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Nigeria: Odili Denies Boosting Aviation Fund With Two Billion Naira

Posted by Jimitota Onoyume on 2008/07/04 | Views: 2548 |

Nigeria: Odili Denies Boosting Aviation Fund With Two Billion Naira


FORMER Governor Peter Odili has said it is not true that he released a loan of two billion Naira for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt International Airport to further his chances in the last presidential primaries of the PDP in the state.

FORMER Governor Peter Odili has said it is not true that he released a loan of two billion Naira for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt International Airport to further his chances in the last presidential primaries of the PDP in the state.

His spokesman, Mr Emma Okah in a statement said: "The attention of Dr. Peter Odili, former Governor of Rivers State has been drawn to some unfortunate newspaper reports Wednesday 2nd July, 2008 alleging that Dr. Peter Odili caused the loan of N2b (two billion Naira) to be given to the Federal Ministry of Aviation, (and by extension the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN,) to further his presidential ambition.


Those reports were quoting the testimony of one Mr Mohammed Yusuf, former Managing Director of FAAN at the on-going Senate investigation into the management of the Aviation Intervention Fund in Nigeria.

"Given the deliberate falsehood and grave distortions of facts contained in those reports arising from the said testimony and indeed for the avoidance of all doubts, it has become more compelling to put the facts of the loan straight for public scrutiny and judgment.

Our reactions are as follows: "Following the sudden closure of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in 2006, all international and local flights were disrupted, causing a lot of inconveniences to passengers and to those whose earnings were from activities at and around the Omagwa International Airport.

This situation dislocated and inflicted heavy losses on the economy of the state, companies and individuals, given the fact that it was and still is, the only airport hosting international flights in the entire South-South and South-East Geo-Political Zones of Nigeria.

"When it became obvious that the Federal Ministry of Aviation was not in a financial position to begin the supposed repair works on time and given the bottlenecks that were attending the release of funds at that time, the Rivers State Government Executive Council passed a resolution granting a soft loan to the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Aviation to enable immediate commencement of works at the airport.

"This repayable facility was only intended to bridge the gap and save time. The negotiations with contractors, and indeed the schedule of disbursements were not the purview of the State Government and were exclusively done by Federal Ministry of Aviation/FAAN .

At that time, series of meet ings were held both in Abuja and Lagos between the then Aviation Minister Professor Babalola Borishade and officials of Aviation Ministry on one hand and the then Governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili and Officials of the State Government on the other wherein the position of the N2, 000, 000, 000.00 repayable loan facility was fully settled.

Although the Rivers State Government was not part of the negotiation between the federal Government and the contractor, a special account was opened at the Zenith Bank Plc to disburse the N2b loan to Federal Ministry of Transport/FAAN.

In granting the loan, the Rivers State Government under Dr Peter Odili was motivated by patriotism, the pathetic and harrowing plight of passengers, who were subjected to armed robbery attacks, accidents, time wastage, general uncertainty of the trips from both the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport Owerri and the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu to Port Harcourt and the necessity to do good without drawing lines.

It is therefore extremely sad for anybody to impute any other motive than good governance and overriding public interest. Since there was (and still is) an alternative airport facility at the Nigeria Air Force Base (NAF Base) in Port Harcourt, it is not correct to say that the N2b loan was granted to Fed Min of Aviation/FAAN to facilitate the Presidential ambition of Dr Peter Odili because Dr Odili, members of the PDP and all indeed other political parties, and most importantly, the general public, used the NAF Base throughout the over one year period of closure of the Omagwa International Airport.

In Nigeria, airports are not built for presidential aspirants but for the general public. Instructively, the Rivers State Government rebuilt the runway of the Nigeria Airforce Base, installed runway lights and Navigational Aids at the Airforce Base, while the Omagwa International Airport was still closed.

It was after this rehabilitation that the NAF Base was opened to the public for alternative use.

Contrary to whatever impression that might have been created by Mr Yusuf"s submission, not one chattered flight or any Rivers State Government Executive flights landed at Omagwa International Airport for the period of closure.

It is common knowledge today that the Nigeria Airforce Base Port Harcourt, as rehabilitated by the Rivers State Government, was and is still used by various official, private and commercial aircrafts before the international airport was reopened this year.

These include the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Virgin Nigeria, Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Caverton Helicopters etc.

Even after the release of the loan by the Rivers State Government, it took over One year for the airport to be re-opened. Questions as to why are matters for the Senate Committee to unravel.

Finally and most importantly, the said N2b loan and all rights thereto belong to Rivers State Government and people and must be treated as such.

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