The mission embarked by the Minister for Aviation, Princess Stella Odua to ensure a reduction in the air fares being charged by British Airways in Nigeria has been hailed by many as a move in the right direction. A good number of Nigerians believe the Minister is capable of effecting the desired changes in Nigeria’s aviation sector. The Minister believes the disparity in the fares being paid by Nigerian passengers and travellers in other African countries was a measure of the disrespect British Airways and other foreign Carriers hold for Nigerians.
Most Nigerians have however observed that for years now, substandard services seem to have become ideal in Nigeria’s aviation industry as the country cannot boast of most of the things that are normal in aviation sectors across the world. Many believe with the stuff shown, Oduah might soon embark on a move of sanitizing the sector.
Street Journal’s findings revealed that the aviation sector is in its present state mainly because of the many frauds that have bedeviled almost every agency in the ministry over the years.
Not long ago, about N 13 billion meant for the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria generated hues and cries as it was alleged that no one in the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency has been able to account for the funds.
The function of TRACON is to provide radar coverage for the country’s airspace in order to enhance civil and military surveillance of aircrafts operating within the airspace. The radar functions by intercepting signals emitted by moving aircraft which is then relayed to the Area Control’s centre for use by Air Traffic Control personnel in order to identify and monitor movement of aircrafts within Nigeria’s airspace.
Though officials of NAMA have denied the insinuations that some of the key components of TRACON were never supplied, the Ministry of Aviation is still studying a number of reports on the alleged scam.
Street Journal found out that fraudulent activities cut across all agencies within the sector. About N 25 billion belonging to the authorities was mismanaged while another N 40 billion has allegedly developed wings.
Street Journal’s investigations revealed that a substantial part of the N 25 billion generated by the Airports Authorities has been traced to a personal account of one of the top officials of the Authority. It was found out that one of the areas through which FAAN is being milked is in its concession with companies in various sectors. The money generated from these concessions is hardly ever accounted for.
That a number of former Aviation Ministers are standing trial for corruption allegations speaks volumes on how the Ministry was run in time past.
It has also been found out that each time the Aviation Minister is changed, new Aviation chiefs are appointed and the bankers handling the accounts of the agencies within the sector change too.
Professor Babalola Borishade has faced legal battle for the alleged mismanagement of the Aviation Intervention Fund which totalled about N 19.5 billion during his time as Aviation Minister. Those standing trial with him include Roland Iyayi, the former Managing Director of the National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Tunde Dairo, Borisade’s former personal assistant as well as an Australian, George Eider, the Managing Director of Avsatel Communications, A Senate Panel investigating the issue recommended that the Usi Ekiti-born former Minister and his aides should be made to refund N 5 billion to the Federal Government.
Another former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode too has been re-arraigned on 47 counts of money laundering. FFK as the former Minister is fondly called was accused of laundering N 230 million through various channels including his wife and daughter while he served as Minister.
The decay in Nigeria’s Aviation industry is obvious and it did not start today. Not a few Nigerians feel that everyone that has occupied the position of the Aviation Minister knew the system was bad but either did nothing to solve the issues or added to the problem. When Dr. Olusegun Agagu was the Aviation Minister, he set up the National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, he engaged Arthur Anderson to recruit experts to work in the agencies. In spite of Agagu’s efforts in his 18 months in the Aviation Ministry however, not much change was visible in terms of facilities in the airports.
By the time Kema Chikwe came, things took another turn. Beautification projects became the order of the day. To her credit, she did the beautification of the Lagos General Aviation Terminal and before she left, the contract for the resurfacing of the runway of the Murtala Mohammed Airport which had a budget of N 800 million was upwardly reviewed to N 1.2 billion and it was eventually awarded at the sum of N 1.8 billion after Chikwe left. The Aminu Kano Airport runway too received attention, at an exorbitant cost though.
Dr. Chikwe was alleged to have left the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) indebted with many of her policies. By the time she left, FAAN could hardly pay staff salaries.
Findings also revealed that the Terminal Radar at the airport was checked by its manufacturers and it was not only certified obsolete, the manufacturers disclosed that the radar was bad. Surprisingly, a multi-million Naira contract to refurbish it was awarded and it was done for N 100 million.
Malam Isa Yuguda’s time as Minister was not devoid of the usual funfair and contracts. Many did not see anything wrong until cows invaded the runway of the Port Harcourt Airport almost causing a disaster. The accident cost the Air France plane involved a tyre and a wing while its gear too was affected.
Surprisingly, when comments were made about the accidents that occurred because of the situation of the runways, the Minister dismissed some of the complaints, describing the incidents as being a common phenomenon in other foreign airports.
Among the many erroneous steps through which Malam Isa Yuguda ran the Federal Airports Authority aground was the movement of FAAN’s account to Inland Bank which at that time was one of the banks listed as distressed. Incidentally, Malam Isa Yuguda was once the Managing Director of the bank.
The then Managing Director of FAAN, Baba was said to have raised objection and tried to resist the move. The Minister however checkmated him by reducing his powers. The Minister allegedly ensured that the MD’s powers to sign monetary matters were shifted to junior staff in the Accounts department.
It was also discovered that many contracts were only awarded on paper, for instance, as at the time the cow incident occurred at the Port Harcourt Airport, the contract for the perimeter fencing of the airport was said to have been awarded, whereas, no contract was found to have been awarded to any contractor, neither could the N 300 million meant for the job be accounted for.
Some staff of FAAN admitted that Malam Yuguda ran the Federal Airports Authority like a personal business and even alleged that monies running into millions were remitted to his office by each Directorate of FAAN on a monthly basis.
Findings revealed that Yuguda was mainly responsible for the woes that befell FAAN then. Funds belonging to FAAN were allegedly disbursed in ways that only Yuguda could explain.
Nigerians are now looking forward to the time that all the wrongs in the aviation sector will eventually be made right. Only time will tell whether the current Minister is the saviour that has long been awaited in the sector or whether Nigerians still need to look a little further.