Posted by Sade Williams
The National Assembly has called on the Federal government to immediately come to the aid of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) by paying back the $500 million loan obtained from the Exim Bank of China for the construction of new terminals in the country.
The NASS, which is seeking immediate opening of the new Murtala Muhammed International terminal, said there is need to put the terminal to use in order to avoid what had befallen some projects of this nature in the country.
Senator Smart Adeyemi, Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation in company of his counterpart at the House of Representatives, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji, expressed worry that the project may be abandoned if FAAN is not financially assisted in completing the edifice as soon as possible.
Adeyemi, who spoke shortly after the end of the conference organized by the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC), said: “For me, I think the edifice is 99 per cent completed. it’s something that should be commended. It is also depressing that it seems to have been abandoned. It is not explicable for a project like this not to have been put to use since last year that it was nearly completed.
“For us, we think there is need for FAAN and the federal government to make sure that all obstacles disrupting the takeoff of this terminal building are taken off so that Nigerians can have the benefit of the multi-billions naira that has been expended here.
“I do not think that anyone will be able to defend this. The project has been completed. This must not be allowed to be abandoned. We have had projects of similar types in this country that have been abandoned. If care is not taken, we will see that some of the premises here are becoming bushy, but that is not to say the airport is not well-kept, but the fact that this terminal is not put to use.
“We want to call on the federal government to give us all the assurances that are necessary. Looking at the challenges confronting the aviation industry today, in terms of Covid-19, which makes it difficult for the sector to meet its needs, there is need for the federal government to give the assistance that is necessary, he said.
Speaking on the Chinese loan, he said the project was awarded by the Federal government, therefore, the loan should not be hung on FAAN but be pay back by the federal government so that Nigerians can start enjoying the facility.
“I just confirmed that the federal government is still owing the Chinese. The project itself was awarded by the federal government. So, the federal government itself should come to the aid of FAAN so that we can take over this building.
“We don’t want to come back here the next time and still see this building in this shape. It will be painful for us. Even though, we are on recess now, we will continue to mount the pressure that is needed to ensure that the federal government gives the assistance that is needed. What is needed to take over this building, I don’t think it’s beyond what the federal government should pay. FAAN should be able to pay if not for depression confronting the industry. Globally, there is depression, fewer people are flying, some airlines have closed shop. So, the IGR has fallen from what it used to be.
“So, it will be difficult for FAAN to meet the payment. It should be the federal government that will pay so that Nigerians can start to enjoy the facility. Also, this is a facility that will further improve the image of Nigeria. Whenever people are visiting your country, what they will first see is the building and it will create an impression of the nation to them.
“So, we will continue to mount pressure on the government to do the needful. If possible, we will put it in writing so that the ministry of finance can be aware that we came here and what we have seen demands that the attention of the federal government to come to the aid of FAAN so that this place can be opened”, he added.
For his part, Nnaji added that there is need for the terminal to be put to use in order to improve the image of the sector.
“To lay credence to what my colleague has just said, I think the federal government and FAAN should do something about this terminal so that it will improve the image of the country, create customer comfort. It is also important that the federal government does something about the Chinese loan so that this can facilitate the opening of the terminal. There is need for this terminal to be opened so that we can use it to service the outstanding.
“Whether the government is supporting in paying back the loan, it is still the responsibility of FAAN to pay back the government the money. So, it is important for this place to be put to be open so that it can be put to use”, he said.