A must read! The other side of the story: Who wants Stella Oduah out of the way?


As stated earlier, the labour union leaders and some association executives rely on aviation agency heads to sustain their existence. A former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) kept the Aviation Round Table (ART) leaders on a payroll. Other agencies like FAAN, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) give them contracts. But these contracts stopped when Oduah became the Minister. In protest, the attacks against her came in torrents to the extent that the President of ART, Captain Dele Ore at one time alleged Oduah threatened to kill him. Some aspects of the media made a savoury of it.
Two major associations in the sector, the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) have fought and won many wars, so they are feared in the industry. So their leaders became very powerful, so whenever they needed money they would call a press conference and attack one agency or another or the existing Minister. They would be placated, of course with "gifts" to keep them quiet for some time. This shameful trend has continued to this day. That was why a wise former Director General of NCAA decided to keep the ATSSSAN president permanently in his payroll. He gave his wife a job in NCAA; bought him a car and many times a year sponsor him to overseas training with large estacode. He fully bought his loyalty. The same ATSSSAN president capitalised on the labour feuds with airlines and agencies to fix his other siblings at Aero Contractors and NAMA.
So the major problem of Oduah is that she left this group of people in the lurch. There is the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) whose officers are permanent because for over 12 years it never conducted elections. The Assistant Secretary General of the association, Mohammed Tukur has used that platform to sustain his life in the industry. He became a propagandist. This became apparent when he and others in AON fought against Arik Air in favour of Bi Courtney, when Arik Air insisted that it was not going to operate from MMA2, the new terminal built by Bi Courtney.
Curious people then were asking: Is OAN fighting for the welfare of the airlines of that of Bi Courtney. Many journalists who were shocked by that shameful act did not write the story. Today, it has ceased to surprise anybody because the man is unpretentious that he is a paid propagandist. As he campaigned against Oduah today, he can campaign for her tomorrow.
Stella Oduah underestimated this force or she had pre-empted them. But she must have believed that she would win most of them over by her development strides. In under two years Oduah changed the face of many airports in the country. She rebuilt many and expanded others. She completed what remained of the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria, provided the most sophisticated weather reading equipment for the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, and acquired low level wind shear equipment, the weather Doppler radar and low level wind shear alert system which have been installed in all the airports. These equipment ensure that accurate weather data are given to the pilots. Recently the Minister acquired modern equipment for the Accident Investigation Bureau that in less than one week after the Associated flight crash the preliminary report of the accident was out.
The Minister expected to be praised by these "activists" who must love the industry too much to have spent most of their years there, but they derided her. They described her remodelling of the airport terminals as mere paint work. They said she has not done anything in the industry and concentrated in describing slippery tiles as her only legacy in the industry. Above all, they accused her of "chopping" alone.
That is the crux of the matter: she "chops" alone. That is also the grouse the members of the National Assembly: the Minister of Aviation is "chopping" Alone. They believe that for awarding all these contracts for the remodelling of airport facilities that so much money must have accrued to her. Who will question that when it has always been the trend in Nigeria?
Oduah must have realised by now that many people who talk about development in the aviation industry are really not interested in development; they are interested in their pockets. And as she had closed all the doors against them to make money from "their industry" what does she want them to do? Clap for her for improving the airports. In fact, Captain Dele Ore in his anger and frustration, said she must go now; that the armoured car bought for her "will not save her." That was a veiled threat. That also showed how desperate they are!
There are two issues that must be pointed out. If Stella Oduah is removed it means the old, status quo which is anti-development has triumphed and it can be predicted that as the airport terminals where work is going on presently are, so they will remain for many years to come. It has happened in the past. If Oduah is left to do her job, this attack will continue but at the end Nigerians will have better airport facilities and improved air transport sector to show for her efforts.
It is highly outrageous to buy two vehicles, any kind of vehicles for N225 million.
It is also highly outrageous for mainstream media to rely on reports of online media, which most of the time are laced with gossips and rumours, for serious aviation reports. Now that Nigerians are outraged about the exaggerated reports on the purchase of the vehicles, the facts of the matter have been eclipsed as the first report always finds a listening ear.
But it is good to deliberate on the motive behind the report and preceding reports before this last one.
Princess Stella Oduah as Minister of Aviation has jolted the apple cart. In her strive to make desired changes in the sector she has excavated the status quo. There are certain trends that have defined the aviation sector. There are always since 1999 those who use lopsided agreements and contracts to milk the aviation agencies. There are also those who use aviation related associations to sustain their lives and the aviation union executives rely on agency heads and succeeding ministers to make money in the sector. Stella came and changed all that. These people were denied their source of material life by Stella and these are people behind the forces that coalesced against her. It is said in the industry that two people before 2011 made noticeable changes in the sector.
One was Peter Igbenedion who was the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) during the Abacha years. In retrospect also, kudos goes to Mrs. Kema Chikwe who was also the Minister of Aviation in the first tenure of Chief Obasanjo as Nigerian President. Story had it that she was pressured to leave, just as Stella is being pressured now and that when she was eased out broom was used to sweep out her footsteps from her office. But when she left, the same people acknowledged and still acknowledge that before Stella, Kema Chikwe was the best performing Minister of Aviation since civilian rule in 1999.
When Oduah was appointed there were three subsisting agreements that were controversial. One of them was Maevis which was managing the revenue of FAAN. FAAN said that the agreement was lopsided against the agency to the extent that the agency did not know how much that accrued in its coffers as Maevis every months gave it a hand out, a situation where a principle is being handed over money by its contractor. The agreement, to the agency was obnoxious and it was eating its revenue and hampering development of the 22 airports under its management.
Three Ministers came when the agreement was enforced, including Felix Hyat who just witnessed its unveiling, Babatunde Omotoba who was there when FAAN workers started crying out against the agreement and alleged rip of FAAN by the agreement. He did nothing. Felicia Njeze came and smiled away few years later without doing anything about it. Stella came and did something. She revoked the agreement!
She was attacked with all kinds of arsenal, including media and court scud missiles. She remained unshaken. Other Ministers did not have the courage to do anything because of the Giant Eagle that facilitated the agreement and the agreement was aimed to rip off the agencies and empower some individuals.
Another agreement was the Pan Express agreement which gave the company the right to collect revenues from cargo and pay FAAN certain amount of revenue every month. That agreement was easily eased out because it did not come from the Big Eagle. Ironically that was the only decent agreement that was drawn not to strip FAAN its revenue; in fact, before the company started work, that source of cargo revenue for FAAN was in limbo, but it was done away quickly as soon as contrived agitation against it started. Then the big masquerade of agreement which is still subsisting...the Bi Courtney concession agreement to build the domestic terminal in Lagos which initially was given for 12 years and was later extended controversially for 36 years without the expected approval of the Federal Executive Council, as Obasanjo recommended when the letter for the extension was presented to him by the then Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. In the letter requesting for the extension, Obasanjo responded, "No." That it should be taken to FEC for approval. The approval never took place and since then Bi Courtney has done everything possible to use the courts to get the extension and it remains at best controversial.
How did Oduah cross the way of Bi Courtney? The company realising that it did not have enough apron to park aircraft MMA2 claimed that the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) belonged to it and pointed out a clause in the agreement that said no other domestic airport terminal should be built in Lagos without deferring to Bi Courtney. Oduah defiantly made it clear that GAT which she dismantled and rebuilt under one year, did not belong to Bi Courtney.
Then there was the AIC Limited which claimed that many years ago a portion of land meant for expansion of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos terminal was given to the company to build hospitality facility. But for years nothing was done at the portion land and recently with terror threats and the inevitable need to have another terminal at the Lagos airport, it became unrealistic to build such facility at that portion of land. Stella Oduah overruled that quest. The highly placed, powerful people behind these companies have been injured by the Minister. But her purpose is obvious: that for the aviation industry to develop and progress there must be an end to these rip offs and that the assets that are meant for Nigerians should not be coveted by a few highly placed people at the expense of over 160 million Nigerians. The war has been drawn.


By Capt. Ore Kingsley..

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