2nd June, 2014
Revelations last week that the Ministry of Aviation, under Stella Oduah, accumulated a hefty debt of about N174 billion within three years and as a result, projects embarked upon cannot be completed while many others have now been suspended is, to say the least, scandalous and another demonstration that corruption under President Goodluck Jonathan has metastasized.
Because of the huge debts, contractors can no longer be paid and newly approved contracts can no longer go ahead, Samuel Ortom, supervising Minister of Aviation told the Senate Committee on Aviation last week.
Ortom said the billions were accumulated within three years while Oduah was Minister of Aviation and the paucity of funds makes it impossible to proceed with the construction at many Nigerian airports.
He explained that some loans obtained for the construction of four cargo terminals in the country had accrued interests amounting to billions of naira. He said it was in the best interest of Nigeria to settle the debt and review some contracts.
In clear and plain language, Nigeria must now pay billions of naira for contracts that were either never done or completed.
Oduah became minister of aviation in 2011 and was sacked in February this year, following revelations that she approved the purchase of two BMW bullet proof cars at the hefty sum of N255 million without approval. As a minister, Oduah’s approval limit was N100 million.
Before she was sacked, Oduah had embarked on many projects; including the so-called remodelling of 11 Nigerian airports under airport cities she named aerotropolis. She went on a borrowing spree, sometimes without the approval by the National Assembly or even the Federal Executive Council.
Now that she is gone, the latest revelations show that she left behind not just uncompleted projects but huge debts that will have to be offset by the Nigerian Federal Government and Nigerian tax-payers.
The National Assembly says it was kept in the dark and has now opened an investigation. We agree with them that a thorough public investigation should be carried out. We also believe that the first step would be to invite Stella Oduah and all those involved in the transaction to account for the incomprehensible huge debts. The matter should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, should also immediately open a parallel criminal investigation into the missing money. The agency does not need to wait for permission from the president to do their job.