What started as a mild argument between the Presidency and Ministry of Aviation, over plans to concession five major airports in Nigeria, has snowballed into a real faceoff, which if not resolved might put the exercise on hold.
Senior officials of the ministry, who attended a meeting, at the instance of the Presidency, on Saturday, November 12, were seen wearing long faces after an indication that all is not well with the programme, which is targeted at raking in about $2.5 billion to government.
All efforts at having the ministry or presidency officials speak on the outcome of the meeting failed, as they were not forthcoming with information on what transpired.
But the issue of supporting the concession programme without more detailed documentary facts on its benefits to the economy was said to have dominated the talk.
Recall, that the Senate, has on Tuesday, November 8, begun the probe of the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, over his alleged involvement in a shady concession contract deal worth $2 billion.
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The contract was for the concession of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, and Lagos-Kano rail lines.
Meanwhile, the Senate has mandated its Committees on Privatization, Finance, Land Transport, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Trade and Investment, to thoroughly investigate the Minister, for allegedly not following due process.
A source said there was a flag down on the concession plans as soon as some loopholes were sighted, especially as there was no commitment by the prospective concessionaires to the deal despite the fact that the plan has been within the public domain in the past one year.
According to the source, before the last meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have personally intervened when the ministry complained that the president’s aides were not showing expected zeal on programme.
“But after what seemed like a briefing by his office, Buhari referred the matter to a subcommittee, made up of both the Presidency officials and those from the ministry, to take a second look of it with the view to fast tracking it or possibly re-starting the process”, a source revealed.
Another burning issue is the security question over who is to man the airports after they might have been given out.
There is also the concern over the condition of the terminal buildings at the airports and the runways, as well as aeronautical services, fire service, apron control and others.
Details of all these are to be provided failure of which there will be no deal.
The news of the face off among the officials was received with courteous optimism by the airport workers, who have remained in opposition over the exercise since its conception.
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