The House Committee on Aviation has frowned at the huge debt incurred by the Ministry of Aviation, calling it ‘unsustainable’.
The ministry has a debt profile of N174.6 billion, having paid N61.4 billion for its many projects across the federation.
The committee, led by its chairman, Nkiru Onyejeocha, expressed dissatisfaction with the ministry’s debt burden when it went for its oversight function at the ministry yesterday.
Onyejeocha, speaking for the committee, wondered where the ministry is going to get the money to pay the debts, how it became indebted in the first place, and demanded to see all the details of the projects executed and ongoing that led to the debts.
She said, “I wish to state here that the committee frowns at such debt profile because we know that monies have been appropriated for most of the projects that you have been doing in aviation. It’s scary to have a debt profile of N174 billion in the Ministry of Aviation.”
The committee members, who showed more interest in the ministry’s activities than the Senate Committee on Aviation that visited last week, expressed worry the most of the projects done were to remodel the airport terminals and not to provide equipment that would improve the safety of flights in the country. They also demanded for clarifications on the different loans the ministry took, the proposed merger of some agencies in the ministry and how the ministry intends to pay the debts.
In response, the supervising minister of aviation and minister of trade and investments, Mr Samuel Ortom, said that the debts were not incurred by his administration since it has not awarded any contract and does not intend to award any until it has addressed the huge debts.
On how the ministry intends to offset its debts, Ortom said that the ministry has set up an inter-ministerial committee to review the many projects it is handling with a view to prioritise them; will repay some of the debts through budgetary provisions; use its internally generated revenue; come up with an airport development levy and also ask the federal government for a bailout.
When asked why there are no activities in the ministry, Ortom said that the debt burden is not allowing the ministry to breathe as it cannot afford to engage contractors when it still owes so much.
“Many of the contractors we owe are on our neck and some of them have even threatened to take us to court,” he added.
Though her name was not mentioned, it was obvious the debt burden can be traced to the many projects under the immediate past minister of aviation, Stella Oduah, in remodelling the many airports across the country.