* N2Bn ‘loan’ by Rivers to help build the PH airport reechoes
By Codratus Godson
Former minister of aviation, Femi Fani Kayode (FFK), seems to draw fresh flaks, this time from groups in Rivers State who seem to have taken exceptions to his claim of building airports in Nigeria as minister including the Port Harcourt International Airport.
The claim was contained in the viral video from Calabar, Cross Rivers State, where the former minister addressed a press briefing which ended in huge controversy over his anger at a journalist who asked him to disclose source of funding of his protects inspection tour across the nation.
Reacting to the question in anger, Kayode had said he was a well to do man, lawyer, and a minister who even built airports during his time.
Whereas the invectives on the reporter seems to attract huge attention across the nation, the people of Rivers State seems more concerned with whether or not Kayode built the airport in Port Harcourt.
One of those who have reacted so far is the former commissioner of information in the state, Ibim Semenitari, who vehemently said it was not true that Kayode built the Port Harcourt airport.
She rather recalled the former minister’s interview few years ago when he said his achievement in office as aviation minister was ending plane crashes. Kayode had claimed that a year before his coming on seat as aviation minister, planes were crashing and the year he left, they resumes with crashes whereas the period he was on seat was safe and sane.
Semenitari particularly recalled that Kayode had made it clear that airport beautification was not the hallmark of aviation industry. “It was Stella Odua who awarded the Port Harcourt International Airport reconstruction contract after those of Lagos and Abuja. Even that contract job for Port Harcourt delayed till the Goodluck Jonathan administration left office”.
A top information manager during the later years of the Peter Odili administration who did not want to be mentioned said it was not true that the PH airport was built during Kayode’s time as aviation minister.
Giving a detailed reflection of the matter, a retired public information manager in the state, Blessing Nwikina, said: “The entire debacle surrounding the PH International Airports status as ‘world worst airport’ started under FFK tenure as the Aviation Minister.
“Without notice or consultation with the then government of Rivers State under Odili, Rivers State woke up to the closure of the PH international Airport. Flights and businesses to Port Harcourt were diverted to the neighboring Owerri airport that was not prepared for such traffic.”
Nwikina went on: “For months, after closure, FFK, hadn’t started any repair or maintenance work at the PH International Airport. The governor, worried that Rivers State’s economy was being strangulated, decided to advance N2 billion to the aviation ministry as an interest-free refundable loan to enable aviation authorities kick-start and speed up the maintenance work on the airport”
He said the work was still not given the deserved attention, and gradually, PH airport started deteriorating, and eventually got the label of ‘worst airport in the world.’ As he stated, “To end this story, until FFK left office, Rivers State Government’s N2 billion loan hadn’t been refunded, and if the maintenance job was done or not, we are yet to be told till date.”
The subsequent administration in Rivers State had asked for a refund of her N2billion, but its still audio (not refunded). “Mr Rich Minister, you owe us explanation. As you go on self-styled project inspection ‘campaign’, please include Port-Harcourt in your scheduling, and brief us.”
Sources said the money was to construct a second runway plus other repair works to take bigger planes after the plane crash that killed 60 students of Loyola College.