*Photo R-L: Dr Wale Babalakin SAN, Chairman BASL; Luqman Balogun, Executive Director, BASL and Mikail Mumuni, Group Corporate Affairs Manager, BASL.
Chairman of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN has decried the refusal to give a nod to the implementation of an already granted approval for the commencement of regional flights from Terminal Two of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos (MMA2).
Babalakin who spoke on Friday at MMA2 during an interactive session with Aviation Correspondents said although the Federal Government granted BASL ( operator of MMA2)approval to implement regional flight operations after the commissioning of the Terminal, the take-off was being stalled by the authorities.
He lamented the burden this was placing on airlines operating from MMA2, saying “Why should an airline, just because it wants to go to Ghana, for instance, have to taxi all the way to the international wing? The fuel cost for taxing from MMA2 to international wing is a huge cost. We need to make the authority know that it is only fair for us to commence regional operation.”
He added that his company was losing a lot of money because the terminal is underutilised, adding that “The airlines are also loosing money too, the fuel cost of taxiing from domestic to internal wing is a major cost for them. We have an agreement to start regional flights, with the government but government has refused to implement it”.
The BASL Chairman reeled out the innovations his company has brought to airport management in the country and recalled that the design he was given by government when his company was awarded the concession for MMA2 was “a shed”.
He added that he traveled to South Africa at that time and discovered that the country had just completed their domestic terminal and felt he would be doing an injustice to Nigeria if he should go ahead with the original design.
Babalakin said he invited the designers of the South African domestic terminal to Nigeria and later presented the design of what has now become the MMA2 to the Federal Government for approval.
Making reference to the planned concessioning of four international airports in the country – Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Port Harcourt International Airport and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport- Babalakin lamented the many obstacles put in the way of BASL by the Federal Government and the regulatory agencies in the running of MMA2 and said this amounted to disincentive to private sector participation in infrastructure development.
He noted that BASL is the only indigenous company with proven record of airport management in the country, and said the standard practice is that such a company in an organized environment would be given the right of first refusal in any subsequent concession that would be embarked upon by government.
According to him, “There is a bid going on for the four international terminals, in other climes, the Authorities will call on those who have done it before. But what is the success rate of the companies coming to Nigeria to operate? How can government bring expertise from overseas when you have them locally?
“BASL is interested in anything that is intellectual infrastructure development. I am a lawyer and an infrastructure developer. We are interested in the concession, in fact we should be the first option because in every organized countries, we would be given a first option offer. And may be, our participation will make process a fair one”, he said.
Babalakin disclosed that BASL has been approached by three African countries to build their terminals.
“I think it will be better to consult those who have track records. Before MMA2, nobody talked about terminals but after the completion of MMA2, Bauchi, Delta now have terminals and I think Anambra State is planning to have one. We have succeeded immensely as an eye opener to aviation infrastructure development in Nigeria,” he stated.
While insisting that there is no controversy over the 36 years of concession of the terminal, he said the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) belongs to BASL by law.
“The GAT was handed over to us by the government but it at the same time, decided to enhance it and compete with us. The worse that can happen to an investor is for your competitor to have government money to compete and it is totally wrong for the Authority to be competing in the same sphere, we have won the case at the Arbitration, High Court, Appeal Court and at Supreme but the Authority is not just undermining the whole process but demarketing Nigeria, we have agreed on everything but the only issue is GAT, we can’t let go because it is part of our concession agreement. It is unfortunate that people are just making mockery of Nigeria’s Jurisprudence”, he stressed.