By Edith John
This piece seeks to dissect the fact leading to the build-up to the Oduagate Bullet-proof car saga, so as to shed further light on the imbroglio.
The unceremonious removal of the erstwhile Director-General of NCAA; Harold Demuren as a fallout of the DANA air crash incident, despite his achievement for the Nigerian Air travel industry was cleverly orchestrated to create the much needed lacuna for official high-handedness and graft.
It will be recalled that Minister of Aviation Stella Odua removed two of the parastatal Chiefs under her watch viz; Richard Aisebugbu who was MD of Federal Airports Authority Of Nigeria (FAAN), and Alhaji Auyo who was the MD of NAMA all in one fell swoop, leaving only Harold Demuren of NCAA.
She immediately shopped for more docile and subservient persons who will not only dance to her tunes without asking questions but also will even go the extra mile to protect her interest. This exercise, which ordinarily appears as a normal repositioning effort by her, brought up Mazi Nnamdi Udoh (Current MD of NAMA) and George Uresi (MD of FAAN). These two were found to posses all the needed character and were taken to Oduah to pledge their loyalty to “the cause”.
It will further be recalled that Harold Demuren of NCAA had emerged as the doyen of the industry by this time, having successfully repositioned the Industry in addition to leading Nigeria to earn the much coveted CAT 1 Status from America, He was then being celebrated both locally and abroad and so Oduah was in a fix and could not immediately remove him.
Harold Demuren grounded Dana Airline after its crash, government investigated the crash, compensations were paid to victims family, the airline fleet was re-audited and on the order of the Minister Of Aviation, Demuren cleared the Airline to resume flight operation, not knowing he will be made the fall guy for these.
Despite former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s passionate appeal to President Jonathan to let Demuren remain on his job, as well as interventions of well meaning Nigerians, Odua hand-twisted President Jonathan to unceremoniously sack the man on the basis of one air crash within a spate of about five years crash free record.
It is noteworthy that Nnamdi Udoh of NAMA who was brought in by Odua, contributed in no small measure to Demuren’s exit by regularly feeding his principal false allegations about Demuren. It was a gang-up of sort against the regulatory agency (NCAA), with George Uresi of FAAN, Nnamdi Udoh of NAMA and the Minister all tearing ferociously at the soul of NCAA.
The era of Dog eat dog has fully evolved in the Aviation Industry.
It is instructive to know that on the eve of Demuren’s departure from NCAA, he was inclined to hand over the organization to the most senior among his Directors in person of one Abdullahi Adamu from Bauchi State; a seasoned career civil servant with about 30 years industry experience, but he (Demuren) was ordered by the Minister to hand over to Joyce Nkemakolam who just became Director at NCAA the same month.
Nnamdi Udoh of NAMA as the only trusted hand they could work with recommended Joyce Nkemakolamm to the Minister. Both Joy and Nnamdi udoh are long-standing brothers who came from the same village in Arochukwu in Anambra State. Both were air traffic officers, both entered civil service the same month and year. Nnamdi udoh could not have found a better replacement to Demuren than this.
Suffice to say that Joy Nkemakolam the new acting Dg of NCAA never had any formal education, not even an OND; He rose between the ranks as a complacent civil servant for about 30 years. Perhaps the only gift he has which brought him to the fore was his docility, subservience, malleability and cooperativeness.
Within a spate of about 4 months, the regulatory authority (NCAA’s) autonomy was surrendered sheepishly by Joy Nkemakola backed by Nnamdi Udoh of NAMA to the Minister and by extension the Aviation Ministry.
The stage is now set for the Plunder and gathering of the spoils of war.
The current Oduahgate armored car saga is just a fraction of the atrocious financial recklessness jointly perpetrated on aviation agencies finances by the team Oduah comprising of the Minister, Nnamdi Udoh of NAMA, George uresi of FAAN, Joy Nkemakola of NCAA, Ene Ita (former perm Sec, now Presidential Adviser) and Aviation Ministry Officials.
Oduah soon turned a highly professional, compartmentalized and sensitive industry where each person has his specific duties into a single unit where anybody is ordered to do any other person’s work.
Nnamdi Udoh of NAMA an air traffic controller soon begin to clear Aircraft for takeoff on the Tarmarc, (a statutory duty of NCAA). He it was who cleared Dana aircraft upon its recertification by NCAA.
Yakubu Datti of FAAN soon became the spokesman of NCAA (operator speaking on behalf of regulator), speaking on safety and security issues, avionics, aircraft engineering matters and air crashes. No wonder the apparent confusion and double-speaking over the last air crash.
The rape on the regulatory agency (NCAA) was quite tortuous and bleeding, but the hapless agency eagerly awaits a substantive Director General who will at least take charge of things, heal her wounds and restore part of her battered dignity.
Association of airline Pilots and other concerned stakeholders observed the ugly trend of events in the industry early enough, voiced their fears and even feebly tried to get the attention of president Jonathan and the Minister herself, but it does appears that the Minister has successfully pulled a wool over the eyes and ears of the senate, house of reps and the President with her celebrated but hollow new airports buildings.
The airport remodeling itself is a grandiose, stage-managed deception which served as a conduit pipe to siphon money by the Minister, imagine under-aged Chinese technical school dropouts sharing millions of dollars of our Bilateral Air service Agreements money with Oduah and building us a replica of their low quality china town as airports; never in the history of Nigeria have we been so beguiled and cheated.
Oduah used George Uresi of FAAN to steal billions under the Airport remodeling charade, She plundered the BASA fund which NCAA had painstakingly gathered up, She took over the control of Aviation agencies revenue by unilaterally concessioning out the revenue generation of the agencies to a consortium of private firms namely Avicollect and First bank Plc on an outrageously high percentage basis.
On top of it all, because the agencies funds domiciled at first bank is within her reach, she removes as much as she wants in both local and foreign currencies from the holding account even before the agencies gets to share what is left.
She placed a monthly standing order for deduction of millions on the accounts of the agencies and it is instructive to note that all transactions relating to the purchase of about six exotic cars for odua were all made by standing order deduction at source from the agencies account.
As the search for a substantive head for NCAA begins, Oduah and her cohorts tinkered with the idea of transiting Joy Nkemakola to the Substantive Director- General of the agency.
Oduah and Ene-ita sought the support of the senate Committee on Aviation and the House Committee on Aviation to get Nkemakola into office, Oduah equally mounted pressure on president Jonathan telling him she has seen the only man she could successfully work with.
It took sustained pressure from South west Obas and leaders of thought before president Jonathan agreed to look for a credible alternative from the region.
The emergence of the man Capt. Fola Akinkuotu as the substantive Director-general of NCAA was one borne out of necessity.
While Harold Demuren is an Aircraft Engineer,Akinkuotu is a revered pilot, aircraft inspector cum engineer, seasoned administrator and educationist with over 43 years industry experience. His pedigree and intimidating qualification made President Jonathan to call him forth from the International Aviation College in Ilorin where he was serving out an earlier national assignment.
During his brief stint as the pioneer rector of the Aviation College, he was given a presidential mandate to produce Nigerian first set of locally trained pilots in eighteen months, he did graduated the first set of pilots in sixteen and half months. This was a feat that even the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), which has been in existence for several years had not once achieved.
Akinkoutu encouraged and liaised with several state governments to sponsor their indigene for pilots and aircraft engineers training so as to bridge the gap in the dearth of capable hands in Aviation industry. It is therefore not surprising that this man once again caught the attention of President Jonathan as one who could consolidate the gains recently recorded in the industry.
Akinkuotu professional colleagues in the Pilot association warned him of the danger ahead as the Minister has completely turn the whole industry upside down, The Minister had planted her core loyalists who are obvious strangers to the industry, and are as clueless and bereft of any idea as to how aviation business is conducted within every corner of NCAA. Some of these new entrants are failed politicians who worked alongside her in election campaign; they regularly display utter abhorrence for the civil service system of the regulatory agency, disrespect for the management and brought pollution into the system through their compounded greed and avarice.
While Akinkuotu obviously stoically took his nomination as a higher call to serve his fatherland and awaited his confirmation by the Nigerian senate, team Oduah to make sure Akinkuotu confirmation never see the light of the day was hatching another plot.
Intrigues and delays accompanied the senate invitation giving Akinkuotu, The Minister who was supposed to take him along to the senate for clearance abandoned him, and left the shores of Nigeria on various aviation road show exercise to different countries, into which millions of the Aviation Agencies money was spent. NAMA, FAAN and NCAA never fully recovered from the financial quagmire into which they were plunged as a result of the Aviation road show jamboree.
Oduah did not honor Senate Invitation to present Akinkuotu for screening for three and half months, She was frantically deploying all in her arsenal not only to frustrate the screening process, but also to perpetually keep her stooge Nkemakolam on the saddle, to plunder as much as possible for her.
Several phony supply contracts, Consultancy services contracts and Personnel training Contracts were awarded in NAMA NCAA and FAAN during this period.
When it seems the senate will go ahead with the screening with or without her after their recess, she began to reorganize the Agencies to her favor and stepped up looting process through her stooges in charge at the three agencies.
Unending training of hundreds of fictitious Ministry staffs both overseas and locally, is the order of the day. Each local training was being awarded at outrageous cost between 200,000 and 300,000 Naira per participants, Foreign training which were never attended were arranged and foreign currencies paid out to Ministry staffs, all these while the NAMA, FAAN and NCAA were still grappling with the issue of their mandatory internal staff training due to lack of funds.
These atrocities clearly predated Akinkuotu taking over of office and none of it should be hanged on his neck.
Even when Akinkuotu nomination was eventually ratified by the senate after almost three and half months, Joy Nkemakolam continued to hurriedly sign and backdate contracts approvals, employment letters and other financial transactions and whether he has stopped this backdating of approvals cannot be ascertained because our source reveals that new employees still daily turn up with backdated employment letters bearing Joy Nkemakolam’s signature in their droves at NCAA up to date.
During the period of the senseless looting spree, Nnamdi Udoh and Joy Nkemakola bought several properties in Lagos (Maryland area specifically) and the east, the duo tarred an entire stretch of road in their village arochuckwu and this earned them Chieftaincy titles from the Arochuckwu monarch.
We deeply sympathize with Fola Akinkotun who is presently between the devil and the deep blue sea and have now being given the unsavory task of clearing his friendly- enemies’ names over the atrocities they all colluded to commit when he (Akinkuotu) had not taken over control at NCAA.
The head of the Nigerian masses, Posterity and perhaps the blood of all the victims of air crashes that occurred under Oduah’s watch will judge the thieving Oduah Crew.
For now, President Jonathan should set aside party affiliation between himself and Oduah, rise above any temporal sentiment and do what all Nigerian expect of him, to sort out the Nigerian Aviation Industry, by restoring back full autonomy of NCAA, and breaking the shackles of the Ministry of Aviation away from NCAA’s neck.
Then and only then can Akinkuotu pick up the Shattered fragments of the industry and mold it back to a world delight.