The Ministry of Aviation has expressed disappointment with the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi over his claims weekend that the remodeling project of the Port Harcourt International Airport has been “abandoned” due to his alleged rift with President Goodluck Jonathan.
The governor had while speaking on a Channels Television programme, “Sunrise” on Saturday, suggested that the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah was punishing the state by abandoning the remodeling project of the Port Harcourt Airport because of his differences with Mr. Jonathan.
Mr. Amaechi had further accused the minister of impounding his plane (private jet) “for no reason” due to his disagreement with the president and described her action as “reckless.”
He added, “We paid for two helicopters (surveillance helicopters) that would fly around Rivers state (and detect crime) including oil theft and report real time to police, air force, army and the government house” but “she refused the helicopters from coming”.
But the minister’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Joe Obi, debunked all the allegations leveled against the ministry and his boss by Mr. Amaechi, saying it was unfortunate, false and a measure of the governor’s well-known political grandstanding.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, we make haste to stress that aviation is a very professionalised industry and we do not in any way indulge in politicking. The ministry will therefore not be dragged into whatever political differences the governor is alleged to have with the presidency,” he said.
He said government was constrained to express disappointment with the comments of the governor, adding that if anything, the current Minister and Ministry of Aviation should be commended by the governor for intervening in the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt airport, which had been left to deteriorate over the years.
Obi said: “Anyone who was familiar with the airport in the past two years would readily commend the Ministry for its effort at remodeling the once neglected and derelict airport terminal.”
Work on the Port Harcourt airport, according to him, had not been “abandoned” as claimed by Mr. Amaechi, adding that the pace of work at the airport is going according to schedule and, therefore, had never been delayed, halted or stopped even momentarily at any particular point in time.
Obi challenged anyone in doubt to visit the airport and see things for themselves.
The media aide stated that the “Port Harcourt International airport is a federal government facility and it will be fool-hardy to even contemplate halting the remodelling works going on there on political grounds. No responsible parent, he added would starve his child because he has a quarrel with a neighbour! That said, it is also important to note that the Port Harcourt airport is one out of the 11 airports we commenced remodelling under the First Phase of the exercise. Not all the 11 have been completed.”
Speaking further, he said: “Airports in the same category with Port Harcourt are the Murtala Mohammed and Margaret Ekpo International Airports Lagos and Calabar respectively, the Owerri, Jos, Kaduna, Ilorin and Yola airports.
“The question to ask is, is Mr. President also having a ‘rift’ with governors in these states that is why the remodelling works are yet to be completed? To illustrate the fact that we do not mix politics with aviation, the remodelling of the Malam Aminu Kano International airport, Kano has been completed and Commissioned in spite of the alleged differences between the Kano state governor and the Aviation Minister.”
He added: “The point to note was that the scope of work and the resources needed to execute the remodelling projects at the different airports are not the same. Ameachi ought to know that simply because several projects were commenced at the same time does not mean they all must be completed at the same time. We are satisfied with the progress of work at the airport.
On the surveillance helicopters the governor accused the minister of preventing their importation into the country, Obi explained, “It is also untrue that the Ministry has refused to approve the importation of some helicopters by the Rivers state government. Anyone, including state governments and corporate organisations that fulfil all mandatory requirements for importation of aircraft will be given due approvals.”