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Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah accused of favouring Igbos in recruitment processes

By on October 22, 2012

A wave of appointments in the Ministry of Aviation attracts suspicious stares to Ms. Stella Oduah, Minister of Aviation, who is accused of flooding agencies in the ministry with South-Easterners

Stellar. This is not a word that watchers of the aviation industry will freely use in an assessment of Ms. Stella Oduah, Minister for Aviation. It was not always that way. Oduah, a major player in President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign, started out like a house on fire. Shortly after becoming minister, she turned her attention to the country’s decrepit airports and quickly commenced a lavish remodelling of 11.

It was a move that attracted huge applause from members of the public, who had become disenchanted with the shabbiness of such facilities. The airport rehabilitation exercise has since been hobbled by a shortage of funds and the applause has thinned out.

More worryingly, what is left of Oduah’s deposit of goodwill is experiencing rapid depletion on account of what she brands as a restructuring of the agencies under her ministry. This has put her under the headlights of public scrutiny. And the result has been less than flattering, as it contains a strong whiff of an ethnic agenda.

Oduah’s recent appointments in such agencies have provoked allegations of “ethnic cleansing”. At the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Oduah sacked eight General Managers, GMs. Six of them hail from the Southwest, while two are from the North.

Those affected by the weeding process are Solanke Gideon Akintunde, GM, Facilitation; Mrs. Ayeni Folashade Olufemi, acting GM, Internal Audit; Mr. Komolafe Samuel, GM, Commercial; Mr. Oyedepo Adeyemi Biodun, GM, Mechanical; Mr. Adefarasin Adeoye Emmanuel, GM Stores; Mr. Tanko Idris, GM, Management Services; Alhaji Maltala Iliyasu, GM, Finance; and Mr. Bello Olu Kayode, acting GM, Internal Audit. The minister also redeployed six senior staff– four GMs and two Regional Managers–and appointed 75 new staff in the agency. Forty of the new appointees are from the South-East. The minister hails from Anambra State.

At the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, the minister has appointed about 107 staff since August, with 12 percent of them from the North, 20 percent from the South-West and 68 percent from the South East. This works out at 73 slots for the minister’s geo-political zone. A creditable imitation of this trend was produced at the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, NCAT, Zaria, where Captain Adebayo Araba, rector of the college, was replaced by Captain Chinyere Kalu. Last year, the minister chucked Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Auyo as NAMA Managing Director. His replacement was Engineer Nnamdi Udoh. At the Nigerian Meterological Agency, NIMET, Dr. Anthony Anuforom, a South-Easterner, was re-appointed as Director-General.

Also last year, Engineer Sam Oduselu, Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, with Captain Muhtar Usman. Oduselu was relieved of his appointment seven months into his second term of office and no strong reason was offered. Oduselu’s sack, aviation stakeholders insist, was a violation of the Civil Aviation Act No. 6 of 2006.

AIB sources told TheNEWS that the agency, conceived to have a lean staff strength, currently has 45 people in its employ. But Oduah has already made about 50 additional appointments, most of them from the South-East.

“We understand that their appointments are already at an advanced stage. She is appointing between 45 and 50 new staff. She’s bringing these people without thinking about their salaries. She is choosing them mainly from the South-East where she comes from,” the source alleged. The appointments have irked stakeholders. Comrade Abdul Kareem Motajo, acting General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, accused the minister of destroying the industry with her bad policies.

“If you look at what is happening, the minister is sowing the seeds of a tribal agenda. At the audit department of FAAN, the General Manager has been sacked and an Igbo lady is coming to occupy the seat. Six other officers from the South-West have also been removed from that office in other to accommodate the new people that are coming in. Comrade Olayinka Abioye, Deputy General Secretary for the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, described the pattern of appointments made by Oduah as an indication that she is unfit for the job. “My take is that she is not only promoting ethnic agenda, but a destructive restructuring where mediocrities are imported to truncate or stunt careers of our qualified members,” he said

One of those appointed as GMs, said a source, “graduated just four years ago and has jumped ahead of people who have been working for over 20 years. For the next six months, he will be going for training at the expense of the agency. These are the things we are fighting against because they portend real danger to the industry and we are not going to allow that to happen,” said the source.

Comrade Odinaka Jude Igbokwe, NUATE’s Senior Organising Secretary, is of the view that Oduah started well and sustained the momentum for a while before the wheels came off. “She did some commendable things, including submitting all the concessions at FAAN to a review. But now, she is doing many terrible things, like appointing people to positions they do not deserve. She is bringing greenhorns to occupy positions that are meant for experienced people. To me that will lead to a total disruption in the industry. Many aviation professionals have no job and when you bring people from outside the industry, that is the worst thing you can do to the industry. The way she has taken off and going ahead is not going to help the industry,” he reckoned.

Igbokwe also accused the minister of opaqueness in the award of contracts.

“Look at what she calls remodelling of airports. FAAN, which owns the airports, does not know what she is doing. For the first time in my life, I see a government contract for which the name of the contractor is not known. We do not know the architect or what the contract is all about,” he said with barely concealed disgust.

Another anomaly that has sparked anger in the sector is the reappointment of Captain Henry Omegui as FAAN’s Director of Airport Operations. Omegui was said to have been indicted for a variety of corruption-related activities.

Apart from labour leaders, the minister’s actions and policies often get criticised by other stakeholders in the sector. They generally think her policies are not good. One of her staunchest critics is Captain Dele Ore, a veteran Nigerian pilot and President, Aviation Round Table. Ore alleged on 27 July that Oduah threatened to “deal with him” in a telephone conversation.

“At 11.13 a.m. today 27 July, 2012, the Honourable minister of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, called me from a number “08055024340” and showered unprintable insults on my person, threatening my life while promising to deal with me. This conversation lasted 3 minutes and 8 seconds, and she claimed that I have been writing rubbish, lies and fabrications about her in the media.”

Ore explained that he was not against the minister as a person but against her policies and management style, which threaten the sector. Specifically, Ore criticised the minister for the airport remodelling project she has embarked upon, saying it did not follow due process and that she was utilising funds meant for other purposes to execute it.

There was also bewilderment when Oduah cancelled the contract between FAAN and Maevis Nigeria Limited, its revenue generating concessionaire, at Lagos and Abuja airports. The cancellation was in disobedience of a presidential directive. Tunde Fagbemi, Maevis Managing Director, has insisted that his contract with FAAN was to last until 2017. Both parties are in court.

Oduah also drew the ire of Dr. Wale Babalakin when she began remodelling the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos in disobedience of a concession agreement between FAAN and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, builders and managers of the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2, MMA2. According the contract, all domestic airlines in Lagos should operate from MMA2. Oduah’s remodelling of the General Aviation Terminal is a direct hit on Babalakin, as Arik and other domestic airlines have been encouraged to give MMA 2 a wide berth.

At a press conference two weeks ago, NUATE and ATSSSAN identified ten areas in which they reckon that Oduah has failed. These, naturally, include the perceived lack of fairness in appointments.

The unions insisted that the new appointments have not followed due process and do not reflect federal character. “We have also observed that some unqualified elements are being decorated with the toga of General Managers without the prerequisite experience, expertise, skills and qualification as stipulated in the public service rules and or the subsisting conditions of service in the various agencies. To add insult to an already sore wound, the Minister of Aviation has approved that a graduate of four years, without any sense of public service duties, be made a General Manager,” the unions raged.

Another area of failure, according to the unions, could be noticed in Oduah’s creation of directorates, something she is said to have no power to do. “The minister does not have the authority and competence to create extra directorates without approval from the Office of the Head of Service. The new Directorate created in FAAN, for instance, is a breach of establishment laws and a contravention of the position of the Chief Executive of FAAN, who had once claimed that he does not require more than three hundred personnel at the FAAN headquarters even with six directorates, which are being indiscriminately increased to nine,” said the unions.

Oduah has also been accused of meddlesomeness in the day to day running of the agencies, which are allegedly run according to her own rules. “How else can one describe the ongoing remodelling of our airports without following due process; where contractors are unknown; where nobody knows the costs of such gigantic projects; whereby FAAN which is supposed to supervise and grant necessary approvals for work done is nowhere near the projects; and where NAMA, which has no business in the so called re-modelling, is involved in paying as much as over N200 million as custom duties for items for the remodeling of our airports?” the groups asked.

The groups reckon that their criticism of the minister has placed them firmly in her gunsights and she is itching to shoot. “The minister has begun the unholy process of collating and collecting names of union leaders at the branch and national levels for possible transfers, dismissals and or retrenchment,” they alleged.

Similarly slammed on Oduah is that accusation of failure to assist aviation agencies to collect their debts from airlines. “It is necessary to ask the minister what efforts she has made to effect the collection of outstanding indebtedness of her agencies such as FAAN, NAMA and others, which can barely pay staff salaries from airlines and or concessionaries, considering the precarious financial situation of agencies,” the unions said. They also wondered why FAAN and other agencies, which can barely pay staff salaries and promote staff or pay other statutory deductions, are being saddled with additional directorates created by the minister.

Before now, Oduah’s stay in office has hardly been plain sailing. After the initial flourish of the airport remodelling exercise, the aviation sector was hit by a series of problems, not exactly created by her. In May, the price of aviation fuel soared to N190 per litre, a development that strangulated domestic airlines. Of the nine airlines in business, three (Midwest, Chanchangi and Associated Airlines) gave up the ghost on account of huge debts. Those that survived–Arik Air, Aero Contractors, IRS Airlines, Overland Airways, Dana Air and Air Nigeria–kept gasping. Things grew worse. Currently, only four commercial airlines remain in the skies and most of them owe tonnes of debts to aviation agencies, foreign and local banks as well as the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON.

Last month, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, barred the top two airlines from receiving any additional loans over their massive outstanding debts. Arik Air, the nation’s top carrier owes AMCON more than $534 million, according to the CBN, while Aero Contractors, owes more than $203 million to the state-run company.

Ugo Okoroafor, a Central Bank spokesman, warned that any bank that goes against the CBN directive on the airlines would face serious sanctions.

Though he acknowledged the difficulties in the industry, he said the bank can no longer allow massive debts to pile up on the nation’s banks and threaten the financial market.

“Adverse consequences exist for people who take part in such unhealthy acts,” Okoroafor warned. In August, the scale of decay was further exposed in the report by an investigative panel, set up after the 3 June crash of a Dana Air plane, by the Ministry of Aviation.The panel concluded that the country’s aviation sector is in such a bad shape that only a state of emergency could prevent its total collapse.

Group Captain John Obakpolor (retd.), who headed the panel, said the sector would need at least N500billion to survive.

“At the end of its deliberations, the committee came up with 59 findings and 41 recommendations, in line with the terms of reference. The federal government should immediately declare an emergency in the aviation sector and commence implementation of the Aviation Safety Emergency Programme,” Obakpolor said.

He added that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, should ensure that airline operators are put under closer surveillance. “Maintenance actions carried out by operators, if not routine, should always be queried to establish what necessitated the maintenance action and ensure the continuous proper use of the technical logbook,” he said. The crash that provoked the probe attracted public anger to Oduah, who was accused of insensitivity when she restored the licence of the airline when the bodies its 163 victims were yet to be buried because of delay in the identification process.

There was also bewilderment when Oduah cancelled the contract between FAAN and Maevis Nigeria Limited, its revenue generating concessionaire at Lagos and Abuja airports. The cancellation was in disobedience of a presidential directive. Tunde Fagbemi, Maevis Managing Director has insisted that his contract with FAAN was to last until 2017. Both parties are in court. Oduah also drew the Dr. Wale Babalakin when she began remodeling the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos in disobedience of a concession agreement between FAAN and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, builders and managers of the Murtala Muhammed Airport2, MMA2. According the contract, all domestic airlines in Lagos should operate from MMA2.

But Joe Obi, Special Assistant (Media) to Oduah, argued that the minister should be commended rather than condemned for what she has done in the ministry and dismisses allegations that she is pursuing an ethnic agenda. “I think the minister needs to be commended. There was no lopsidedness in terms of Federal Character in the appointments. Those within the agencies who merited promotion but were unduly stagnated by previous administrations have been promoted,” he told TheNEWS.

Obi described the dissent of the unions as “the traditional resistance to change and nothing more”.



Source: PM News


  1. Prince Hubert

    October 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    She sacked 8 general managers you said? six of them from south west,two from the north,so why were there no south south/ south east people as managers? Ethnicity is everywhere, attempts should be made to balance things in the interest of national unity,not just in the aviation sector,but in other areas dominated by south westerners and northerners too, so the woman should not be demonised,her records so far is unbeatable.


      October 23, 2012 at 3:05 am


      • maacle

        October 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm

        The minister have the power and right to carry out all she have done. There is so much negative output in the Aviation industry for long and this have been traced to many yoruba men who sees the job as a tribal office. Look at how they cripled and destroyed nigerian airways without regard to national interest to the detriment of the populace. I wish this able Minister will be deployed to other Ministries esp the Works dept where you see almost 80% of Yorubas holding every job their as if its a tribal job with no regard to other ethnic group .

        • mister nigeria

          October 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm

          Love that woman stella. so pretty l could give her the job of a President. l give no iota on what she does. we need pretty women like that as Minister or Gov to bring pleasantness to governing nigeria. Ride on fine woman, they want your love and insult you for that, sack them all if you can, after all nigeria is a no mans land with too many immigrants called tribes who wants to kill each other for just jobs and money. all want to ride a private jet for themselves and tribe. after all this is democracy, whoever is on your way kick him out, nothing will happen, we cannot do without the money and jobs. well done ms odua, do your thing and dont mind all those tribal boys who only fought civil war to get all the jobs and money in nigeria.

  2. PenJudge St Mike

    October 23, 2012 at 5:35 am

    I wonder where the 8GMs got their experiences if not being employed in the first inst’nt. Sitting in office for over 20yrs without corresponding persons to repl’ce them spe’ks of sit-tightism. 8GMs with none frm SE/SS tells how some ministries n ‘gencies in this country ‘re exclusive preserve of some ethnic groups such th’t others ‘re considered intruders who must be stopped wh’tsovever.i e. CUSTOMS,NNPC n CBN. Com’nding positions occupied by one ethnic group or the other for over 20yrs now yet u did not see ‘nything wrong with it, yet u went on to libel her of ethnic cle’nsing. wh’t do u c’ll such report’ge if not wickedness. L’te Hubert Ogunde h’d e’rlier w’rned us to think before we run our mouth into irreversible control. So let us t’ke his ‘dvise n let her work. It’s ‘ll ’bout tr’nsform’tion ‘gend’ of Presido GEJ.

  3. Aviation'lover

    October 23, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Why would someone work I̶̲̥̅̊n̶̲̥̅̊ an organisation for 20 year and U̶̲̥̅̊ think U̶̲̥̅̊ can just come one day send them away and put Ÿ̲̣̣̣̥ø̲̣̣̥u̶̲̥̅̊я̲̅ own pple there. Not right she brought A̶̲̥̅ group of brainless pple who will bring down aviation system. F

  4. onyie

    October 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

    My dear,simply put…u don’t ve a story if not u would ve pointed out other ministries where d north nd southwest play politics with FG offices.m how come u didn’t include d south south or re ey part of dis country.oh because it affected d north nd southwest dats why u re putting up dis story.arrant nonsense! Una never ready 4 peace nd unity in dis country sef

  5. Joe

    October 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Others have done their own lopsided appointment in the past;the Union didn’t shout,the people didn’t cry.What is so different this time around.Lets keep our fingers crossed for results:that is the crux of the matter.Period!

  6. ceaseroji

    November 6, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Whoever wrote this story has achieved nothing but exposing his ignorance and showing how much he hates the igbo race and nigeria in general. For twenty years,someone has been a director? In that twenty years,nigeria has witnessed the highest number of plane crash. The problem the aviation sector is having today started from that twenty years. Mrs stella odua has bn doing very well since she came in there. When there was series of plane crashes,I wonder where this idiot that wote story was hiding. What have the directors achieved in that twenty years. Of all the eight directors u mentioned, none was from igbo but only yoruba(6) and hausa(2) and u are shouting federal character. So, u people know abt federal character- Rubbish! May God punish u this useless journalist. That money they paid u to write this story wil soon ruin u. Mrs Odua, please ride on. Bi-courtney and Marvis all owned by yoruba men-Haba, federal character where were u all these years? Mrs Odua,abeg no mind them. Continue with d excellent work!

  7. Joe

    November 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    The saying goes that,”no matter how long the he-goat frowns its face,the owner must sell it in the market”.Princess,in the interest of peace and progress of Nigeria and salvaging of the Aviation ministry from the shackles of sabotuers in the garb of managers do whatever that will re-write the history of the industry irrespective of those so called paper tigers.

  8. Ikenna

    November 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Poor and rather lacklustre journalism…just wasted my precious 20 minutes.