Monday, April 23, 2012

Ministry secures $76m BASA funds to fix 11 airports

By Kelvin Osa-Okunbor

The Ministry of Aviation has secured presidential approval to utilise the over $76 million Bilateral Air Services Agreement ( BASA) funds, domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to upgrade the nation’s airports, investigations have revealed.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the upgrading which was proposed some years ago could not be executed on account of paucity of funds, as the yearly budgetary sector’s allocation to aviation was too insignificant to execute the projects.

In 2010, the former Minister of Aviation, Mrs Fidelia Njeze, proposed over N91 billion for the re- modeling of about 12 airports but could not execute them owing to paucity of funds.

But the cost was later scaled down to N19 billion under the new dispensation.

The 2012 budgetary allocation for the sector is put at N49.23 billion, an improvement from the N7.14 proposed in the 2011 budget.

The wide gap between the 2011 and 2012 budgetary allocation, experts affirm, is an indication of government’s resolve to address the lingering aviation infrastructure challenges..

The huge increase in budgetary allocation is coming on the heels of the obvious decay in airport infrastructure and air navigation equipment at airports across the country evidently signposting many years of neglect and abandonment.

Experts said that the quantum leap in the budgetary allocation may be coming on the heels of the determination of government to fast track airport re-modeling projects, expected to give a face lift to at least 11 airports.

Speaking over the weekend, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), George Uriesi, said the airports re- modeling projects is being funded from the bilateral air services agreement funds. Though he did not disclose the amount, he affirmed that with the annual budgetary allocation, the airports will be completed in phases.

He said issues of paucity of funds will not stall the projects, as the ministry is set to launch a new agenda on revamping existing infrastructure as part of the agenda to reposition the sector.

Uriesi said FAAN has scaled down the proposed N91 billion to N19 billion.

Also, the Director-General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA), Dr Harold Demuren, confirmed that Nigeria has about $76 million in the bilateral air services agreement account domiciled in the CBN. 

He spoke of plans by the government to utilise part of the funds for the upgrade and rehabilitation of ageing airport infrastructure as well as air navigation equipment.

Among the airports where re- modeling is taking place, is the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

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