Oduah’s Botched Jamboree

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The intended foreign investment roadshow by the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, is, to say the least, misguided, unwarranted and a clear demonstration that little by little, another key sector in Nigeria is being dragged into the abyss.

The minister recently announced that she will be embarking on an expensive foreign investment roadshow in China, the United States and Canada, along with senators, House of Representatives members, businessmen, journalists and a number of aides.

The foreign jamboree in north America and Asia, to be sponsored fully by the beleaguered aviation ministry, is to last many days and cost millions of naira to Nigerian taxpayers.

According to the minister, foreign investors in these two continents are ignorant about the golden opportunities in the Nigerian aviation sector and need to be courted in their home countries to ship their hard currencies and technological gadgets to Nigeria.

Oduah also claims that because she will be studying airspace policies in these continents and will be on the look out for new areas of investment, she would need a strong delegation to accompany her.

To assume that foreign investors do not know the opportunities that exist in our aviation sector is either crass ignorance or a deliberate attempt by the minister and her advisers to waste our already meagre resources  on another worthless trip.

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It is sad and preposterous that while world governments try desperately to turn their trash into treasure by making life better for their people, in Nigeria, government officials seem bent on turning our God given treasures into trash by making life even harder for the people they are meant to serve.

It is refreshing to know that the Senate, the House of Representatives and opposition parties as well as human rights groups have kicked against the minister’s planned wastage of funds, with most of them describing the trip as a jamboree.

While the minister looked forward to clicking glasses of champagne at expensive hotel rooms and conference halls in Washington, Beijing and Ottawa, during the botched trip, she forgot that behind the gloss, the bright lights and the smiles abroad, in Nigeria, local investors like Maevis Nigeria Limited or Bi-Courtney Aviation Services were illegally driven out of the airport, or frustrated or crippled by her.

Richard Branson, the owner of the Virgin brand who pulled his investments out of Nigeria and who recently told foreign investors that Nigeria, with gargantuan corruption, is one of the worst places in the world to do business, especially in the aviation sector, may also see the minister’s fruitless journey as a joke.

The lack of clear guidelines on what happens to an airline such as Dana Air after a plane crash, remains a source of concern to foreign investors. The illegal termination of contracts and the opaqueness that surrounds the award of contracts in Nigeria is also scaring investors away. For instance, the minister has failed to disclose the names of the contractors remodelling some Nigerian airports at the moment and has not said how much it would cost the taxpayers or why is the perception that the material used in building the General Aviation Terminal in Lagos and other airports, is substandard, not abating.

With such confusion, lack of transparency, harsh business climate in the aviation sector coupled with our depleted infrastructure and the constant illegal termination of contracts, of what use is the minister’s trip abroad when everything at home seems to be in disarray? We believe that as long as we do not get it right at home, even a minister’s trip to heaven will not bring investors and their money to a hellish environment. We call on the minister who appears to be incompetent in handling a sensitive sector such as aviation, to cancel her trip and focus on making our skies safer, our terminal buildings and airports better and contractual agreements binding.