23rd September, 2010
Activities at the countryâ€™s airports may be paralysed if a Federal High Court sitting inÂ Lagos, South-West Nigeria, today, fails to defreeze the accounts of the Federal AirportsÂ Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, the workers warned yesterday.
The court had ordered that all FAANâ€™s accounts in the 24 banks in Nigeria should beÂ attached to satisfy a debt of N7.9 billion being owed a construction company, SandertonÂ Ventures Limited.
Since then, FAANâ€™s workers say that they have not been paid and the lack of funds hasÂ paralysed some of their activities.
â€œWe understand that the court will be in session on 23 September 2010 (today), we areÂ helplessly watching the proceedings and we believe that the garnishee order will beÂ lifted. But if it is not lifted by tomorrow (today), we are going to decide on the optionÂ of grounding the operations of FAAN because we donâ€™t have anything to work with, there isÂ no money to run our overhead cost.
â€œAnd to carry out our duties effectively, we are drumming it to the world to know so thatÂ by the time it happens they will not blame us,â€ Chairman of Air Transport Services SeniorÂ Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Ekanem Ekanem said yesterday.
Ekanem said that the court order to freeze FAANâ€™s account has crippled the creditÂ facilities of FAAN as the agency no longer has access to its account to carry out itsÂ duties, adding that its operations have collapsed.
What led to the court order started sometime in September 2001 between the Minister ofÂ Aviation representing the Federal Government on the one hand, and the FAAN on the other,Â both acting jointly as guarantors and Sanderton Ventures Limited which was given aÂ construction work to design, develop, finance, construct, complete and commission,Â operate, manage, maintain and transfer the new Murtala Muhammed Domestic Airport TerminalÂ One for 10 years after a construction period of 18 months.
It was agreed between the parties that any dispute concerning the agreement shall beÂ referred and finally settled by arbitration.
A dispute arose on 23 May 2002 when the then Minister of Aviation terminated the contractÂ between the two parties.
Consequently, the plaintiff, Sanderton, submitted the matter for arbitration. Therefore,Â arbitrators were appointed. Many cases were filed by the Aviation Minister as to theÂ composition of the arbitrators. All the legal actions were resolved in favour ofÂ Sanderton Ventures.
At the end of the proceedings, the panel of arbitrators consisting Justice E. O. Ayoola,Â Justice M. O. Onalaja and a lawyer, Wole Olufon, awarded the sum of N2.6 billion inÂ favour of Sanderton at the rate of 22.5 per cent per annum interest from May 2002 untilÂ the date of the award and thereafter at the prevailing charges.
For Sanderton to reap the fruit of this judgement, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria,Â Barrister Olu Daramola from the chambers of Afe Babalola, SAN, filed an applicationÂ before the court for the funds of FAAN in any bank in Nigeria to be attached to satisfyÂ the judgement.
By the time the application was filed the judgment sum had risen to N7.9 billion.
â€”Simon Ateba & Busayo Amoran