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Job losses loom at airports over high tariffs

By on April 11, 2016

There are fresh concerns among airlines, ground and cargo handling companies and other business operators across the nation’s airports with respect to cost of operation and ease of doing business within and around the facilities.

The concerns have renewed fears of job losses in the industry as some operators are said to be bent on cutting down on staff strength and other ancillary service providers to reduce their wage bill.

Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano airports top the list of airports where operators are currently complaining about the development.

Specifically, the operators are worried about the high cost of operations occasioned by excessive and, in some cases, multiple taxes and fees allegedly imposed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

The operators said they were also disenchanted with what they called “regular change in tariffs,” which they alleged was often done without recourse to transparency.

For instance, they complained about car permit fees charged at the toll gates; amount paid for car stickers for the parks; fees paid for apron pass stickers; airside drivers’ licence fee, and the rent for office space (charged per square metre), among others.

It was learnt that in Lagos, for instance, workers of firms operating within the airport, who pass through the access roads and toll plaza, pay N12, 500 for the access sticker per annum.

At the Hadji Camp gate, regardless of whether a worker has passed through the main toll gate within the airport environment, the employee still has to part with N10,000 per annum. The camp gate is a distance of less than 100 metres from the main toll gate.

At the stakeholders’ car park along the main road leading to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, it is N15,000 for a car per annum. At the MM2 car park, it is N44, 000 for worker’s car per annum to obtain the pass.

At the car park opposite Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited headquarters, agents with FAAN tickets collect an average of N300 per vehicle entry.

To access the apron pass for one operational vehicle, it costs N150,000. And where a company has several vehicles being used for its services perhaps due to the volume of operation, such firm bears the resulting cost implication on all.

The airside drivers’ licence costs N50, 000 per worker while the renewal attracts N25, 000.  The access card to restricted areas such as tarmac and arrival hall, where sensitive operations of companies are mostly done, is said to cost N25, 000 for the number of workers that will man or operate in such area.

At the Lagos airport, our correspondent further gathered that the rent per square metre for an office space had been pegged at N149,021,723.75 per annum. In Kano, it is about N20,247,000; in Port Harcourt, it is about N22,042,396.80; while in Abuja, it is about N13,494,060.

These fees are said to be adversely affecting the operators’ profits.

According to the operators, the financial burden placed on them through the multiple charges is hindering their operations in no small measure.

A former Managing Director of SAHCOL, Mr. Olu Owolabi, said the high charges and tariffs were seriously eating into the incomes of the companies.

An official of one of the companies noted that aside from the resolve to make profits for their owners, it is also the duty of the managers to make sufficient profits to enable them to plough some resources back into their operations, while still paying salaries and associated overheads.

He, however, said that the multiple fees the companies were being made to pay were dangerously pushing up their cost of operations.

This, he added, could make the affected firms to downsize.

The two major handling companies, the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc and SAHCOL also expressed worry about the situation, noting that the irregular, exorbitant and multiple fees imposed on companies and their workers were without recourse to established rules.

They explained that the high cost of operations could lead to downsizing and put in jeopardy about 400 jobs.

They also stressed the need for FAAN to see it as a duty to call all their business partners to round-table discussions on tariff increases to ensure that industrial harmony reigned within the system.

Only recently, the two firms, in a joint letter with the National Union of Air Transport Employees, petitioned the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on what they described as imminent crisis in aviation over exorbitant and multiple taxation/fees, arbitrarily imposed on handling companies and airlines by the FAAN.

On his part, the Secretary General of NUATE, Mr. Olayinka Abioye, said that the union had on several occasions advised the management of FAAN to embark on internally generated revenue drive from non-aeronautical and ancillary sources.