President Goodluck Jonathan has moved against certain associates of the former minister of aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, in order to sanitise the sector that is said have become an unguarded pot of honey.
The president's hammer yesterday fell on the managing director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, George Uriesi; the managing director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Nnamdi Udoh; the director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency, NCAA, Fola Akinkuotu; and the rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT, Mrs Chinyere Kalu.
According to a statement by Sam Nwaobasi, special assistant (media) to the secretary to the government of the federation, their successors have all been named.
Under the new arrangement, Engr. Saleh Dumona (director, projects) replaces Mr George Uriesi as managing director of FAAN while Engr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam (general manager, procurements) is replacing Engr. Nnamdi Udoh as managing director of the NAMA.
Also, Capt. Samuel Akinyele Caulcrick (government safety inspector & ICAO focal point for Nigeria Online Aircraft Safety Information Systems, OASIS) is to replace Capt. (Mrs) Chinyere Kalu as rector of the NCAT. Capt. Muhktar Usman (commissioner, Accident Investigation & Prevention Bureau, AIPB) is to replace Capt. Fola C. Akinkuotu as director-general of the NCAA, subject to confirmation by the Senate. Engr. Benedict Adeyileka is to act as DG, NCAA, pending the confirmation by the Senate.
Dr Engr. Felix A. Abali (director, licensing, NCAA) is replacing Capt. Muhktar Usman as commissioner, AIPB. But Dr Tony Anuforo retained his position as director-general of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET).
But a presidency source confided in LEADERSHIP last night that the removal of the affected aviation chiefs is part of the recommendations made by the three-man panel set up by Jonathan to look into the purchase of the N255m bulletproof cars. The panel members were the former head of service of the federation, Alhaji Sali Bello (chairman), Air Vice Marshal Dick Iruenebhere and the national security adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).
The source said, "Their removal has to do with their roles in the administration of Stella Oduah. The panel set up by the president to probe the purchase of those bulletproof cars had in its recommendations asked for their removal as they were indicted for being cronies of the ex-minister, which did not allow the check and balance in the system. All those agencies were being run from Abuja while Oduah was in office."
Speaking further, our source disclosed that since Oduah left the office "so many revelations have been made and, in order to sanitise the place, all those who collaborated with her must give way".
Aviation stakeholders react
Industry stakeholders yesterday reacted to the removal of aviation chiefs at once, stating it might be a good thing to move the industry forward and remove all sentiments that has to do with Oduah.
Former national president, Nigerian Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Engr. Ayuba Kyari, said the removal of the aviation agencies came as a surprise, especially the removal of Akinkuoto because the position of DG comes with a five-year tenure attached to it. "Maybe government wants to remove all strings attached to the tenure of Oduah . It came to me as a surprise, especially the removal of the DG of NCAA . He has not spent up to one year in office and the position comes with a tenure to it. One doesn't know the thinking of government. Apart from that, I will say the decision to remove them is OK in order to move the industry forward and detach all sentiments that has to do with the former minister of aviation," he said.
Comrade Olayinka Abioye, assistant general secretary, Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), said it has become a norm in the industry for new aviation ministers to remove aviation chiefs to make way for their own choice, but stated that this was an aberration because the individual at the helm of affairs in aviation is just supervising the industry and as such he should have waited until a substantive one is appointed.
"What if he is not confirmed as aviation minister? Does it mean the one who is appointed would remove all the aviation chiefs and appoint a new set of individuals?" he asked
He further said, "Let's accept what has happened and hope and look forward to new and better things ahead."