N27 Billion Covid19 Aviation Palliative: Another Scandal Imminent
Tongues are wagging and stakeholders are asking questions on the remains of the N27 billion support for Nigeria’s aviation sector announced by the federal government few months ago, following the impact of covid19 pandemic on the sector. Another scandal may be emerging in the sector after the N19billion Aviation Intervention Fund scandal that rocked the industry about a decade ago.
Under the current administration that has Senator Hadi Sirika as Minister of Aviation, only N5 billion has been released by the Federal Ministry of Aviation thus far. Where is the other N22 billion? Aero Contractors, West Link, TAL Helicopters and a few others are yet to receive their own share of the initial N5 billion.
“I am not aware of this at all, but what I can say is that everything seems to be shrouded in secrecy. Nobody knows anything. I know government has given us money and I heard some people have not received. I know other colleagues who have not equally.
It is obvious the ministry just handpicked those they wanted and those they don’t want to give. It appears that we are less in number that didn’t receive. It is obvious a few of us were targeted. Whatever reason, I don’t know. Nobody has called me why I have not received and when I will receive it,” says Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia of West Link Aviation.
Engr. Femi Adeniji of Tropical Arctic Logistics (TAL) Helicopter Company even has a more interesting story to tell.
“I have tried. I have called the Federal Ministry of Aviation. I have four helicopters that I am operating. They asked us to send account numbers, which we did. Even up to last Friday, I still called them to find out what is going on. Unfortunately, I was in the US when my company’s name was published as among those who will receive the palliative, but we have not gotten anything up until now. They said they were going to give it to us. Salaries are still being owed. Staff are complaining. If they say they are going to give us, let them give us. They should not put it in the newspapers and nothing happens thereafter. I understand they got N25 billion from the government and they are giving us N5 billion. Even at that, why give some airlines and not give the others?” asked Adeniji.
Players also believe that the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Aviation that approved the disbursement equally have questions to answer considering the critical nature of the funds and issue in question.
Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd) identified areas of the sector that need urgent funds attention including runway lightings at airports.
“There are security issues around most airports perimeter fences that we have not been able to enhance their security in the event of any incursions or invasion especially now that bandits are said to be everywhere. There is the ATCs communication to be addressed. So are the periodic maintenance of the navigation aids, radar and others. Quite a lot has to be done on the new airports terminal buildings, but the revenues are not coming because of the Covid-19 lockdown. The revenues are not coming because there are no flights and government aviation staff can not earn salaries.
If the airlines are getting palliatives to revamp their operations and pay salaries, we should expect same for the government agencies too for their equipment and staff” he said.
The Minister had said that a new national carrier would benefit from the fund. Ojikutu says there is need to explain how much would be given to the six aviation agencies and the national carrier.
The national carrier project was suspended in 2018 after a very controversial launch in Europe involving logo of the imagined airline, gulping expenses that ran into millions of naira.