17th May, 2012
Few internal memos explain better why infrastructure has remained squalid at Nigeria’s airports. The one written on 28 May 2009 by the Chief Internal Auditor of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, succinctly drives home this point. The memo, with reference FAAN/HQ/Aud/01/09/Vol.2 and sent to the Acting General Manager of the Audit Department of FAAN details how FAAN budgeted and the Ministry of Aviation paid N228 million to repair three generators at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja when it would have cost the country only N166.5 million to acquire three brand new generators of the same capacity.
The memo reads in part: “N228 million cost of repair of the generators is above Ministerial approval level. Due process certificate is not attached. Letter of award is not attached to the file. Paying N228 million before the job is done implies that we are paying hundred percent advance payment. This is against all known financial rules. The quotation we obtained from John Holt Engineering shows that Lister or Perkings of same capacity brand new will costs N55.5 million, while average cost of repair as per Julius Berger bill is N67 million per generator set. With all these observations if you still want us to treat the file, please direct further.”
It is not clear what action was taken by Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun who was Managing Director of FAAN when the memo was written or whether the money was recovered by the Minister of Aviation at the time, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze.
However, even after that corrupt transaction, the Abuja airport is still plagued by constant power cuts and the Lagos airport is frequently thrown into darkness by power outage that also disrupts activities there for hours.
On Monday, at least 50 people were trapped in lifts at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos when all the generators at the country’s gateway could not function after a power cut by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. Many people were left gasping for breath during the 45-minute ordeal that the darkness lasted. Most of the victims were thankful to still be alive after the horrendous experience.
The misappropriation of funds and corruption in the aviation sector seem to explain why infrastructure has remained parlous at our airports. Every year, funds are allocated for repair or upgrade of the country’s infrastructure but this rarely translates to better runways, terminal buildings or air field lights at the country’s airports. Aviation chiefs seem more pre-occupied with how much money they can make for themselves rather than turning the fortunes of the sector around.
The controversial eviction of Maevis Nigeria Limited by FAAN after the former deployed world class infrastructure at the country’s airports is an indication of how insensitive our aviation chiefs are to the plight travellers.
After embezzling money meant for infrastructure development, aviation chiefs stand on the way of private companies that try to salvage the sector. Corruption and misappropriation of funds in the aviation sector must stop. Funds allocated to the sector must be used to develop the dilapidated infrastructure at the country’s airports and past and present corrupt officials in the sector must be prosecuted and jailed. For this to happen, we call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to beam its searchlight on the aviation sector to bring about sanity there.