the injured in this matter, Nigerians would be actively encouraged to pursue gangland justice and self-help for which FAAN has already set the precedents.

In addition to this, is the fact that data about Nigerians would now be in the custody of SITA, who through its daily operations would have access to personal data of millions of Nigerians. It would only take a creative team of experts to extrapolate same for any country interested in undermining Nigeria economically or security wise. It does not help the situation that SITA is a South African company which implies Nigeria’s continental competitor. Ultimately, the development here has the capacity to undermine Nigeria’s sovereignty. The circumstances leading to the choice of SITA should also be unraveled particularly when there is no record showing that it was the reserve bidder when Maevis was chosen for the concession.

It is crucial, crucial in terms of Nigeria’s economic interest that the Presidency, Ministry of Aviation and other key players in this matter do not allow the impunities identified in this case to go unchallenged. FDI is being curtailed obnoxiously by the actions of one individual, PPPs may end up being unattractive in Nigeria, the judicial process is being abused and Nigeria’s security is being compromised. These are the problems that this debacle has brought to us as a country and this is not the best of times to allow this to continue.

President Goodluck Jonathan and the Minister of Aviation should thus prevail on FAAN not to be in a hurry and must await the determination of the case by the court before taking action. Both parties to the agreement should respect the order of the court by allowing the arbitration and judicial processes run their full courses, for this is what would make us a country of law and not a country of men.

Omosile Ola, a public affairs analyst sent in this piece from [email protected]

One Comment

  1. realest1s

    April 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Soon Nigeria will belong to South Africa