- *Allegedly sponsors aviation unions to resist compliance
- * “NRC MD can’t walk, not fit for work”- PRO
By Nkem Osuagwu & Oyeniyi Iwakun
Three months after the Federal Ministry of Transportation gave the directive for five percent Passenger Service Charge (PSC) to be paid to the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the controversy continues to brew as FAAN is yet to remit any money to AIB from the revenue it collects as the PSC, which is N1,000 charge per passenger collected by FAAN and usually cross-checked to ensure compliance at the point of boarding at the airports.
The Public Relations Manager at AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, who confirmed to our correspondent that FAAN has not remitted anything so far to AIB; also said he was hopeful that the directive would be implemented.
Meanwhile, the hope of using the railway system as the flagship project in the transport sector by the President Mohammed Buhari- led administration may be dashed soon with the leadership of the present management of the Nigerian Railway Corporation(NRC) led by the Managing Director, Mr. Fidet Edetanien Okhiria as a result of physical incapacitation and unions’ opposition.
However, the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had in June directed FAAN to make a monthly remittance of five percent of the revenue accruing from PSC to AIB as a means of boosting the latter’s revenue drive to help prevent the incidence of plane crash in the nation’s airspace.
The directive has been a subject of controversy, pitting aviation unions against the Minister of Aviation, even as some of them have argued that the directive should be subject to the approval of the Nigeria’s National Assembly through an act of parliament, suggesting that presidential and ministerial executive orders are not potent and should not be obeyed without a legislative backing.
The Commissioner of the AIB, Akin Olateru, had argued that the agency needed to complete some projects and build human capacity, hence its request to Sirika for 10 percent from the PSC. The Minister, however, approved 5 per cent, which the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), FAAN branch, have opposed describing it as an act of impunity on the part of the Minister.
It is believed that AIB will be making about N4.2 billion annually from the PSC beside the annual N2 billion federal allocations as well as the monthly 3 per cent of the revenue accruing from ticket sales charge which AIB receives from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Those opposing the directive believe that the amount generated by FAAN through the PSC is inadequate for the agency, which was said to be finding it difficult to provide its services efficiently as expected by the passengers, even as they argued that there are many ways through which the minister could get funding for AIB without tampering with what is due to FAAN.
Mr. James Odaudu, media aid to the Aviation Minister, who spoke with our correspondent on what the ministry is doing to resolve the conflict said the ministry was consulting the aggrieved unions and managements of the aviation agencies to ensure that the issue is resolved.
However, he could not give a time frame for the resolution of the matter, adding that it depends on the outcome of the discussions with the parties involved.
Contacted, the Corporate Communications Manager of FAAN, Harrietta Yakubu, stated via text message thus: “Oh sorry, in a meeting. I don’t have any comment please.”
In another development, the Public Relations Officer of NRC, Mr. Mahmoud Yakubu, who disclosed that visitors were no longer allowed to see the Managing Director who was appointed in November, 2016 because of his incapacitation, also denied the media access to him when asked to comment on the ongoing railway revitalization project.
“You see, nobody will talk to you on any issue, not even the MD. There are so many people that want to see the MD but I tell them that the MD is officially not on seat because the man has problems with his legs and cannot walk. If I tell people the real problems now, they might not understand. At least, you have gone round the facilities, just go and write whatever you see” Mr. Mahmoud said.
Meanwhile, the chairman Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani and his counterpart in the Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa during a joint oversight visit to the NRC have reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian Senate to assisting the Executive arm of the government in the actualization of every developmental project within their purview, the railway inclusive.
Senator Ashafa said the visit was to assist the Committee assess the project implementation plan for the recently approved loan request by the Federal Government from China EXIM Bank.
“This is in line with our constitutional responsibility to carry out periodic oversight functions to the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies under the supervision of the joint committee. It is our hope that the contractors on this project, (China Civil Engineering Construction Company CCCECC) would keep to the terms and deliver this project.
On his part, Senator Sani said the visit was one step in the fulfillment of the mandate and public trust the Senate owe Nigerians. While applauding the warm reception accorded the Committee by NRC, he opined that, if government could continue to monitor how funds borrowed on behalf of the people are spent, then Nigeria would be more developed.
“If successive borrowings at the federal and state levels, in the past, had been duly scrutinized and monitored; perhaps our nation would have fared far better than it is at the moment.
“I wish to request, on behalf of the two committees, that the Federal Ministry of Transportation submit to the secretariats of the two committees, detailed work plan for this rail project, with feasible timelines for actualizing the different stages of the work. This will be the basis upon which subsequent oversight visits will be made to monitor the progress of work being done”. Senator Sani said.
The two committees however expressed optimism in the economic benefits of the project as they called on CCECC to maximize local content in the area of raw materials and labour force.