The Minister of Transportation, Mr. RotimiAmaechi, while addressing the press in Lagos disclosed that the Federal Government will continue and complete remodelling projects started by Princess Stella Oduah, former Minister of Aviation.
“The Ministry of Transportation, in collaboration with relevant parastatals and agencies, has drawn up short term plans that are currently being implemented of which the travelling public will take notice of the improvement in the not distant future. These plans include the expeditious completion of on-going airports remodeling projects at Lagos, Abuja,Kano and Port-Harcourt and the decongestion of airport access road, among several others,” he said.
The Airport remodelling programme drew ire of many aviation watchers. It was perceived as a white elephant project, and also as avenue to fritter away public funds to private pockets.
According to them, runway lightings, navigational equipment and access roads in some airports should have been in the front burner instead of airports remodeling. In our view the programme in its entirety cannot be said to be totally bad. What captured our attention in Amaechi’s address is the willingness of the Buhari’s administration to continue with the programme.
What has been our experience in this country is the array of abandoned projects that dot the landscape due to the inability or outright refusal of successive administrations to continue with uncompleted projects it met on ground. This phenomenon has been a major factor slowingdowndevelopment. The tendency is for every new government to have new plans without bothering to examine what is on ground. All the airports built at the same time with the four major ones in Nigeria have since taken new shapes. For example the Schipoll Airport in Amsterdam which Murtala Muhammed Airport is modeled after has since been redesigned to meet new challenges posed by development over the years.
Emphasis of the project is on commercial where the airport terminal buildings and their vicinities are turned into shopping malls. If previous administrations had taken the pain to study the situation on ground before coming up with new ideas, stories of development in the sector maybe different. Their new ideas could be in tandem with previous ones. Removing Ministers that are not performing up to expectations is in order but to jettison all the projects even when there are glaring ones that can accelerate growth started by those before them is a recipe for stagnation. Often time reasons adduced for the discontinuation of previous projects are flimsy. Our views should not be misconstrued as supporting projects that are myopically thought out.
It is gladdening to see gradual departure from the era where it was fashionable to pour mud on all the projects of a previous regime with a subterranean motive of scoring cheap political point and also to logically substantiate their logic of paving the way for their cronies to come in.
Valuable time and money are lost in a bid to discredit initiators of previous programmes.While all these are going on, it is the country that is at a loss. Foreigners take advantage of the situation to exploit Nigeria. Many investors are weary of investing in the sector because of inconsistency in policies occasioned by frequent changes.
The immediate past Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited,(SAHCOL) Dr. OluOwolabi throws his weight behind the Buhari administration to continue with the remodeling project.
His words:”I think it is wise for him to continue. If you discontinue with what you have on ground, you must have lost millions, even trillions.
But what he should begin to look at now is infrastructural aspect that was not there. Whatever happens, I give kudos to the woman(Stella Oduah, former Minister of Aviation) for opening our airports that were never opened for 30 to 35 years. You remember very well everybody was criticising her, I was the only one that was insisting that, Madam, you are doing well but there were no infrastructural facilities that were meant to be in place. When you have dilapidated stairways, dilapidated lifts,dilapidated baggage conveyor belts that are not working but the walls are beautiful. I insisted then that there was need to put in place certain infrastructural facilities that make airports functional. For instance, the airconditioners,the lighting and everything needed to be looked into. I was saying then that all faulty facilities needed to be changed. I said it at that time. I am repeating it now.
While I gave kudos to her for opening our airports, I am not happy about what was done regarding the infrastructural aspect of it that is what gave the whole exercise negative publicity, otherwise she could have got kudos all through. I am not talking about financial aspect of it or whatever it is. I am bold to say that she had done well and even better than some minister that came to office and did nothing. Whatever must have happened I terms of the monetary aspect of it,I do not know anything about it.I am a professional and I am looking at the whole thing from the professional view point.”
Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Aba Ocheme, General Secretary National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers(NAAPE), said “the issue regarding remodeling, as you speak, we do not know in clear terms, the airports facilities, the structure cost implication. Making comment about it is a hard task because the whole process of the remodeling is shrouded in secrecy.”
“However, it is desirable to have modern airports. Modern, here connotes aesthetics and facilities as found in the advanced world.And,again facilities here mean both at the airside. In other words comfort and ease inside the airports and navigational aids. We have been talking about perimeter fencing, having many runways. As to whether to continue with the remodeling as originally conceived is difficult to comment on as there is no wisdom shooting in the dark.”
Mr. Benjamin Okewu, President Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria(ATSSSAN) notes that “we have no other option. We must go on with the government. If the projects are abandoned they will become dens for criminals. Airport is the first point of call by foreigners coming into the country. If airports projects are abandoned, it may give foreigners the impression that, that is what Nigeria looks like. Government is a continuum all over the world. We have left the realm of abandoned projects.”