By Chuks Okoh
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has denied the allegation that the United Arab Emirates-based airline, Emirates, has not been operating from Abuja because some key people in government have not been bribed.
FAAN spokesman, Mr. Yakubu Dati stated this in Lagos while reacting to a statement credited to the former Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NCAA),Mr. Tony Iredia that he (Iredia) was informed by an official source that the airline could not fly from Abuja to Dubai until Nigerian officials are “seen” a euphemism
Dati said since Iredia was relying on an unofficial source, the veracity of the information “is doubtful as it cannot be confirmed.”
“One can say categorically that the issue of ‘seeing’ aviation officials, in which bribes are supposedly collected in exchange for routes, is totally absurd,” he said.
He explained that international routes are subject to bilateral agreements signed at ministerial level adding that routes operated by commercial airlines are usually determined by economic factors rather than political considerations or sentiments.
“If the Abuja to Addis Ababa route, for instance, is not profitable for the airline, it would not do it. It certainly has nothing to do with greasing the palm of anybody,” he noted.
Dati stated that the aviation reform initiated by the erstwhile minister of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah “is a plus to the impact that the idea of transforming the Nigerian sector has made on the Nigerian society.”
“There is confirmation that there was/is still a need to transform Nigerian aviation in order to move it forward and compete favourably with other countries,” he said.
Dati recalled that in the past three years the ministry of aviation did a lot to open new international routes for Nigerian aviation pointing out that in 2013, the ministry successfully negotiated and signed bilateral air service agreement with the State of Israel thereby ending several decades of lack of direct flights between Nigeria and Israel.
He also said the federal government had granted approval to the Jordanian Airlines to fly direct between Lagos and the Jordanian capital, Amman.
“Nigerian aviation authorities also recorded the first direct international flight from the south-east when President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned an expanded and remodelled Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. On that occasion, an Ethiopian Airlines commercial aircraft undertook direct flight from Enugu to Addis Abba.
“So the transformation of the Nigerian aviation is multi-faceted and it indeed addresses all the areas. It is on record that the aviation ministry has been at loggerheads with a few individuals with fraudulent concession agreements and contracts through which the country was being milked by these private businessmen.
“The cancellations of these concessions and the consequent return of those duties to the aviation agencies have resulted in a phenomenal jump in government revenue from aviation sector by more than a thousand per cent,” he added.
In addition, he said plans had been concluded to build five new state-of-the art international terminals at five airports including those in Lagos and Abuja.
“Presumably, these airports would be able to rival those at Dubai. But more importantly, these would satisfy the needs of Nigerians especially for cargo facilities that can handle perishable goods meant for export. This would help generate foreign exchange and improve the lots of Nigerian farmers,” he said.