The Other Side Why Abuja Airport Was Repaired On Schedule

From Femi Fani Kayode to Felix Hyatt to Babatunde Omotoba to Stella Odua to former Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Corps Marshal Osita Chidoka, Nigerians had not had it better in the aviation sector. Under the incumbent administration, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Minister of Transportation and Senator Hadi Sirika as Minister of State Aviation are turning around the nation’s transportation system, delivering projects on schedule to easy movements for the citizens and boost the nation’s economy. It is sorrowful to recall the messes the aviation sector witnessed from 1999 to 2015 in terms of air mishaps, contract mismanagement and series of corruption allegations.

Recall that Fani-Kayode was accused of misappropriating over N100million during his tenure as minister for aviation. He was dragged to court and was, however, acquitted by a federal high court judge in Lagos presided over by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia. The judge praised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecutor in the case, Mr. Festus Keyamo claiming that he carried out a “diligent” prosecution of the case.

Stella Oduah was accused of procurement of two bullet-proof BMW cars at US$800,000 each during her tenure in office. She instituted a lawsuit before Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking to stop EFCC from arresting her over the shady deal. Oduah was forced to resign she was allegedly found guilty by two panels. The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, headed by Nkiru Onyejiocha noted in its report that the money used in purchasing the vehicles was not covered by the 2013 budget. It also said Ms. Oduah breached Nigerian laws by exceeding her approval limit and signing off over N634 million for the agency to buy 54 vehicles.

Also a President panel set up by the Federal Government on the matter equally found Mrs. Oduah guilty. Headed by then Head of Service of the Federation, Bello Isa with members as then National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki and Dick Iruenebere, she was faulty for breaching the laws of the land. Furthermore she was alleged to have, alongside Mr. Orubebe and others floated the “Neigbhbour 2 Neigbhour” organization which campaigned for Mr. Jonathan during the 2011 presidential election, but which was later discovered to be involved in illegal activities. Notwithstanding, she has claimed to be the best aviation minister in Nigeria.

Howbeit, the rehabilitation project was overdue but successive past governments had no political will to do it. It was a project due30 years ago but was left to deteriorate to the worst level. Yet, the decision triggered controversies and was opposed vehemently by some segments of the nation. The Buhari government promised to deliver it within six weeks and kept the promise. The airport was shut from March 8 to April 18, 2017 when Julius Berger Plc carried out the total repair works on the runway. Kaduna International Airport was effectively used during the period.

Nigerians are thrilled by the timely completion of the airport; many said it showed the ability of the Buhari government to rise up to any challenge facing the nation. The security agencies and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) lived up to expectations by providing safety for passengers who travelled along the ever-busy Abuja-Kaduna highway while the closure of the Abuja airport lasted. It will be recalled that the Port Harcourt International Airport was closed for almost two years by the previous government, yet not much was achieved.

The first flight, an Ethiopian Airline aircraft to touch down the rehabilitated runway was received with smiles by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and staff of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. The Airbus took off from Addis Ababa to Abuja. The Ethiopian Airline that operated its scheduled Abuja flights to Kaduna when other international carriers turned their backs. Senator Sirika who reopened the airport thanked God for his guidance, the president for his support and the Nigerian people for standing by the government. On his part, the elated Ethiopian Group CEO, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, proclaimed that the airline has always given its best to Nigeria both at good and challenging times. According to him, the airline has been part of Nigeria’s historic growth and always considered itself as vital partners in the history and growth of Nigeria as a country.

However, President Buhari through his special adviser on media, Femi Adesina praised the ministries of transport, power, works and housing, security agencies, Kaduna state government, Julius Berger, Ethiopian Airlines and others, for their commitment and cooperation which led to the successful completion of the project and its eventual re-opening 24 hours ahead of the scheduled time.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected].

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah