By Favour Nnabugwu
ABUJA — Former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Aviation sector, Hajiya Binta Bello, has confirmed that the Federal Government owed N100 billion debts on projects in the aviation industry.
Speaking during her handover notes in Abuja, Bello, who is now at Ministry of Women Affairs, affirmed that she was not able to offset up to N1 billion of the debts in her six months stay in the sector.
She said: “There is no ministry, former or new, that has no challenges and the challenges of the aviation sector are as usual as you know.
“Funding remains the main issue of the sector. I know when I took over, l met a debt of over N100 billion and l was not able to pay back even N1 billion, so it’s a huge challenge.
On the second runway at Abuja airport, she said: “We have, at the moment, an issue which has turned to be a national issue and everybody is looking forward to it.
“There is also the need for construction of the second runway in Abuja. You are also aware that the existing runway at Abuja is over 30 years old, it has given way and there is need to construct a new one and l would want to mention here that no contract on the second runway has been awarded.”
While welcoming the Minister of State for Aviation, the new Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, Mr Sabiu Zakari, pledged the support and loyalty of staff to the minister, while admonishing the staff to support the minister in his duty to achieve Buhari’s administration focus of change mantra.
On his priority as the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the reconstruction of a second runway of Abuja International Airport was a disaster in waiting if not fixed as soon as possible.
Sirika said government could not afford to delay the reconstruction of Abuja runway any further because of the enormous danger involved.
“I am very young in the industry but where l trained, we have eight runways and a single runway is just an invitation for disaster and that is why we have to do it, it is a must, it must be done,” he said.
He also said the remodelling of airports across the country, introduction of development fund for aviation and maintaining and sustaining existing structures in the sector were paramount to the current administration.
Sirika assured Nigerians that every fund meant for projects in the aviation sector would be judiciously and appropriately used to bring the desired change.
The minister warned that he would not tolerate laxity from agencies and members of staff of the sector.
He said: “I know 95 percent of you here; some are my colleagues, friends and even my senior in the sector. Please do not leverage on the relationship, do your work, and be the boss.”