FAAN’s N100m debt leaves airport workers without salaries

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…As UN report says Nigeria lost $2.8bn to piracy, others in 2018***

Workers, who clean the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, complained again on Wednesday of not being paid their salaries despite promises by the concessionaire they work for and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.

After an exclusive report by The PUNCH on December 26, 2018, it was learnt that the workers, who were owed salaries for about five months at that time, got payments for two months by the concessionaire in charge of cleaning services at the NAIA – Lakewood Nigeria Limited.

Officials at Lakewood, however, told our correspondent that the part payment was done in order to ameliorate the plights of the workers, adding that the salaries were not paid completely because FAAN had failed to clear its over N100m debt to the concessionaire.

One of the affected employees said, “They (concessionaire) only paid for two months. Three months’ salaries have not been paid. We’ve not been paid October, November and December salaries. What they paid was for August and September and I want you to remember that the outstanding for the month of July has not been paid as well.

“We were told that the payment for July will come but we didn’t see it when we got payments for August and September. Right now, many of us have nothing to feed with. This is one of the busiest international airports in Nigeria and it is unfair for FAAN and Lakewood to be exposing us to unnecessary risks through the non-payment of salaries.”

But the concessionaire argued that FAAN had not been forthcoming in terms of payment for the services rendered to it at the airport by Lakewood.

A senior official of the firm stated that the airport authority owed Lakewood about N120m and that this had impacted negatively on the finances of the concessionaire and its ability to pay salaries, despite efforts being made.

The official, who pleaded not to be named in order not to be victimised, said, “We’ve been very calm with FAAN because they are our client but they’ve been owing us for several months and when they want to pay they will pay for just one or two months and say that they have paid us.

“When we complain, they will say they don’t have money, that they want to pay pensioners and come up with other excuses. They always come up with different stories. We’ve written to them, asking them to do what is right because they owe us over N100m.”

The official added, “We manage their four different airports and we’ve been delivering professional services. When they argue that they’ve paid, how much did they pay and how much do they owe? FAAN owes us over N120m. For out of about N140m, they paid N20m; is that enough to say that you’ve paid us?”

When contacted, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, earlier told our correspondent that the authority had paid the concessionaire.

But when told that the concessionaire said Lakewood was only paid about N20m by FAAN out of about N140m owed by the authority, Yakubu replied, “I don’t have that information now. I’ll have to speak with the accounts department on this, for as I initially told you, we’ve been able to pay some money to the concessionaire.”

Last month, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the workers stated that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria ought to intervene in the matter as the concessionaire in question works for FAAN at the Abuja airport.

In the meantime, a report released by the United Nations Secretary-General’s office in New York has shown that Nigeria lost estimated revenue of $2.8bn in 2018, as a result of crude oil and maritime crimes.

The report revealed that maritime crime, including piracy, dominated in the coast of West Africa and posed a big threat to peace and development in the region.

The report also noted a rise in the drug trade in the region.

Part of the report read, “Maritime crime and piracy off the coast of West Africa continued to pose a threat to peace, security and development in the region.

“Oil-related crimes resulted in the loss of nearly $2.8bn dollars in revenues last year in Nigeria, according to government figures.”

The report noted that between January 1 and November 23, there were 82 reported incidents of maritime crime and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

It added that in the Republic of Benin, the Gambia and Nigeria, more than 50 kilogrammes of cocaine were seized between July and October by joint airport interdiction task forces.

“During the same period, joint airport interdiction task forces seized more than six kilogrammes of methamphetamines, eight kilogrammes of heroin (double the amount in the first half of 2018) and 2.6 tonnes of cannabis.

“Drug production across the region was also reportedly on the rise, with more than 100 kilogrammes of ephedrine and phenacetin seized by competent authorities.’’

The report is coming on the heels of concerns raised in April by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau that warned of the surge in armed attacks against ships around West Africa, and said that the attacks were pushing up global levels of piracy and armed robbery at sea.

The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 66 incidents in the first quarter of 2018, up from 43 for the same period in 2017, and 37 in Q1 2016.

The Bureau noted that in the first three months of 2018, 100 crew were taken a hostage and 14 kidnapped from their vessels. A total of 39 vessels were boarded, 11 fired upon and four vessels hijacked. IMB received a further 12 reports of attempted attacks.

The Gulf of Guinea accounts for 29 incidents in the first quarter of 2018, more than 40 per cent of the global total. Of the 114 seafarers captured worldwide, all but one was in this region, the report noted.

The Bureau also reported that in the first nine months of 2018, a total of 156 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported,  compared to 121 for the same period in 2017.

Punch