House Objects To Non-Utilisation Of $500 Chinese Loan

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SAN FRANCISCO, July 08, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation Tuesday expressed concerns over the non—utilisation of a $500 million loan the Ministry of Aviation obtained from the Chinese government for the transformation of the aviation sector.

The loan was obtained during the tenure of former Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah, who was forced out of office following allegations of financial misappropriation and fraudulent educational qualification claims.

The committee said it was concerned over 'the lack of patriotic zeal' to drive to a logical conclusion changes initiated via the remodeling of the nation's airports despite the huge financial commitment made in procuring the loan.

Chairman of the committee, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, who disclosed this at a meeting with the management of the Ministry asked for documentation related to the transaction.

The chairman said the Committee's oversight visit to the Ministry has raised speculations in the media with allegations about the Committee's indifference to the happenings within the MDAs in the sector.

Responding, the Supervising Minister, Dr. Samuel Ortom expressed his frustrations in his inability to access relevant documents relating to all the contracts awarded in the Ministry before he assumed office as Minister.

'One thing I must say is that since my assumption of office, getting relevant documents to verify most of the issues raised have been unsuccessful. In that wise, our attendance here today is based on courtesy, so beyond that, whatever we give you as responses to your requests can't be verified in the absence of accurate figures,' the Minister said.

Reacting to negative media reports generated by the Committee's oversight visit to the Ministry, the Supervising Minister averred that, 'the issue of negative media perception is something we would address. We in the Ministry see you as partners in working with us and ensuring to make inputs and add value to the sector, making it safe and secure.

'On the issue about the Committee discovering a fraud of N174 billion! That is still surprising. We never said anything like that, and we don't know how that got to the press. It's something we are investigating and we will make sure it doesn't happen again.

'We received a letter about the counterpart funding of N100 million dollars, but unfortunately there was no budgetary provision for that. That's why the contractors haven't been paid. As for the $500 million dollars Chinese loan, it's still there un-utilised'.

The Committee however insisted that the issue of bulletproof cars as well as the Chinese loan for which interest is already accruing must be sorted out so as not to unduly place the burden of debt on the government without achieving the desired objectives.