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Corrupt people are squandering IGRs in aviation – NAPA

By on March 26, 2011

Comrade Abdulrazak Saidu is the General Secretary of the Nigerian Aviation Professionals Association (NAPA). In this interview, he speaks on issues affecting the industry. Excerpt…

Are you not worried that infrastructure in our airports has collapsed and nothing is being done?
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria is responsible for the provision of infrastructure in all the 22 airports, being the agency vested with that responsibility. Looking at the infrastructure decay, there is a lot to be done by the authority.

For instance, runway lights in the 18L runway of the Lagos airport has not been installed since four years after the completion of runway rehabitation.

Again, the same FAAN rushed to commission the Enugu airport recently without runway lights. The issue of infrastructure decay is a big one in the sector. For instance, where are the fire tenders FAAN claimed to have bought? For how many years now, FAAN has been saying that nine fire tenders have been delivered? But  it was the World Bank that gave them to the government. How about the ones the Federal Government provided through the medium term sector strategy and through the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR)?  Where are they? Where is the money?

If there must be sanity in the public finance, I don’t think the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should spare the aviation sector because it is a safety sensitive sector. In my opinion, the sector is being spared. You remember what happened to Abuja runway project, the over bloated cost of the runway and how it was hurriedly handled.

We have not learnt our lessons; and we are meant to learn our lessons from these things. I think we need to do that because the aviation sector is a very sophisticated area.

Looking at the Enugu airport that was recently commissioned without runway lights, I think it has some safety implications. Politically, they said they had commissioned it, but where are the runway lights in Enugu airport?

How are they going to be running it? Was money not provided for those runway lights? Who are the contractors that really handled the contract and why is it a haphazard contract?
If an aircraft is in distress at night, God forbid, and a pilot thinks that Enugu airport is the nearest for lives to be saved, how is he going to land?

The same scenario is applicable to the 18L runway in Lagos that was also commissioned without runway lights. I need to speak up for the sake of conscience and for the sake of the groups I represent, including the civil society in the Medium Term Sector Strategy where the Federal Government provides funds for capital projects in this sector.

What do you think are some of the causes of corruption in the sector?
I think one of the causes of corruption in the sector is the duplication of oversight functions. How can about four groups be carrying out oversight functions in one parastatals? There is the Senate Committee on Aviation, House Committee on Aviation,  Ministry of Aviation, as well as as a Presidential Budget Committee.

Each of the aviation parastatals has to face these bodies in Abuja to defend their budgets. Today, they will go and tomorrow they will go, without having time to sit down and do this job. These things must stop. You cannot continue to deceive us. I’m saying this because if a parastatal says it has a budget of  any amount for instance, by the time they face these bodies to defend such a budget, the amount, rather than getting reduced, will rise astronomically. I have written to the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation as well as the Federal Ministry of Finance over all these anomalies. The IGRs in the aviation industry are being corruptly squandered, and the EFCC has not investigated this?

There has been the issue of airlines failing to pay what they owe the aviation agencies. What do you think is the problem?
We have protested against airlines owing the parastatals so much and not paying. The five per cent ticket sales charge is government tax, paid by every passenger to the government through the airlines. Any airline that spends such money commits an offence; it is public money. The airlines are supposed to collect it and remit to the parastatals. They are not meant to spend it. But unfortunately, they have been spending it or refusing to pay. Is that not criminal? Is that not enough for EFCC to come in? Some time ago, we learnt that EFCC invited people from some of the major domestic airlines and even the Skyway Aviation Company Limited.

I knew about it because I went with some SAHCOL staff to the EFCC office. What has become of the findings? What has become of the findings of EFCC about the airline? Must the airlines be running their companies at the expense of the government or public fund? The accumulated debts of the airlines have generally  affected the finances of the agencies. Some of them cannot organise trainings, pay salary, and even provide infrastructure. The money involved is so huge that they cannot write them off.

Aviation industry’s problem is from the top. One or two persons will just do something and they will say it is from the presidency. We said no. Presidency cannot formulate laws or impose laws that are contrary to the provisions of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the United Nation agency regulating the industry globally. Since the Nigerian aviation industry is not different, therefore, Nigeria cannot isolate itself.

Why do you think the EFCC should visit  the sector?
In view of the fact that Nigeria has recently attained the United States Category One certification, the highest aviation safety in the world, we cannot afford to allow any unscrupulous element or group, because of personal interest, corruption, lack of consistency make this position slip away from the country.

When we talk of infrastructural decay, diversion of funds and mismanagement of funds, the civil society is not happy; we are not also happy, and we must have to alert the nation. We have to tell  the system what is really going on in the aviation industry.

We want to ask that what has EFCC been waiting for, despite the fact that we have called and written them, they even saw the facts and figures? Some time ago they visited some of the parastatals, what has the outcome been? Nobody has ever been punished, instead, this corruption persists unabated and we want it to stop.

Source : Tribune