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N16bn Debt: Senate to Summon FAAN Concessionaires

Concessionaires, airlines and aviation stakeholders are to appear before the Senate Committee on Aviation to explain the N16 billion debts owed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) by concessionaires, which has crippled the operations of the agency making it unable to carry out mandatory maintenance of the airports.

The Senate also plans to identify and list these debtors, adding that it has already mobilized to recover the debts for FAAN and the other agencies.

“We are going to summon stakeholders in FAAN, NCAA, NAMA and most importantly big debtors. I learnt that the big ones are fidgeting and we are expecting a list of debtors from FAAN.

What is obvious is that there are many chronic debtors owing FAAN and I hear they have many contacts across the country that once you touch them the ground will start quaking, I think we will not allow the earthquake before we do what we are supposed to do,” Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Anyim Udeh, said  yesterday.

The occasion was the inspection by members of the Committee to  the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos over the power outage that lasted for four hours and paralysed activities at the terminal on May 9, 2010. The committee promised that it would secure the names of the debtors from FAAN.

“We are waiting to get this information and we will do the much we can for FAAN to recover the money,.” Udeh said.

Udeh told newsmen that the huge debt owed FAAN has stifled the operations of the agency, promising that the Senate would find a way to urgently recover the debts from concessionaires and the airlines.

“For instance, if the issue at stake is that facilities at the airport (MMIA) has lasted for 30 or 32 years; that the infrastructure have decayed the cables are old, we want to find out if there is any management programme for maintenance, if not why not? We also want to find out why FAAN is screaming that there is no money, no fund to do certain things while those they call management concessionaires owe them over N16billion.”

He disclose the Federal Government has put plans in motion to provide FAAN N5.8 billion which it would use to urgently revamp infrastructure at the major airports, noting that if the agency was able to recover its debts, there would be no need for it to go cap in hand requesting for money from government.

“N16 billion is a good sum of money and FAAN can’t be telling us that they need all the money to do their job; if they collect such kind of money—and yet government has put machinery in motion to provide N5.8 billion to rectify these things, if they collect that amount they would not go to government and that is all the issues involved and now we have all mobilized to help FAAN recover that money.”

Udeh noted that there is no need to talk about airport rejuvenation without talking about injection of private investment, adding that the airports have to be privatized before they could be expanded and modernized as government cannot provide the funds needed to improve the airports to meet modern international standards.

He said  the power outage at the airport on May 9 caused great embarrassment to Nigeria with attendant safety implications.
“I have already praised Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), FAAN, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for their response and efforts they made to restore power within the four hours that the blackout lasted. Also I thanked the Minister for intervening.

For us in the legislature, as soon as I read it I took a motion to the floor of the Senate and they mandated my committee to go and investigate it.”

He said  the Committee quickly sent consultants—technical and financial— to assess the situation.

“They got their report and we went on two weeks break and when we resumed we attended to this issue of screening of INEC commissioners we decided to come and see the whole thing by ourselves; having done that, we still have to go back and summon all the people involved.”