By Chinedu Eze
Apart from the five new terminals being built in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Abuja and Enugu, which have concession arrangement and where construction is still ongoing, work had stopped on the other projects across the country.
THISDAY learnt that though there is enough money earmarked for the completion of all the projects, the permanent secretary, Dr Jamila Shu’ara, who is the accounting officer for the Ministry of Aviation is allegedly sitting on the funds.
Shu’ara is also being accused of redeploying all the directors who are monitoring the projects for the ministry.
Industry observers are saying that what is happening now is a confirmation of the fear of many Nigerians that these huge projects would not be completed by government.
Informed source said that the permanent secretary is also questioning the projects being built in Akure, Ibadan, Asaba, Enugu and Jos, saying that they were not priority projects.
A source told THISDAY: “The money to complete these projects is there but they have refused to release it to contractors. The permanent secretary, who is the accounting officer has refused to pay the contractors.
“It is the refusal to pay these contractors that is holding back the completion of the expansion project at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. Work should have been completed there by now and new chillers installed to stem the heat being experienced at the airport.”
The source said that the danger of not paying the contractors is that the target date for the completion of the projects would not be met, adding that it is major development programme of the present administration which ought to be completed by the end of this year.
In addition to the rehabilitation and restructuring of airport terminals across the country, government is building 14 new perishable terminal for harnessing and export of farm produce from different parts of the country. Work has since commenced in projects located in Lagos, Kano, Yola, Akure, Asaba, Markurdi, Owerri and others.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Ori Okojokwu denied that Dr Shu’ara is holding back the funds.
“That allegation is very unkind. It is not true. Although I am not the spokesman of the ministry but I am telling you that it is not true. Somebody is being mischievous somewhere. That is just the truth,” Okojokwu said.
While Nigerians are happy of the transformation projects at the nation’s airports, many are sceptical that they would not be completed, especially as the minister who started it is no more there, fearing it would take the old trend where a newly appointed top government official abandons projects started by his or her predecessor.
But the Supervising Minister of Aviation, Dr Samuel Ortom in a recent interview promised that the projects would be completed because their completion would improve the viability of the aviation sector.
“The aviation road map as you are aware is a comprehensive blue print on how to transform the Nigerian aviation industry into a modern, viable, profitable and sustainable one.
“The roadmap gave birth to the upgrade of all 22 federal airports, building of five brand new modern international terminals to be located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. Works on the terminals have started and would be completed by 2015,” Ortom said.