The relationship between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) is best described as cat and mouse.
Since BASL completed the domestic terminal and has continued to manage the facility, which is known as the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2), the relationship between the two organisations has remained bruised and smothered by litigations.
Last Saturday FAAN issued Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which is the medium for communications in the global aviation industry, that it would withdraw aviation security and search and rescue services from the airports that owed it huge debts.
It also included BASL in the NOTAM, which prompted airlines that operate from the facility to become worried. FAAN later removed BASL from the list of those that it would withdraw services from.
But Arik Air, which operates its Lagos-Port Harcourt flights from the facility, had already notified its customers that it would move the service to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT), also known as Murtala Muhammed Domestic Airport 1.
Reacting to the FAAN's expressed intentions, which it later withdrew, BASL said that it still offered its services to airlines operating in the facility despite the NOTAM from FAAN.
BASL denied it owed debts to FAAN and went further to explain why it was not indebted to the agency.
The company said that FAAN had threatened to withdraw its personnel from MMA2 due to alleged indebtedness to the tune of N1, 943,323,516.50
BASL in a statement made available to THISDAY said: "In a letter dated 30 October 2018 to BASL pertaining to outstanding personnel costs for FAAN staff deployed to MMA2, demanding that Bi-Courtney to pay for the provision of the Aviation Security, Rescue and Fire Fighting Services as invoiced by FAAN among other charges or face withdrawing its personnel.
"This was formally responded to in a letter addressed to FAAN reiterating BASL's stance on the demands for payments of purported outstanding liabilities."
In the said letter, BASL said: "We have consistently brought it to your notice that we have a judgment credit of N132, 540,580,304.00 since 03 March 2009. This credit arose directly from the non-implementation of the Concession Agreement by the appropriate authorities. The Courts have consistently ordered that any liability we have to FAAN or any federal government agency should be deducted from this amount."
BASL said despite the receipt of its response, FAAN has flagrantly disregarded several Court Orders including the most recent with reference Suit Number - FHC/ABJ/CS/1422/18/ issued on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 pertaining to this matter, duly served to FAAN, ordering that "the status quo be maintained and that nothing that may disrupt and / or hinder the operation of the Airport should be done pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice".
BASL went on to state that ample safety and security measures have been put in place to ensure the withdrawal of FAAN personnel does not in any way impede or disrupt smooth flight operations and other business activities at the terminal. It reiterated that there are adequately trained and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) certified personnel to man the various parts and all sensitive points at the terminal.
But THISDAY learnt from NCAA that aviation security and fire cover are exclusive item for FAAN as enunciated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and in accordance to international standards and recommended practices.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu told THISDAY that private terminals and airports cannot provide their own aviation security because AVSEC is part of the national security of the country and you cannot entrust it to private organisations and this is part of the extant law, which dictates that aviation security is provided by FAAN.
This, she said, explains why FAAN supervises the security apparatus of private airports in the country because in domesticating ICAO Annexe 17, which deals with security, FAAN is recognised as the custodian of aviation security in Nigeria.
But BASL insisted that since inception, the company has trained its own aviation security personnel to work along with FAAN security at the terminal.
"Since 2016, BASL have been performing the same service that FAAN performs in their absence. Staff is trained in accordance with the National Civil Aviation Security Training Programme (NCASTP) in respect of X-ray Image Interpretation and physical security screening," the company noted.
However, industry observers are of the view that both FAAN and BASL should follow the recommendation of the acting Director General of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Chidi Izuwa, who urged both organisations to go for out-of-court settlement and put an end to the controversy that has been dogging the establishment of most functional airport terminal in Nigeria.