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Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos

Are ripples over planned automation necessary?

ANTHONY OMOH
As automation of all revenue points in the aviation industry set in motion, one wonders why it is generating anger and rejection as automation is one of the surest ways to block leakages, which are many, at the nation’s airport revenue areas
Since  the idea came up, some unions have vowed to kick against it stating that it is not right as it would lead to loss of jobs and other issues but herein lies the irony as it is the unions who a fortnight ago halted Arik Air’s operations due to the airline’s debts
 Now if the agencies and parastatals were automated would it have been easy for the airline and other airlines for that matter to owe Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) close to N20billion

Workers in the above mentioned agencies are apprehensive of the planned automation of the agencies and are already giving figures to the numbers of staff that be affected if the exercise comes into fruition.
Also, they perceive the automation process of the revenue points with suspicion, saying that the handing over of the points to “a particular and unknown company” by Oduah is a reminiscence of Maevis Nigeria Limited, a dislodged concessionaire of FAAN on aeronautic and non-aeronautic revenues.
The unions claim that like the previous agreements in the sector without their inputs, the planned handing over of revenue points in the agency to Avitech Software by the ministry is not different from others.
Although, they agree that automation of the points will further bring about efficiency in the agencies, but say that should not lead to lay-off of workers.
President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Safiyanu Mohammed after a meeting with parastatals chief and the Permanent Secretary last a fortnight ago called for scrutiny of the planned automation
Comrade Safiyanu noted that nobody was opposed to the actual automation per-se because it was meant to block areas of revenue leakages but said: ‘The blocking of this leakages should not develop another leakages somewhere again where some people will be racking the revenues into their pockets”.
He gave as an example that the International Air Transport Association(IATA) was already collecting revenue(Over-fly charges) paid into the bank on behalf of NAMA which attract 1.55% and the revenue was being in turn contracted to another company-Avitec, which would also collect another commission.
President, Air Transport Senior Staff Services of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Benjamin Okewu decried that the signing of contract with a private firm for the automation of by the agencies did not have the inputs of the unions, but assured that the industry unions will resist any form of manipulation of the workers by the government.
“We decided to brief the workers because there were information that came to us that another ‘Maevis’ was about to be signed in all the parastatals and as a responsible unions, what we did was to quickly get across to various organs of governments and we started with the various chief executive officers of the agencies involved.
“We had a discussion with the minister at the level of interaction and we suggested that there was a need for an official meeting for us to bring all arsenals on board to discuss these issues, they agreed, but as at now, no such meeting.
At our own level, we insisted that before any agreement is signed, there is a need for the unions to have a look at any concessions and agreement so that we know if the agreement is detrimental to the workers or not and the Nigerian people at large. “The unions are not in any way against automation, but we will only support automation that will be done by our people knowing well that we have capable hands in the system that can handle it.
All we need to do is to bring the Point of Sales equipment to the points and we are not against that, but it must be done by workers and trained accordingly.” He confirmed the planned reduction of the workforce by the ministry, but informs that President Goodluck Jonathan stopped such plans due to the high security challenge in the country most especially the Boko Haram insurgents in some parts of the country.
To this end, ATSSSAN in September4, 2012 petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan to order the minister to stay action and gave the minister 21 days ultimatum within which to stay further execution of what they called corruption policy of automation of revenue collection in the airports.
The letter signed by Comrade Olayinka Olu Abioye to the President dated 4th September 2012, urged the President to closely look at the operations of various agencies in the aviation industry with a view to ascertaining their functions.
According to the union, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA was already operating on Automated Direct Debit payment system which was being warehoused by the IATA.
They argued that the Ticket Sales Charge TSC, Cargo Service Charge and sundry services like examination fees, license fees among others remained sources of revenue for NCAA and were collected by airlines in trust at the point of selling tickets and there was no need for government to waste fifteen million Dollars and statutory payments of five percent commission of revenue collected for five to ten years.
On the issue of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency NAMA, ATSSSAN declared that there was no need for different automation of the agency’s payment system since its major customers were airport users.
However managing director of FAAN, George Uriesi said that automation does not mean job cuts as FAAN was remodelling 22 airports ,’ who is going to work there?’
 According to him, the airports were already automated as far back as 2000 with the exception of FAAN which now suffers from debt from virtually every agency or organisation it does business with.
Uriesi said,” The airport today in 2012 and in the future in fact since as far back as 2000, the airport has been totally automated. The airport is an automatic operation, everything in the airport is automated, standard except in FAAN and there is a reason why people want FAAN to remain manual. “
“What automation simply means is that there are three categories, at every payment point of FAAN you can either pay us through a Point of Sale Machine (POS), which we use card or a teal which we use cash or for all our concessionaires right now in all the history of FAAN, we have never been able to recover our electricity charges and we pay hundreds of millions of naira to PHCN and we have never recovered any money from the people who use this electricity.”
Whether it would lead to sack of staff, Uriesi said, “No we started this on a simple premise, we automate and we use our staff, automation doesn’t mean we get rid of staff it is supposed to make you more efficient which ultimately will happen. “
“In one of the issues that hinder efficiency in FAAN is that in the two and half years I have been in FAAN, FAAN has employed 2000 people. Since the day I became MD of FAAN it has not employed a single person. So if you keep building your staff every year at 1000, you will just continue to over bloat your organisation.”
“You are taking people you don’t need, so we have stopped that so there is no huge increase in staff and at the same time, we are also sensitive that we already have all the staff and we are barely managing to break even at this stage but when we start collecting our proper revenue and putting all this systems in place, we will be more buoyant and we are better ready to manage this number of staff.”
“We are building and expanding all 22 airports, if we sack, who is going to work there? We will not be employing ore but people will have to become more useful but we will be changing the structure and deploying staff from where they are not needed to where they are. “

 

About anthony omoh

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I am a Journalist with a passion for developmental stories and nigerianflightdeck.com was born out of passion for reporting the travel, business and aviation sub-sector. This site is an expression of my ideals and creativity as a reporter and my discretion as a publisher. I am extremely content doing this and I am sure when you read my stories you'd understand that I touch people and that's why

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