By LAWANI MIKAIRU
Mixed reactions from aviation stakeholders and others have greeted the removal of Princess Stella Oduah as the Minister of Aviation. She was sworn in on July 2, 2011 and deployed as Minister of Aviation on July 4th. She was last Wednesday relieved of her post alongside the Minister of the Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe, Minister of Police Affairs, Chris Olukolade and the Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama.
As customary, her performance, actions, and inactions while in office have been assessed by stakeholders and other observers depending on the volume of information they have and their prejudices.
But what has almost been a consensus is that there has been visible and remarkable infrastructural changes in all our airports. However, those who seemed to have benefited from previous rots in the airports have kicked against these changes.
The ugliest moment in her tenure came in October 2013, when she was accused of forcing the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to buy two armored cars for her use at the cost of N255 million (U.S. $1.6 million).
Her critics charged that the cost was inflated, there was no provision for such a purchase in the budget, nor did their acquisition process comply with public procurement policy.
They further contended that since NCAA procured the vehicles for the former minister, it has not been able to meet its statutory obligations to most of its staff.
The agency is currently cash strapped as it is unable to carry out trainings of its technical staff both in the country and abroad.
Although Oduah denied her involvement in the scam and in her defense before the National Assembly said she only advised them to “do the needful,” the excuse was not accepted by the majority.
She was found guilty by both the House Committee on Aviation and the Senate Aviation Committee and President Jonathan was advised to “review her appointment.”
Another low point in her tenure is the Dana Air and the Associated Airline crashes. Dana Air crash killed 153 people and the chartered Associated Airlines plane that crashed in Lagos was carrying the corpse of a former Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Agagu, and about 20 people who were all travelling to Akure for the former governor’s burial. Fifteen people died in the crash. This led to the call for the minister to resign.
Without doubts , Princess Stella Oduah recorded some remarkable achievements.
It is believed that some of these achievements recorded were products of the Aviation Sector Master Plan, otherwise known as the Aviation Roadmap, created by her to facilitate the implementation of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda in the aviation industry.
Some of these milestones include the Airport Remodeling Project, which has led to the structural transformation of many airport terminals across the country, in keeping with international standards and practices.
Work has also started on the construction of five new international airport terminals in Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Kano, Abuja and Enugu under a Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Nigeria and China.
Another significant milestone is the commencement of international flights by Ethiopian Airlines at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, on August 24, the first international flight from the South East geopolitical zone of the country since independence.
Following the remodeling of the international terminal of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Turkish Airlines joined the list of foreign airlines operating at the airport on December 13.
On October 29, Nigeria signed a Bilateral Air services Agreement, BASA, with Israel in Tel Aviv for the commencement of direct flights between the two countries.
The ‘E’ and ‘D’ fingers of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport have been expanded extensively and put to use, with a full complement of facilities as conveyor belts, security screening machines, immigration counters and transit lounges, which are at various stages of completion.
The introduction of aerotropolis, airport cities, and perishable cargo export into the country’s aviation industry are major landmarks that are designed to make the industry make significant contributions to the country’s Gross Domestic product (GDP) even in the short term.
A number of policies were also introduced by the Minister of Aviation during this period, some of which were the removal of import duties on aircraft spares, providing an enabling environment for local airline operators to acquire new aircraft, reintroduction of a national carrier for the country and the automation of revenue points of all parastatals under the Ministry of Aviation.
Whether aviation history in Nigeria will be fair to the former minister will be determined by the actions and performance of her successor. Nigerians can easily be nostalgic. If her successor does not hit the ground running and immediately show signs of improving on her achievements, there will be clamour for her return to the ministry.