The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has described Nigerians criticising the revamping of the nation’s airports as those who never see anything good in governance and people who have personal grudges against the system.
The agency noted that for over 30 years the airport facilities that had been in the state of disrepair it never attracted so much attack as its rehabilitation is attracting now.
The General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, Yakubu Dati, told THISDAY in an interview that work had been completed in some of the airports which would be inaugurated by December this year.
He added that FAAN has been receiving commendations from travellers who hail the efforts of the Federal Government in embarking on the project.
“Rehabilitation work is going on at 11 airports which is in the first phase of the project. The second phase of the rehabilitation work will commence after the first and it will involve 11 airports also. The minister in her vision wants a world class airport that Nigerians will be proud of. “So on assumption of office as a Minister, Mr. President gave her a mandatory order to upgrade the airports because for over 30 years the airports were neglected. This prompted her to embark on massive reconstruction of these airports which results we are seeing now.”
On the criticisms of the project, Dati said that there were people who believe they are in charge of aviation in Nigeria and nothing should be done without consulting them so they were angry now because they were not consulted before the transformation of the airport terminals.
He said that as a departure from the past, the minister under the mandate of the President started a laudable programme which was accepted by all industry stakeholders and that programme finally gave birth to the roadmap, which now serves as a guide to the development of air transport in Nigeria.
“I want you to recall that the minister said that she would boost the revenue of the aviation parastatals and on assumption of office reviewed the concessionary agreements “that were questionable which denied Nigerians the commonwealth. These concessionaires were backed by very powerful people who have sworn to bring the Minister down.”
“What is also annoying our critics is that in less than a year 11 terminals have reached 90 per cent completion in various parts of the country. She has improved the revenue profile of the agencies and this has increased the number of her adversaries,” Dati said.
On the recent attack by aviation labour unions over the restructuring in the sector, the FAAN spokesman said that the restructuring was done to transform the agencies so that they would be able to key into the aviation roadmap.
“We have existing 22 airports which will eventually undergo rehabilitation. The Federal Government is building five new passenger terminals and six new cargo terminals which will be ready in two years. This calls for additional hands to be able to drive the process. This is the first time in the present democratic governance that a Minister of Aviation will make appointments that cuts across the six geopolitical zones.
“So the argument of tribal jingoists is a futile attempt to hide incompetence, inability or unwillingness to fit into the new order. I must also say that I am a beneficiary. I am not Ibo. I am not from Anambra, so on what basis is the argument?,” he said.
On the issue of qualification of those newly appointed he said that one of the directors in one of the agencies was an attorney general of a state; others include seasoned civil servants who have PhD and Master’s degrees.
“In the past primary school teachers were promoted and given appointments in the aviation industry with these critics saying nothing when it was obvious that they lacked the requisite qualification and yet they were imposed on the agencies. We also look at the attempt to attribute ethnic colouration to a simple and routine administrative procedure and it smacks of deep seethed envy and personal hatred for the minister who has taken the agencies to a level unattained by any minister in the sector since the present democratic governance,” he said.
He remarked that the airports being rehabilitated are for the benefit of all Nigerians no matter which part of the country they come from, adding that so everybody should work together to improve the country.