Minister of Aviation & the Sam Mbakwe Airport Contractor

Eye-service and corruption go hand-in-hand in Nigeria; except these and nepotism are fully eradicated from this clime, the much seeked compounds that are associated with democracy to have a resting place in Nigeria will be farfetched and the democracy practice would be worse than the heinous practices many Nigerians experienced in the days of the military rule, from the way these unrepentant politicians handle the political business here.

I read the worst of eye-services in the 21st Century in a national paper by Minister of Aviation, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba, vowing to use police to arrest the contractor handling the airfield lighting of the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport, Owerri, Imo State. This he was quoted; if the job contracted the contractor for over eight months ago is not delivered in about four weeks' time to enable 24-hour operation at the airport.

The statement, I also gathered was made on arrival of Omotoba at the airport on what the report described as an inspection visit to assess the facilities available at the airport due to the shutdown of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu for rehabilitation. Reportedly, Omotoba said, Sam Mbakwe Airport was capable of taking the volume of traffic because of the facilities being put on ground.

Hear Omotoba: “If we don't have 24-hour operation here (Sam Mbakwe Airport) in about four weeks from now, I will lock up the contractor – ADP Lighting - because they have been paid since eight months ago. I don't see any reason why they should not have completed the air field lighting by now...the contractor had been paid N200 million since eight months ago out of the total package of about N400 million, but has done nothing”.

I think eight months ago is nearly a year in the counting of months in the calendar, and it was just on the 23rd of Feb. 2010 that Omotoba is coming to the press to make what I think is noise on a contract that was awarded since eight months ago. That implies that if he had not come to the Sam Mbakwe Airport recently, he wouldn't have known that the work they paid the contractor for, nothing has started. And this in earnest reveals how maladministration is rocking the Aviation Ministry and the Nigeria Airport Authority if the officials of the Sam Mbakwe Airport couldn't heat-up the polity because of the displayed shenaniganism of a contractor who can't be best called anything other than a traitor. Yes, anyone who betrays the hope of his office and community or country is a traitor. Since eight months, it was now that Omotoba is coming to find out that a part of his is lamed? This is funny!

And come to think about the economic setback the contractor's nonchalant to duty has caused the sons and daughters of Imo State and indeed Nigeria, the contractor was supposed to be cooling his or her heels in the gulag now than perhaps squashing the mobilization fund paid him or her for that project in the 5 Star hotels, from where those who said they are leading Nigerians lead us from.

I think Omotoba goofed before now by not arresting the contractor and by coming to express what I call eye-service on the newspapers for over eight months that contract was awarded. This is the worst of crimes against mankind and the oath of office Omotoba took. I would not know why a toll-bell of arrest should be rang for a contractor-from-hell who has failed to keep to the promise and hope reposed on him by those who gave him or her the contract thereby subjecting the teaming sons and daughters of Imo State to hardship, who without doubt, have lost millions of naira accruing from a man-made disaster. I called it a man-made disaster because it is perturbing that a contract awarded since eight months ago, nothing has ever been shown on ground. This is wickedness, or do we call it criminality? What else is criminality if someone is betraying trust reposed on him?

On another hand, many observers of this play by the Minister and the Contractor have said that the Imo indigenes should have initiated the fight against the contractor close to the time when this contract was being awarded. But who knows if the process of the contract awarded was shrouded in secrecy? Who knows whether the Imo State Government led by Mr. Ikedi Ohakim was a key player in the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport? Wouldn't the entire Igbo race demand explanation as to what the Ohakim-led Imo state Government knew about the contract and when they knew it and why the Imo State Government did to stop this 'sabotage' of a contractor before the Aviation Minister had to blow the eye-service trumpet?

Is the Nwaorie River the Ohakim-led Government of Imo State is pouring billions of naira to dredge better and more important than the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport? Is Ohakim pouring these billions of naira to dredge the river so that it will be named after him thereby subjecting the indigenes to abject frustration? How can Imo State be a tourist state as Ohakim is wont to make people believe without a functional airport, or does he expect the people to come on balloon?

Is the sabotaging airfield lighting of the Sam Mbakwe capacity not a crime comparable to Otokoto? Wouldn't Imo peolpe come together and arrest those responsible and seize their assets? Are Nigerians not disappointed by the mute-reaction of Imo State indigenes to this gross criminal act? By now, shouldn't the people have found out who owns ADP Lighting and arrest him and frog-marched him to Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport to start the work for which he was paid? Or, do the people not know that lighting the runway at the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport would enable 24-hour operation there because, how many Igbo taxi drivers, hotel owners, night club operators, internet cafe operators would be employed at the airport if not the aid this airport give to them in their businesses? Are Imo sons and daughters not being denied a means of livelihood by ADP and its owners? Are Ndiigbo not in danger in Nigeria?

Imagine Omotoba, according to the report, that the delay in the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu was due to the Anambra governorship election. And it is closed now? The minister announced that the rehabilitation of Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu would last till January 2011 and as such, Sam Mbakwe Airport would be playing the key role in taking the traffic for the South East and part of South-South people. But where is the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport functioning?

I think both the Contractor and the Aviation Minister have betrayed the trust reposed on them by Imo State people by shutting Imo people and Ndiigbo out, from air travel through the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport; they should tender a public apology and resign from their offices after the apology.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Author and the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]

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Articles by Odimegwu Onwumere