The Senate ad hoc Committee on Aviation which is chaired by Rabiu Kwankwaso (APC-Kano State) Tuesday, held a public hearing on Tuesday.
Heads of parastatals and other officials of the Ministry of Aviation led by the Permanent Secretary, Binta Bello, attended the hearing at the National Assembly.
Ms. Bello painted a sad picture of the challenge of funding which she said was affecting the Nigerian aviation sector, particularly infrastructure at various airports.
Ms. Bello said, “We have financial constraints. Budgetary provision can never finance the projects that were opening up in all the airports in Nigeria.”
She praised the remodelling of the airports under former Minister of Aviation, now Senator, Stella Oduah.
Ms. Bello, however, said the projects were stalled as funding for the projects stopped immediately Ms. Oduah was removed.
“She (Oduah) started a very good job. Every airport was opened up. Well she’s sitting here. She may tell us where she got the funds. But records showed she got the money from intervention funds.
“Since she left, these intervention funds stopped. We depend on budget. On capital project, we got very little amount of money which can in no way take care of over 150 projects in our airports.”
On the Port Harcourt airport which Olaka Nwogu (PDP-Rivers) described as “a disgrace to everything Nigeria stands for especially as Port Harcourt is the country’s oil,” Ms. Bello said she would accept responsibility for the poor state of airport where tents are used as arrival lounge for both local and international passengers.
“I went to Port Harcourt,” she said. “The problem with the arrival is that the terminal building has not been completed. We don’t have funds to complete it immediately. The temporary arrival is not befitting.”
She, however, said she had directed the Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Saleh Dunoma, to ensure improvement of the temporary arrangement within two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary suggested alternative funding sources to improve the aviation sector. One of these, she said, was service charge to be levied on arriving international passengers.
But Mr. Nwogu said the move would be counter-productive and would reduce traffic at the airports. He said it would encourage more Nigerians to fly Accra, Ghana route, where flight fares are cheaper, compared to Nigeria, already.
He mentioned affordability, efficiency and attraction as factors that could make Nigeria reach its target of being Africa’s number one aviation hub.
The Aviation Ministry was also warned against entering into concession deals that would see investors rely on “extorting” passengers as a way of generating revenue.
Ms. Bello told the Committee that the Ministry of Aviation was asked to come up with a model for national carrier.
“So what I did was that I set up a committee to look into the possibility of a national carrier and come up with a model that is best for the country,” she said.
The Committee had completed its assignment; thus, the report had been forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari,” she said.
She said the Ministry of Aviation “now awaits further action” from Mr. Buhari.