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Whither N2bn Wasimi Airstrip Upgrade

by timenews
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…as NCAA, Ogun Govs, Senators Diverge Over Project

Four years after an approval of N2bn by President Mahammadu Buhari for the upgrade of the Wasimi Airstrip in Ogun State to a Passenger Airport the Project has remained static raising eyebrows by stakeholders and senators as to what is the exact situation.

Intriguing is that the Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, in a meeting with Nigerian senators in March stated that the NCAA was not aware of any such project in Ogun State, suffice it to say that the immediate past Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, and the incumbent, Dapo Abiodun, were in
disagreement over the airport type and location.

Timenews gathered that while Amosun insisted on a Passenger Airport at Wasimi, Abiodun is tenaciously inclined to an Agro-Allied Cargo Airport to be sited at Ilisun-Remo, Ikenne Local Government Area.

It was learnt that the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Smart Adeyemi, in a recent visit to Ogun State opted to visit both sites and thereafter, the Director General of NCAA was invited for a meeting by the Committee.

Nuhu said the NCAA was only aware of the existence of an airport in Sagamu, maintaining his stance even when Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah read a memo from the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on the federal government’s approval for a grant of N2billion for the Wasimi Airport.

It was learnt that Nuhu’s persistent denial of the memo led to sharp arguments among senators on the ongoing investigation by the Senate Committee on Aviation into the N2 billion Presidential grant for a Passenger Airport at Wasimi in Ogun State.

However, the Senator representing Ogun West, Tolu Odebiyi, who incidentally was Chief of Staff to Amosun (the immediate past Governor), said the NCAA was part and parcel of the project and that necessary approval was sought and given for Wasimi.

“It was not possible to put the Agency in the dark about the project,” he stressed.

On the other hand the Senator representing Lagos West and Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, Olamilekan Adeola, faulted the explanation offered by Odebiyi, citing the documents presented to the Committee by Sirika.

“Yes, the Minister of Aviation is in the picture but the Senate Committee and NCAA aren’t aware, we don’t have the documents.

“We have listened to you (NCAA) and you have established that you have a record for Sagamu Airport, not Passenger Airport at Wasimi,” Adeola noted.

A document dated May 7, 2018 and sighted by our Correspondent, was received by the President on May 10, 2018 from the then Ministry of Transport with the reference number FMA/DSTP/402/S.86/1/196 and titled: ‘Request for Payment of the Sum of Two Billion only Capital Support Grant for Construction of Ogun State Airport at Wasimi Abeokuta was signed by Hadi Sirika, as the Minister of State for Aviation at the time.

According to the document the Ministry asked for the construction of an airstrip around Abeokuta first in 2009, following the assessment report by a Ministerial Technical Team on site selection.

Sirika in the letter argued that citing the airstrip in the State then among other reasons included the facilitation of VIP movement, Border Patrol, Agro Pesticide Control and Medical Emergency Evacuation in a quest to enhance economic development of the state and to complement the airport in Lagos.

He stated that the project had since been completed and taken over by the Ogun State Government, but that Chief Ibikunle Amosun requested for the upgrade of the Airstrip into a full fledged International Airport which will boost the Country’s Aviation Industry.

The Ministry according to him not only granted the approval for the initiatives but also pledged the federal government’s support.

He told Mr. President in the document to note that Ogun State has commenced the implementation of the upgrade of the Air Strip into a full Airport at Wasimi, adding that the sum of N2bn was appropriated in the 2017 Capital Appropriation of the Ministry to support implementation of the project in earnest.

“It is in the light of the foregoing, and in determination to support the upgrade of the Airstrip at Wasimi, Abeokuta into full fledged Airport, that Mr. President is most humbly solicited to kindly consider and graciously approve the release of the sum of N2bn only, which has been approved for the project in the Ministry’s 2017 Capital Budget in favour of Ogun State Government as Capital Support Grant as earlier pledged to facilitate timely completion of the Project,” Sirika requested.

However, Timenews could not ascertain if the money (N2bn) had been released to the Ministry of Transport as requested by Sirika in 2018 and the exact state as regards the airport Project.

Also efforts to reach the Director, Public Affairs of the Ministry of Aviation, Mr. James Odauda, were futile.

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