Bebi escapes sanction as FAAN withdraws services from  Kebbi, Gombe airports

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) made good its threat to shut airports owing the agency as it withdrew services from Gombe and Kebbi airports over N811 million debts.

Spokeswoman for FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu confirmed the closure when she spoke to Woleshadarenews on telephone.

She disclosed that Bebi Airport escaped the hammer following the speedy settlement of its debts to FAAN.

Bebi Airport is an airport serving Bebi in Cross River State of Nigeria. It also serves as the airport for the Obudu Mountain Resort.

FAAN, in a Notice To Air Men (NOTAM) sent to the airports announced the withdrawal of men of the safety and fire rescue and aviation security personnel attached to the two airports.

 Investigation showed that the agency gave the two state governments enough time to settle their debts but reportedly reneged.

It was gathered that the debt drive which are in phases would be shifted to other airports after that of Gombe and Kebbi.

FAAN it was learnt wanted to carry out the drive in other airports but were stopped by powers in the presidency but the agency has vowed to forge ahead with its plans to close all state airports owing the organisation.

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The agency had on April 16, 2019 issued warnings to the Kebbi, Gombe and Bebi airports operators.

Yakubu had said penultimate week that the listed airports would come under the hammer as more airport or terminals would follow suit.

The breakdown shows that Gombe airport is indebted to FAAN to the tune of N607.9 million; while Kebbi and Bebi airports are indebted to the tune of N124.5 million and N76. 8 million respectively.

FAAN said it had earlier sent a notice of intention to sanction operators of the affected airports to settle their debts on or before April 24, 2009.

The agency said it had however added another seven days grace till April 30 for all outstanding debts to be settled.

It said “The authority shall be constrained to commence the implementation of sanctions at the expiration of this notice if the organisations fail or refuse to pay up as advised’.

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This is reminiscent of the action taken by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency in (NAMA) when it closed Osubi and other airstrips owned by private firms and state governments September 2018 over humongous debts in excess of N4 billion incurred over the years.

 

Most of the aerodromes were hugely indebted to NAMA just as paucity of funds stretched the finances of the airspace agency as many airlines, airports and airstrips operators reneged in paying for services rendered by the agency which relies on revenue generated from its services to pay workers and maintain its highly powerful navigation equipment which run on electricity or generating plants for 24 hours.

Gombe, Kebbi and Osubi airports are some of the aerodromes commonly described as unviable.

Apart from the 25 airports being managed by the FAAN, many state governments have since discovered airport projects both as a status symbol and a conduit pipe to syphon huge funds from the government’s purse. But not a few analysts view such efforts as a conduit and waste of public resources.

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The states that have either proposed or built airports are: Bauchi, Katsina, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Jigawa, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Gombe and Taraba, even as Ekiti, Nasarawa, Osun, Ogun, Zamfara, Abia, Anambra, Oyo and Lagos states wrap up plans to build their own.

The experts also said lack of critical infrastructure; patronage and political factors are responsible for the underutilisation of some of the airports in the country, making them not viable in terms of positive and optimal contributions to the nation’s economy.

They said only four out of the over 25 domestic and international airports in the country are viable,

The four considered to be viable airports are Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA) Lagos; Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) Kano, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja and Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Port Harcourt while others are not rated as viable airports.

Wole Shadare