Last Monday’s defeat at the Federal High Court, Lagos, of the belligerent Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria by airport concessionaire – Maevis Limited – did not come to many as a surprise. Expectations had been high and those in the know of all the brigandage, orchestrated and clinically executed, by the quarrelsome FAAN, knew that the agency would not go too far before the long arm of the law would catch up with it.
That justice finally came the way of Maevis is something of joy; an achievement that should be celebrated by Nigerians, particularly ardent lovers of the rule of law and haters of all that FAAN has come to personify in recent times, which is impunity.
FAAN had, on October 31, 2007 entered into an agreement with Maevis Limited to provide an integrated Airport Operations Management System for airports in the country. Maevis had described itself as a technology-focused company, which provides world class Infrastructure assets, Information, Communication and Technology solutions to the Nigerian and West African transportation (Air, Land and Sea) and logistics Industry.
This credible credential must have attracted FAAN to the company to help it shore up its revenue base at the airports following which it entered into a concession agreement with it. The authority was expected to have scrutinised Maevis, and the other concessionaires in the aviation industry thoroughly and their capability to deliver on the terms of their concessions promptly before inking any agreement with them. Perhaps FAAN was so engrossed in self-delusion that it annoyingly forgot to do all the needful and later turned round to deny itself, which is tantamount to self-betrayal.
However, while embarking on the self-destruct odyssey, FAAN, urged on by its equally lawless parent – the Ministry of Aviation – and the Senate ingloriously terminated the concession agreement with Maevis on May 23, 2011 after the company had invested billions of naira in equipment and personnel in fulfilment of its own part of the agreement.
Justifying the decision, the Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. George Uriesi, explained to a bewildered nation that the move to terminate the concession agreement “was in line with the turn-around strategy of the agency to restore it to a state of normalcy and reposition it as a strong going concern”.
Like a thunder bolt and an act lacking in finesse, FAAN and its officials, aided and urged on by some miscreants, consequently invaded the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in the crudest of manner, and physically roughened up officials of Maevis and drove them out of the airport. To the unthinking officials of the authority, this had marked the end of Maevis operations in the airports and the concession agreement both parties had. But, they were mistaken.
Without thinking twice and lacking in the wisdom of Solomon, FAAN handed over Maevis’ project to the multi-national Societe International Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA), which earlier bided for the same project and lost, even after a court of competent jurisdiction had restrained the authority from terminating the concession of the same project to Maevis.
Expectedly, Maevis went to court again and flatly beat FAAN to its game. Justice Buba Ibrahim awarded N5 billion as general damages to Maevis and said that it was wrong for SITA to have fraudulently taken the job from FAAN, after losing its bid initially, when it was aware of a pending court case over the project.
Two airport concessionaires, Bi-Courtney Limited and AIS, had proved several times that FAAN remains the most bellicose government agency in the country by winning several court cases against the authority, which FAAN has, unfortunately, ignored with its usual impunity. Even when the authority decided to go on appeal and lost, it still ignores such judgements, leading to needless controversies.
For instance, Bi-Courtney had thrashed FAAN in cases involving the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), the Hotel and Conference Centre projects at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA), the mounting of billboards on the overhead bridge at MMA2 and the hotel projects, the debt owed Bi-Courtney by taking over GAT and many more, just the way AIS had floored FAAN over the lease of a parcel of land for a hotel project at MMIA.
Specifically, I can remember that despite court orders, the Ministry of Aviation had, through FAAN, redeveloped the GAT; FAAN, under Uriesi, had wrongly and mischievously announced that it has terminated Bi-Courtney’s leasehold on the Hotel and Conference Centre projects; the agency had also vandalised Bi-Courtney’s billboards at MMA2, among other misdeeds.
Perhaps and as usual, FAAN’s irrational reaction to its recent court defeat by Maevis will be that the company manipulates the judgement; that the judgement is fake; that it was not represented in court, or that it is not aware of the judgement. We are still waiting.
But, whichever way its reaction goes, Nigerians and foreigners are now fully aware that we have a monster at hand in FAAN; we have a government agency that does not even respect the Federal Government; that does not respect agreements it voluntarily entered into; that does not respect the courts; that does not respect itself.
The lawless FAAN under Uriesi cannot be doing the same thing in the same way at all times (irrational and thoughtless termination of concession agreements) and still expect a different result.
Its action will continue to make the government lose revenue and good image, if there is any left, just the way its disjointed shadow will be pursuing it.