Kenya Airways bid to takeover JKIA
a brazen theft of public asset

The proposed take over of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport whose ownership and management is to be placed under a holding company that will be 100% owned by KQ in a concession deal that will run for 30 years is one the calls for serious questioning due to the far reaching implications it portends.

For a facility that tax payers taxpayers have heavily invested on for expansion and maintenance, legislators in the Senate and the National Assembly will be expected to demand transparency and accountability in this deal and ensure the public gets value for money and a worthy return on investment.

But examined more closely, Kenyans need not to look very far to connect the dots. Isaac Awuondo, long serving Chairman of Kenyatta owned Commercial Bank of Africa was recently appointed to Chair the Board of KAA. What is CBA’s interests in the running of JKIA?

At the moment, KQ owes KAA more that Sh6 billion in unpaid bills ranging from land fees, parking charges and other services. Can KQ first put its accounts to order and settle it’s debts before seeking to take over JKIA?

The suspect takeover plan which was been conceived by Kenya Airways Chairman Michael Joseph has confounded aviation observers who wonder how a private loss making company like Kenya Airways can move to takeover a profitable and strategic state institution, unless there is a powerful force out to profiteer from the publicly owned institution.

But Michael Joseph is nortorious for grabbing and building monopolistic firms and the proposed KQ-JKIA deal is intended to monopolise the Kenyan skies and give the privately owned airlines a guaranteed revenue stream for 30 years.

Kenyans will remember Michael Joseph was responsible for the controversial loss of Safaricom shares from the then state owned Telkom Kenya and the subsequent IPO that saw shadowy Mobitelea grab substantial public shares in Safaricom.

Today, Safaricom which continues to enjoy monopolistic policies from government rakes in annual profits in excess of Sh50 billion which is paid to private individuals as dividend, money that could have otherwise gone to state coffers had the Telkom shares been retained by the public.

According to Joseph’s clever ploy to grab JKIA, the plan will deepen the airline’s recovery and cement Nairobi’s status as a regional transport hub. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Kenya Airways take overs over all the staff and operations of the JKIA including ground handling, maintenance, catering, warehousing and cargo, who will be responsible for provision of government services at the facility such as security, immigration, and customs? Will KQ’s staff, infamous globally for smuggling contraband take over these services?

What will stop KQ imposing exorbitant charges to competitors operating through the airport raising airport fares, ground handling fees and decreasing at the same time the air traffic to other regional airports? It is very unfortunate that the Competition Authority and the Consumer Federation of Kenya have kept silent as this open and expensive conflict of interest where air fares and related tarrifs are place on private hands.

The main problem however lies in the fact that cabinet never bothered to interrogate Joseph’s flowery proposal which is full of blatant lies.

For one, Joseph did not disclose cabinet that KQ owes KAA than Sh6 billion in unpaid bills ranging from landing fees, parking charges and other related services.

Secondly, Joseph also failed to tell cabinet that KQ has been given Terminals 1A and 1B for its exclusive use by KAA. They have not made any improvements within these terminals for all these years they have occupied the buildings rent-free. How then will KQ improve JKIA to a hub of world class standards if it has run down terminals 1A and 1B?

Joseph misled cabinet when he falsely alleged that Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates Air and Qatar Airlines fully manage respective national airports in Addis Ababa, Dubai and Doha respectively. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Bole International Airport is run by Ethiopian Airports Enterprise while Dubai International Airport is owned and managed by State-owned Dubai Airports Company. Doha International Airport is similarly operated and owned by Qatar Civil Aviation Authority. Why did Michael Joseph see it fit to deliberately mislead the president and his cabinet?

Having taken over JKIA, who will regulate KQ and ensure their compliance to stringent aviation rules and regulations? KCAA which provides airworthiness inspection services at JKIA are a public institution. Will KQ employ its own airworthiness inspectors?

It would appear that cartels which milked KQ into near bankruptcy have now set their eyes on JKIA and want to use it as a cash cow at the expense of tax paying citizens.

By its very nature, the JKIA is a security classified institution that houses among other sensitive installations; the Presidential Pavilion, the Air Traffic Control, Plant Health Inspectorate Service, Bureau of Standards, Police Station, Anti-Terrorism Unit, Port Health, and the Drug and Banned Substances Unit. Is KQ also taking over these offices? How can the government put such sensitive offices in private hands?

Kenyans must rise up and support the proposed strike by Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) who have vowed to opposed the KQ-JKIA deal.

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