The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) on Saturday backed the Federal Government's plan to acquire 30 aircraft to boost domestic operations in the aviation industry. Mr Musa Lawal, TUC's General Secretary, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the congress was supportive of any positive policy that would enable the government to achieve its objectives. Lawal was reacting to the disclosure by Mr Yakubu Dati, General Manager, Corporate Communications, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), of the government plan while inspecting the renovated Benin Airport.
Dati had said that the aircraft would be distributed to domestic airline operators, a departure from the old practice, where they were given money from the Aviation Intervention Fund to shore up their businesses. "We are not against the government leasing aircraft to private operators who can manage them very well and return our money because the planes will be bought with public funds," Lawal said.
He said in the past, Nigeria Airways was grounded because some people booked seats without paying under the guise of being on official duty. The TUC scribe said that the government must ensure that the funds to be invested in the planes were recovered.
He urged the government to learn from past mistakes and ensure that the exercise was well executed to achieve its intended results. Lawal said that the government must also be ready to face reality, admit its mistakes and make corrections where necessary.
"The government has good intentions but if the implementation goes wrong, it should have the courage to admit and make amends." Lawal, a former general secretary of the Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA), also spoke on the reported cement glut, noting that it had not reflected in the price.
He said that price of cement was still high in spite of the claim by manufacturers that there was surplus. The union leader spoke against the backdrop of fear expressed in the local cement industry that the inflow of the product from outside the country, could spell doom for the local market.
"There is no change in the price of cement; it is still selling at between N1, 800 to N2, 000," he said, wondering why the price had not dropped.
He said that competition in such a business was good and would help the economy to grow. Lawal also spoke on the influx of expatriates in the construction and civil engineering fields, describing the rate as high, thereby threatening the jobs of senior Nigerian engineers.
"In the construction companies it is five expatriates to one Nigerian," Lawal said. He said that Nigerian engineers found it difficult to secure jobs because expatriates, mostly technicians from the Philippines, China and India had taken over their positions.
"They accept any job at any amount and without immediate payment; the Chinese especially will tell you to pay later," the labour leader said. He advised the government to ensure that laws on expatriate quota are enforced to reverse the trend. (NAN)