Stories from Suleiman Idris, Lagos
The hope of the federal government’s realization of the aviation master plan could be heading for the rocks with the power tussle currently rocking the hierarchy of the aviation ministry as a result of perceived gross insubordination.
Confirmation of a supposed frosty relationship between the minister and the Permanent Secretary Mrs. Jamila Shua’ra emerged on Monday when the Supervising Minister of the ministry, Dr. Samuel Ortom told reporters in Markudi that as a family; the ministry is not immune to crisis noting that “Whatever issues we have, we resolve them as a family in the ministry”.
Since the sack of elsewhere aviation minister, Ms Stella Oduah who champion a massive revamping of facilities and terminals under the control of the ministry, there have been a cold blood relationship between the permanent secretary and the minister over the disbursement of fund meant for the completion of projects in the airports scattered across Nigeria.
Trouble was said to have began when the present Permanent Secretary Mrs. Shua’ra resumed and stopped all earlier financial approval made by Stella Oduah and also declined to pay all approved financial allowances and dues.
Mrs Shua’ra was besieged by the ministry’s union leaders on the need to pay the approved allowances and dues who after much pressure agreed and assured the union leaders that she will pay but not all, especially those before 2013.
Investigation revealed that the supervising minister got wind of the workers ordeal and intervened to calm down the angry workers but the Perm Sec has declined to pay the approved financial obligations as at this time.
Another subject matter that fuels the already strained relationship was the approval of re-currency training for staff of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Zaria recently by Dr. Ortom but Mrs Shua’ra turned down the approval declaring that the federal government has stopped training of personnel abroad as she bluntly refused to convey approval as directed by the Minister, a training which is not only budgeted for but had earlier gotten approval of the former minister but was brought to the current helm man for revalidation of approval.
In Markudi however, the minister described as false speculation that the Permanent secretary brazenly violates his directives. Shortly after inspecting facilities at the Makurdi Airport terminal and perishable cargo terminal he said that the report are not quite correct as the permanent Secretary, to his knowledge, isn’t sitting on any contractor’s funds.
“Let me use this opportunity to say that the recent insinuation from some members of the public and the media that the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of aviation Mrs Shua’ra Jamila is frustrating the remodelling exercise of the aviation industry is not true. There is no iota of truth in those assertions” he said.
“I’m the minister supervising aviation ministry for now and I’m also aware that the projects are captured in the 2014 Appropriation Bill that is awaiting assent. As soon as that is done, we will continue to work so no money is being held by the permanent secretary and no one frustrating anything.
“I’m on top of the situation in the ministry of aviation. I haven’t seen any form of insubordination from my Permanent Secretary. Whatever issues we have, we resolve them as a family in the ministry”, Ortom told reporters.
According to him, “the road map on aviation industry is on course and will be completed and Nigerians will reap the benefit, the road map is uly approved by the Federal Executive Council and Mr President thus, I’m committed to ensuring the projects are completed on schedule” he said.
Stakeholders however are miffed that the federal government has allowed such dangerous trend to continue in a sector that contributes greatly to the GDP and the image of Nigeria and call for the appointment of a full minister to continue the giant stride the sector has set in the last three years.
A senior union leader, who plead anonymity alleges that in the first place the minister in his acting capacity as supervising minister, the union captain also alleges that from the body language of the minister, he did love to be confirm the substantive minister but said t is difficult for him because his state already has a senior minister in the Jonathan cabinet.
“The president should as a matter of urgency wade into the issue and estore the industry back on the right track, we cannot continue to retend all is well when we know the industry is riddle with crisis, now this personality clash of the two top officials of the ministry is unpalatable.
“These people don’t have any knowledge of how the sector operates so hey shouldn’t be allowed to destroy it before the international bodies.
“They simply want to tear the industry apart and grab what they can and leave and then leave distortions and abandonment behind, let the president appoint a substantive minister without delay”, he said.