AIR RAGE by Wole Shadare
The allegation that the Federal Airports of Nigeria (FAAN) is indebted to the tune of N174 billion is not only surprising but also startling. Nobody, not even the Senate Committee on Aviation, led by Senator Hope Uzodinma, could fathom why an organisation described as the cash-cow of the aviation sector in Nigeria, fell into such humungous debt.
Could the debts have resulted because of the remodelling projects at some of the airports which many had described as not commensurate with the enormous funds sunk into them? How come FAAN is so massively indebted when there was enormous money made available to the Ministry of Aviation under the sacked Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah?
It was a period when nobody, not even the media, could actually put a figure to how much that had accrued from the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) fund. While many quoted $85 million, others said the fund was $75 million. This is not to mention other heavy approvals running into several billions of naira.
The $500 million loan from China could positively have disappeared into thin air had the Chinese government not put a condition that the funds would be administered by them to build four new terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano.
The only contractor on site now is a Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, (CCECC). Other indigenous contractors have left site over an N11 billion debt that many said would be needed to complete the jobs that Oduah embarked on.
Whether the jobs met the standards comparable to other airports across the globe is another topic for another day. But, how did FAAN incur so much debt when in actual facts it has several ways of generating revenue without ever going broke? Who are the people who plunged the agency into such a situation that was needless? Was the insolvency masterminded to leave the agency in a state of ineffectiveness?
At the height of the BMW bullet-proof cars scandal, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) equally found itself in a serious and similar situation; money was allegedly being siphoned by the powers that be. Critical NCAA staff could not go for training; the Director General of the authority then had no control of the account of the agency he presided over.
Workers went for courses with their own money with the promise of refund later. The sector was at a breaking point. The numerous scandals exposed the rot that had gone on for years but for the one that got to a head in the past three years. It was walk without motion. The sector was put in the hands of the media, especially aviation reporters, who helped them spread lies and helped the propaganda machinery of a politician who was overnight-turned into an aviation expert.
The propaganda did not last for too long before they began to fall like a pack of cards as even the Senate Committee on Aviation has also seen through the lies that there is more to it than meets the ordinary eye.
The good news is that despite the shoddy job done in the name of remodelling, Uzodinmma assured that government and the ministry would not suspend the on-going airport remodelling projects. He said that the Senate had identified funding gaps which would be taken care of by the 2014 budget.
“The essence of government is for the overall wellbeing of our people. We have gone round, recorded some challenges, seen all the efforts in the on-going projects which some are at 90 per cent completion, Senate has also passed the 2014 appropriation which the president has also assented, the contractors will soon be mobilised to site,” Uzodimma said.
On the cooling system at the airport, he stressed the need to talk to the manufacturers like LG Electronics and others, adding that the managing director of FAAN, Seleh Dunoma, has told them that he would be travelling to Dubai to meet with the manufacturers of chillers and other cooling equipment at the airports to ensure the cooling system is in perfect condition.
“We must give our airports facelift because they are the first point of contact for any visitor coming into the country,” he said.
Speaking on the alleged scandals and the seeming abandonment of airports projects across the country, President, Aviation Round Table (ART), Captain Dele Ore, said that it was shocking that contractors chose to leave the site of work considering the enormous fund available to Oduah during her reign which she said was without limit even when the approvals did not go through the due process.
According to Ore, Oduah spent money as if the funds were limitless, “What it means is that the money was not judiciously spent. This is the beginning. We are going to have projects littering the whole place.
I told them that these projects cannot last beyond this administration. It is less than five months and there is already problem with the projects.”
He disclosed that the massive debt profile of FAAN and other aviation agencies was a confirmation that the chief executive officers of FAAN, NAMA and NCAA were just puppets, who had no control of their various agencies, stressing that they found themselves in positions they never dreamt of.
Speaking in the same vein, a former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said that the media needs to help the government. According to him, “the media needs to help this government. Even the National Assembly needs to help. We need to look at the internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of these agencies.
There are no ways these agencies can make less than N200 billion annually and it is annoying the way they have been plundered.” He stated that “if passenger service charge (PSC) for each domestic passenger is N1000 and $50 for international travellers, if that is multiplied by eleven million passengers, the amount accruing to FAAN alone is enormous.
This amount, he said, is excluding freight charges, collection of charges collected on litres of fuel dispensed into aircraft, $3,000 on parking and landing of aircraft such B737,B747, A340, A330, A320, including smaller airplanes at the airports.
“We are not even talking about revenue from the toll gates, car parks, office rentals, and other sources. If you come to NCAA, agency collects five per cent PSC on each ticket sold by airlines including five per cent on every freight. NAMA charges navigational fees of between $400 and $1000. There is no way NAMA can say it’s not generating $500 million annually.”
Culled from https://woleshadare.com/2014/06/03/n174bn-faan-debt-faan-liquidation/