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FG Suspends Oduah Projects, Shelves Aviation Agencies Merger

FG Suspends Oduah Projects, Shelves Aviation Agencies Merger
Supervising Minister for Aviation, Dr. Samuel Ortom


Some projects initiated by the former Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, will be suspended, the Federal Government has said.

According to the government on Monday, the suspension of the projects is due to paucity of funds to continue them as well as the mounting financial indebtedness faced by the ministry.

The Supervising Minister for Aviation, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who replaced Oduah following her sacking by President Goodluck Jonathan, said the Federal Government had commenced a holistic review of projects embarked upon by the ministry.

Ortom spoke during the visit of the Senate Committee on Aviation, led by its Chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma.

Jonathan had in February relieved Oduah of her duties as a minister. The former Aviation minister had embarked on a number of remodelling projects across most airports in the country and the government had borrowed billions of naira to actualise the projects.

Ortom explained that some loans obtained for the construction of four cargo airports in the country had accrued interests amounting to billions of naira.

He noted that it was in the best interest of the country to strategise on how to settle the debt and review some of the projects.

The supervising minister said, “We have met with the Ministry of Finance and we are setting up an inter-ministerial committee to review the projects. We have looked at the figures and based on paucity of funds, we feel that something needs to be done.

“We are going to review these projects to see where we can, at least for now, suspend some of the projects that have yet to take off so that we can bring the figure down and work towards working within the releases from the appropriation so that we can settle the ongoing projects.”

Ortom further said the government would, henceforth, prioritise projects in the sector, stressing that the ministry was faced with huge financial challenges.

He said, “We are going to prioritise, because in a situation where we have this kind of huge challenges, we have to prioritise what we do. Challenges are meant to be overcome by the operators. By the time we put heads together with the Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation, we must find a way out.

“There is a roadmap and we have no other choice but to complete this road map that was approved by the Federal Executive Council and ably supported by the National Assembly.

“So, we have set up a committee that is going to look at that and also not just verifying those indebtedness, but also finding the source of funding for these projects.”

On whether he was not worried about the level of indebtedness by the ministry, Uzodinma said the government would find a way to address the issue.

“Most importantly, the projects as conceived are very important projects that are necessary, and if for budgetary constraints they are not moving forward, we will find a way. There is no problem without resolution and we will through constructive partnership resolve the problem,” Uzodinma said.

Meanwhile, indications emerged on Monday that the Presidency might have backed down on the planned merger of some aviation agencies.

This, according to sources, may have been as a result of intense pressure from stakeholders in the sector, who advised the Presidency against the move.

The Federal Government had last month announced its approval of the merger of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and Nigerian Meteorological Agency as part of efforts to restructure its commissions and agencies.

But key stakeholders in the aviation industry had mounted pressure on the government to rescind the decision, arguing that the merger was not good for the sector.

A reliable source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he had not been permitted to speak on the issue, confirmed the change of heart by the government to our correspondent on Monday.

He said, “It is very likely that the planned merger has been cancelled by the Federal Government, although it seems they are trying to keep it away for now.

“I believe it is the efforts of the various aviation agencies kicking against the merger that have brought about the change of decision; I’m sure there will be an official announcement to this effect in the next few days.”

Confirming this, the National President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Mr. Benjamin Okewu, said the Presidency seemed to have listened to stakeholders’ pleas and reconsidered the planned merger.

He said as a result, the association had shelved its planned two-day warning strike to protest the proposed merger of the agencies.

“The planned strike was suspended due to the credible information that President Goodluck Jonathan has listened to the cries of the aviation workers,” he said.

He said the union was awaiting the final pronouncement by the Presidency on the discontinuation of the merger.

In a statement jointly signed by Okewu and the Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Mr. Tarnongu Captain, the association also urged the government to expedite approval and disbursement of funds to complete the remodelling of airport terminals as well as install of navigational and aeronautical facilities.

In April, aviation watchdog, the Aviation Round Table, had said it was against the merger of the agencies, stressing that the plan was wrong.

The ART said in a statement by its President, Capt. Dele Ore, “The Presidential Committee on Restructuring and Rationalisation of Federal Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, headed by the former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Steve Oronsanye recommended the merging of NCAA, NIMET and NAMA to form a single agency of aviation. The government has however accepted this ridiculous state of affairs. To avoid any further embarrassment, the contemplated merger should not be materialised.”

Less than a month later, in the first week of May, the Trade Union Congress also joined calls for the plan to be shelved.

In a communique it issued on May 3, TUC described the plan as “inappropriate, ill-timed and at variance with Nigeria’s obligation as a signatory to Chicago Convention 1944.”

It added, “In this age of specialisation, it makes no progressive sense to merge such regulatory agency as NCAA with service providers NAMA and NIMET as doing so will distract the NCAA from concentrating on its core statutory mandate of over sighting the safety and security of civil aviation.”







Source: Punch

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