It is highly outrageous to buy two vehicles, any kind of vehicles for N225 million. It is also highly outrageous for mainstream media to rely on reports of online media, which most of the time are laced with gossips and rumours, for serious aviation reports.
Now that Nigerians are outraged about the exaggerated reports on the purchase of the vehicles, the facts of the matter have been eclipsed as the first report always finds a listening ear.
But it is good to deliberate on the motive behind the report and preceding reports before this last one. Princess Stella Oduah as Minister of Aviation has jolted the apple cart. In her strive to make desired changes in the sector she has excavated the status quo.
There are certain trends that have defined the aviation sector. There are always since 1999 those who use lopsided agreements and contracts to milk the aviation agencies. There are also those who use aviation related associations to sustain their lives and the aviation union executives rely on agency heads and succeeding ministers to make money in the sector.
Stella came and changed all that. These people were denied their source of material life by Stella and these are people behind the forces that coalesced against her.
It is said in the industry that two people before 2011 made noticeable changes in the sector. One was Peter Igbinedion who was the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, during the Abacha years. In retrospect also, kudos goes to Mrs. Kema Chikwe who was also the Minister of Aviation in the first tenure of Chief Obasanjo as Nigerian President. Story had it that she was pressured to leave, just as Stella is being pressured now and that when she was eased out broom was used to sweep out her footsteps from her office. But when she left, the same people acknowledged and still acknowledge that before Stella, Kema Chikwe was the best performing Minister of Aviation since civilian rule in 1999.
When Oduah was appointed there were three subsisting agreements that were controversial. One of them was Maevis which was managing the revenue of FAAN. FAAN said that the agreement was lopsided against the agency to the extent that the agency did not know how much that accrued in its coffers as Maevis every months gave it a hand out, a situation where a principle is being handed over money by its contractor. The agreement, to the agency was obnoxious and it was eating its revenue and hampering development of the 22 airports under its management.
Three Ministers came when the agreement was enforced, including Felix Hyat, who just witnessed its unveiling, Babatunde Omotoba who was there when FAAN workers started crying out against the agreement and alleged rip of FAAN by the agreement. He did nothing. Felicia Njeze came and smiled away few years later without doing anything about it. Stella came and did something. She revoked the agreement!
She was attacked with all kinds of arsenal, including media and court scud missiles. She remained unshaken. Other Ministers did not have the courage to do anything because of the Giant Eagle that facilitated the agreement and the agreement was aimed to rip off the agencies and empower some individuals.
Another agreement was the Pan Express agreement which gave the company the right to collect revenues from cargo and pay FAAN certain amount of revenue every month. That agreement was easily eased out because it did not come from the Big Eagle. Ironically that was the only decent agreement that was drawn not to strip FAAN its revenue; in fact, before the company started work, that source of cargo revenue for FAAN was in limbo, but it was done away quickly as soon as contrived agitation against it started.
Then the big masquerade of agreement which is still subsisting…the Bi Courtney concession agreement to build the domestic terminal in Lagos which initially was given for 12 years and was later extended controversially for 36 years without the expected approval of the Federal Executive Council, as Obasanjo recommended when the letter for the extension was presented to him by the then Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. In the letter requesting for the extension, Obasanjo responded, “No.” That it should be taken to FEC for approval. The approval never took place and since then Bi Courtney has done everything possible to use the courts to get the extension and it remains at best controversial.
How did Oduah cross the way of Bi Courtney? The company realising that it did not have enough apron to park aircraft MMA2 claimed that the General Aviation Terminal, GAT, belonged to it and pointed out a clause in the agreement that said no other domestic airport terminal should be built in Lagos without deferring to Bi Courtney. Oduah defiantly made it clear that GAT which she dismantled and rebuilt under one year, did not belong to Bi Courtney.
Then there was the AIC Limited which claimed that many years ago a portion of land meant for expansion of the MurtalaMuhammedInternationalAirport, Lagos terminal was given to the company to build hospitality facility. But for years nothing was done at the portion land and recently with terror threats and the inevitable need to have another terminal at the Lagos airport, it became unrealistic to build such facility at that portion of land. Stella Oduah overruled that quest.
The highly placed, powerful people behind these companies have been injured by the Minister. But her purpose is obvious: that for the aviation industry to develop and progress there must be an end to these rip-offs and that the assets that are meant for Nigerians should not be coveted by a few highly placed people at the expense of over 160 million Nigerians. The war has been drawn. Stella Oduah must go!
The foot soldiers
As stated earlier, the labour union leaders and some association executives rely on aviation agency heads to sustain their existence. A former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, kept the Aviation Round Table, ART, leaders on a payroll. Other agencies like FAAN, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, give them contracts. But these contracts stopped when Oduah became the Minister. In protest, the attacks against her came in torrents to the extent that the President of ART, Captain Dele Ore at one time alleged Oduah threatened to kill him. Some aspects of the media made a savoury of it.
Capt. Ore Kingsley, an aviation stakeholder, wrote from Lagos