Aviation and Aerospace Development Minister Festus Keyamo shed more light on the motive behind the relocation of the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) from Abuja to Lagos.
The government, he said, would be saving more than N450 million air fares that would have been spent by officials on trips from Abuja to attend meetings in Lagos in one year.
“We are going ahead. The directive has been given,” the minister said in a chat on a national television yesterday.
Borno South Senator Ali Ndume, some chieftains of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and other Northern groups, kicked against the relocation of FAAN headquarters and some offices of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
They insinuated that the move was an attempt to marginalise the North.
But, Keyamo said the movement of the headquarters of the airport authority has become necessary in line with current economic and operational realities.
Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the movement of the FAAN headquarters would, every year, save the government and the people of Nigeria half a billion naira wasted on air tickets by officials of the authority who have to commute from Lagos to Abuja and back.
The minister said top FAAN officials and aviation unions approached him that the head office of the authority be moved to Lagos for operational efficiency.
On whether President Bola Tinubu was aware of the decision or not, he said: “I take the decision; it’s a decision under the purview of a minister.”
He said only the headquarters of one of the seven aviation agencies in the country is being moved from Abuja to Lagos.
Keyamo said when his predecessor, Hadi Sirika, moved the headquarters of all aviation agencies from Lagos to Abuja in 2020, no adequate provision was made for the principal officers like the directors and the departments under them.
He clarified that the headquarters is where the decision-makers meet, not where the largest number of workers are and not where the biggest building is.
The minister said that over 100 of the 132 workers at the head office are in Lagos while only the directors are in Abuja — without their support staffers.
Keyamo said the whole issue was compounded with the fact that FAAN is not yet digitalised and so, in one year, they spend half a billion naira on flight ticket between Lagos and Abuja alone.
“You see them flying everyday to-and-fro Abuja to get one file signed. They fly everyday back and forth. In one year, they spent close to half a billion naira on flight tickets. N450m on flight tickets alone,” he said.
On the botched Nigeria Air, Keyamo said that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is investigating the controversial project initiated by Sirika.
He said: “The EFCC is investigating that deal. There is a criminal investigation going on. I have called for the report.”
Keyamo said no local airline would be designated as national airline, adding that “we will establish a proper national carrier”.
He also said that government had already concluded plans with insurance firms to undertake flight cancellation hassles.
He also threatened to name and shame airlines, which do not have justifiable reasons for cancelling their customers’ flights.
The minister, who did not unveil those insurance firms that had signed to the deal, said he had a meeting with a number of them yesterday in Abuja and many of them were willing to step in and correct the ugly trend in the nation’s aviation sector.
According to him, one of the things the insurance firms would be doing is to buy off tickets of flights cancelled from Nigerians, settle accommodation and eating bills and then reclaim their expenses from the airlines.