President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday approved a major reorganisation in the Ministry of Aviation with changes in all the parastatals.
A terse statement by the Special Assistant (Media) to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Sam Nwaobasi, said the Director of Projects in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Saleh Dumona, would replace Mr. George Uriesi as managing director of FAAN.
Also, the General Manager (Procurements) in Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Ibrahim Abdulsalam is to replace Nnamdi Udoh as managing director.
The Government Safety Inspector & International Civil Aviation Organisation Focal Point for Nigeria on Aircraft Safety Information Systems, Capt. Samuel Caulcrick, takes over from Capt. Chinyere Kalu as the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology.
The Commissioner, Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau, Capt. Muhktar Usman, replaces Capt. Fola Akinkuotu as director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority “subject to confirmation by the Senate.”
Benedict Adeyileka is to act as the director general of the NCAA, pending Usman’s confirmation by the Senate.
The Director of Licensing in NCAA, Dr. Felix A. Abali, is to replace Capt. Muhktar Usman as commissioner, AIPB.
However, Tony Anuforo retains his position as director general of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency.
The sacking of the CEOs came barely one month after the removal of the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, and others by Jonathan.
But the ex-minister had maintained that she decided to leave the cabinet to pursue political interests.
In October last year, there were reports that with the approval of the minister, the NCAA purchased two bulletproof BMW cars at an allegedly inflated rate of N255m.
The development sparked a general outcry with many Nigerians and groups calling for Oduah’s sacking and prosecution.
The House of Representatives subsequently mandated its Committee on Aviation to probe the allegation against her. Its report indicted the former minister.
The committee set up by Jonathan to probe the N255m bulletproof car scandal also indicted the ex-minister.
On December 19, 2013, the House endorsed the report of its committee and agreed that the minister breached the 2013 Appropriation Act.
The committee therefore asked the President to review Oduah’s appointment for approving expenditure of over N643m for the NCAA to procure 54 vehicles last year.
The spokesperson for the House, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, had explained that the lawmakers wanted the minister sacked.
He had said, “The word ‘review’ here means a change in status. It is a mild way of saying that Mr. President should sack the minister.”
A major recommendation of the Aviation committee, which was adopted had read, “The House urges the President to review the continued engagement of the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, for having contravened the Appropriation Act, 2013 and the approved, revised thresholds by exceeding the Ministry of Aviation’s approval limit of N100m by the purchase of 54 vehicles valued at N643m.”
Although Jonathan confirmed the receipt of the report of the presidential committee chaired by a former Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Sali Bello, he had yet to make a pronouncement on it.
Other members of the presidential panel included the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki and Vice-Marshal Dick Iruenabhere.
The panel, like that of the House, also discovered that Oduah’s approval for the cars exceeded the N100m limit for ministers.
Although the committee indicted Oduah, it did not say whether she should be sacked or not.
But Jonathan used the cabinet shake-up that followed the presentation of his ministerial list to the National Assembly to relieve himself of the moral burden of Oduah’s continued presence in his government.
Two aviation experts said the sacking was expected, except for Akinkuotu who spent barely six months in office.
The President, Aviation Roundtable, Capt Dele Ore, said, “I think what government is trying to do with the sacking of almost all the heads of the aviation agencies is to dismantle the structure put together by the former minister.
“I have always said it that whatever she did would go with her, and we can see the result now. The painful part is the removal of Akinkuotu; Oduah actually did not allow that man to do anything in the very few months he was DG. She tied his hands.
“I actually think his removal is an aberration. I think the removal of the man shows that we have shot ourselves in the foot by that particular action. It is likely to weigh against the country in terms of the oncoming audit by the United States Federal Aviation Agency.
The Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Aviation Safety and Security Consult, Mr. John Ojikutu, said the action by the Federal Government was expected.
He said, “There is nothing unusual about it. The fact remains that most of them came in at the pleasure of the minister, and once the minister goes, it is normal that the heads of those agencies would go too.
“The only one that is sad about is that of the NCAA DG, who was there for barely six months. It is the most surprising of the whole thing. They did not even allow him to work, it is rather unfortunate. The truth is that I believe that this is just the beginning.”
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