By OHIA ISREAL
The Aviation industry in Nigeria, today have witnessed a lot of scandals and fraud which has placed it under this shape of comatose. A lot that has happened in the industry has accounted for the of lack of growth in the sector. The sector has become substandard.
Though the current administration of Stella Odua, the Minister of Aviation, has resolved to face the rot in the aviation industry headlong, a lot has happened in the sector which accounts for its backwardness. The substandard service of the industry has not been, as the aviation industry is now running from pillar to post.
The aviation sector is in this state of disrepute as a result of scandals that has engulfed nearly all the agencies in the ministry over these years.
It was not long ago, as the issue of the N13 billion naira earmarked for the Total Radar Coverage of the country brought about a lot of hues and crises as it was being alleged that no single person in the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency could give account of what happened to the fund. It would be recalled that in December last year, the Aviation Ministry received the report of the alleged N13 billion fraud on the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria Project of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, a scenario which the NAMA as an agency had denied week before the receipt of that report that the alleged fraud in the TRACON project. The report alleged that €66,500,870 (N13.99 bn) TRACON worth of equipment were not supplied and that many other components installed had never worked since the project started in 2003. In the said it also said that the N4bn worth of the components for the project were not supplied, and that those installed never worked, thus flouting the terms of the contract and technical support services agreement (TSSA), the Ministry of Aviation is still studying a number of reports on the alleged scam.
Taking a look at the fraudulent haul of activities that has bedeviled the Aviation Ministry and its agencies has shown that a lot of monies have gone down the drain in that sector; many of the Street Journal found out that fraudulent activities cut across all agencies within the sector. This paper finding reveals that a considerable part of the N 25 billion which was said to have been generated by the Federal Airports Authorities of Nigeria has traced to a personal account of one of the top officials of the Authority.
We learnt that one major conduit pipe in which FAAN siphoned money from is through the area of the so called concession with different companies in different sectors of as it is obvious that the money which is being generated from these concessions is by a hair’s breadth accounted for. The Aviation Ministers who are standing trials today for alleged corrupt practices talk much of how the Ministry has long been a decaying wood in the past.
However, it is not a surprise that the Aviation Industry is not working well, as each time the Aviation Minister is changed or removed, a new aviation chief is appointed and also the bankers which are said to be handling the account of the agencies within the aviation industry are also changed. Why?
Starting with Professor Babalola Borishade , the former Minister is today faced with a legal battle for the alleged mismanagement of the Aviation Intervention Fund which was said to be to the tune of N 19.5 billion during his tenure. He also stood trial alongside a former Managing Director of the National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Roland Iyayi, Tunde Dairo, who is the former Minister’s Personal Assistant as well as Australian, George Eider, the Managing Director of Avsatel Communications.
The Senate Panel which is investigating the issue however, recommended that the former Minister and his aides should be made to repay N5 billion to the Federal Government.
Just as Borishade is standing trial, another former aviation Minister Femi Fani Kayode is also standing trial on 47 counts charge of money laundering. Fani Kayode was accused of laundering the said amount of N230 million through assorted channels which includes his wife and daughter while he was the Aviation Minister.
However, the decay in the Aviation industry is open and it didn’t start today, almost every Nigerian has this feeling that every minister that has handled that office as a minister knew that the system was bad and did nothing to salvage the situation he or she met on the ground, but rather added to the decay on ground. For instance when Olusegun Agagu was the Aviation Minister, he established the National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and also the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, during his era Arthur Anderson was engaged to enlist connoisseurs to work in the agencies. However in Agagu’s 18 months efforts in the Aviation Industry, not much was even seen in terms of facilities in the airports across Nigeria.
When Kema Chikwe took over, she started with the beautification of the Lagos General Aviation Terminal and before she left, the contract for the resurfacing of the runway of the Murtala Mohammed Airport which had a budget of N 800 million was upwardly reviewed to N 1.2 billion and it was eventually awarded at the sum of N 1.8 billion after Chikwe left. The Aminu Kano Airport runway too received attention, at an exorbitant cost though.
Her leaving the Aviation Ministry was not without an alleged indebtedness of one of the agencies of the industry which is FAAN due to her numerous policies as FAAN could hardly pay staff salaries then.
But the Aviation Ministry will be said to have received the highest form of fraud and scam during the days of Malam Isa Yuguda as the funfair, razzmatazz of the usual awards of contracts were not devoid of that ministry. However, many never saw thing wrong with not until cows which marched into the runway of the Port Harcourt Airport which nearly caused a catastrophe. It will be recalled that the accident cost the Air France plane involved a tyre and also a wing also involving its gear being affected.
In an astonishing turn of events, the Minister described the runway incident as being a common occurrence in other foreign airports. During the Yuguda’s era, a lot of flawed ladders were taken to run the FAAN, one of those flawed issue was the movement of FAAN’s account to Inland Bank which at that time was one of the banks listed as distressed, as many cited that it may because Malam Isa Yuguda was once the Managing Director of the bank.
A scenario which ensued when the then Managing Director of FAAN, raised an objection into and tried to resist the move, but his powers was checkmated by the Yuguda’s administration, whereby he reduced the MD’s power by ensuring that the power to sign monetary matters were shifted to the junior staff in the Accounts department.
It was also during his tenure that it was found out that many of the contracts that were awarded were only on paper, for example the cow incident which necessitated the perimeter fencing of its contract and it was also discovered that the N 300 million meant for the job be was not accounted for.
A chat with some staff of FAAN, revealed that during the Yuguda era, he ran the Federal Airports Authority like his personal industry and it was also alleged that several monies running into millions were disbursed to his office by each Directorate of FAAN on a monthly basis.
It was also revealed that Yuguda was chiefly culpable for what transpired at FAAN then. Funds belonging to FAAN were allegedly disbursed in ways that only Yuguda could explain.