NUATE Cautions Minister Over Cost Implication Of Agencies Relocation
Posted: 22/May/2020

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has written to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika on the directive asking aviation agencies to relocate to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) within 45 days saying the cost implication was not only high but not a component of the 2020 budget as approved.
 
This is just as the union has called on the minister to adopt a more realistic and honest approach to the relocation order to agencies in the Ministry stating that complying with the directive is fraught with economic landmines, health hazards and undue risks while advising them to adopt virtual meetings.
 
Recall the Ministry on the 4th of May 2020 directed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to relocate to Abuja amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The Union in a letter to the Minister on May 15, 2020  with Wef: NUATE GS/HMS/ENP/004-20  signed by the General Secretary Ocheme Aba and copying the Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation, Chairman House Committee on Aviation and the Managing Directors, Director-General and Commissioner, FAAN, NAMA, NCAA and AIB.  Read also: Stakeholders sceptical over Ministry’s relocation directive; say timing wrong
 
The letter directed to the recipients in part read, “It should be of interest to know why the directive has yet to be carried out till date. It was because the cost implication was determined and found exceedingly prohibitive and there was no source of revenue that could accommodate such unforeseen expenditure… as far as we can tell, nothing has changed for the better. If anything, the cost implication is bound to have worsened significantly.

The letter went on,” As far as we know, none of the agencies have a relocation component in the 2020 approved budget. It would be impossible to contemplate such huge expenditure as extra-budgetary spending not to mention the impracticality of raising such funds in the current clime of over 90 per cent loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
 
The union went further to state that in most of the agencies in question, staff were presently owed transfer allowances for upwards of 12 months querying how an agency unable to pay transfer allowance for a few months can afford to relocate its headquarters and personnel without extra budgetary allocation.

Further siting the health disadvantage of the move, NUATE  said this COVID-19 era was grossly unsuitable to engage in mass movement of people stating with such a directive the federal government would be contravening its own laws and guidelines.

The union further drew the Minister’s attention to various events in the past relevant to the relocation order by the president Obasanjo regime which granted aviation and maritime exemption from the order

“Important among them is the exemption granted the maritime and aviation agencies from the relocation order by the Obasanjo regime. This was to prevent severe dislocation between the agencies and their primary constituents, which were and still are, congregated around their operational bases in Lagos.

“We are confident that the huge financial implication to airlines and other end users of the services of these agencies who are established in Lagos would become too humongous to contemplate.

The Union  stated that it understood the intention of government to cut cost of governance through the relocation and stated that the chunk of the reduction is to be realized from savings from Heads of agencies’ frequent  trips to Abuja to answer the Minister’s calls.

“ …But most believe, ourselves included, that these frequent calls are really unnecessary  and actually amount  to undue distraction and interference from the Ministry. Besides as the COVID-19 has taught us, virtual meetings have become the order of the day. This can be a veritable resort to the Ministry to save the severe headache orchestrated by the present disconcerting relocation order to agencies.”

Meanwhile the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), has insisted that the industry unions will ensure total mobilization and payment of full allowances to staff in any of the agencies that is relocated out of their station to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

This is in reaction to the 45-day relocation ultimatum issued to aviation agencies by the Ministry of aviation as directed by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika on May 4th 2020.

President of ATSSSAN, Comrade Illitrus Ahmadu, in an interview in Lagos said that the union was not against the relocation order but  that the priority of any union was to protect the interest of its members, vowing that ATSSSAN would not fail to ensure this at any time.

Ahmadu also expressed that the unions would kick against the crippling of activities in Lagos by the government as a result of the relocation order.

“We will not accept a situation where you ask anyone to go without first paying him his relocation allowance and my advice is that you cannot relocate people out of Lagos to Abuja and cripple activities in Lagos.

“You should provide enough capital resources to continue to drive operations in Lagos while you move those few people to Abuja.”

Ahmadu, however, recalled that it was not the first time such directive would be issued the agencies, saying that some of the agencies’ staff were relocated in 2012, but it was later halted.

“Basically, it is not saying everyone should move from their various formations to Abuja. It is just saying corporate headquarters. In our industry today, the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) spend about three to four days in Abuja. So, it makes no sense. The operational offices can stay wherever they are.”