Kano — Aviation Minister Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah has said that her 16 months tenure as Minister of Aviation is rather a rescue mission of the aviation industry with the airports in the North benefiting more rather than executing an ethnic agenda as is being canvassed by a section of Nigerians.
Oduah who was apparently responding to public criticism that her tenure as aviation minister has favoured the transformation and development of airports located in the southern part of Nigeria over those in the North, said in her effort to transform all the airports in the country to modern ones, those in Kano and Kaduna benefitted more because she found them in dilapidated conditions than others.
Speaking through her Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Joe Obi, shortly after visiting the airports and Hajj camps in Kano and Kaduna accompanied by journalists, he said, "on assumption of office in July of 2011, Oduah rolled up her sleeves and hit the road, hopping from one airport to another to see for herself the extent of the legendary rot in the sector.
"From Abuja to Lagos, Kano to Calabar, Ilorin to Port Harcourt, Yola to Enugu, the experience was humbling and more than enough to make any man's broad shoulders drop in resignation.
"The infrastructural rot and decay from one airport to another was overwhelming, a stark testimony to decades of criminal neglect by the very people who had been saddled with the responsibility of care for the public facilities. But rather than throw up her arms in self-pity, Oduah's resolve to positively change the landscape of the aviation industry in Nigeria became more urgent, profound and unbending," he said.
He said during the inspection/facility tour of the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano, the minister and members of her entourage could hardly stand the sight and stench oozing out of the Hajj terminal.
"As everyone hurried out of the facility, the minister wondered aloud how Nigerians, fellow citizens, our Muslim brothers and sisters could be made to suffer such indignity for days and weeks on end waiting at such inhumane conditions before being airlifted to Saudi Arabia to perform the Holy pilgrimage. Yet, we expect these same pilgrims, after enduring this hellish conditions to pray for us and our nation while out there. This is inhuman and unacceptable," he said.
Mr. Obi said after the maiden tour of the minister to the airports, the first contract that she awarded was the rehabilitation of the Kaduna and Kano Hajj terminals and she ensured that they were the first projects that were completed and commissioned by her.
He said the rehabilitation work at the Sokoto Hajj terminal has commenced and is billed for commissioning sometime next year.
When asked to account for the multiple foreign loans collected by the ministry for remodeling, equipping and development of airports in the country, Mr. Obi said the first loan obtained by the Yar'adua/Jonathan administration is being used for the remodeling and equipping of the nation's airports, including the other six at Port Harcourt, Enugu, Calabar and Murtala Mohammed International airports, as well as the Benin and Owerri airports.
He said the concessionary loan facility collected from the Chinese EXIM bank is used for the second phase of the reconstruction and remodeling programme which took off recently in the remaining 11 federally-owned airports across the country in addition to the five new international terminals to be built in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Enugu and Calabar from early next year.
"We are also not talking about 11 cargo/perishable terminals, about six of which will be sited at airports in the North," he said.
When asked to comment on the alleged diversion of a cargo terminal meant for north-east region to Asaba in Delta State, Obi said it was not true.
"Nothing can be further from the truth as all originally designated cargo terminals, including those to be sited in the North remain where they are. The second, yet unfounded allegation was that the minister refused some foreign airlines landing rights into the Abuja and Kano International airports. The airlines in question are Emirates, Etihad, Turkish and Asky airlines," he said.