Keyamo: Flying Nigeria’s Aviation Sector To New Heights

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By Cletus Agada

It is no longer news that the honourable Minister of Aviation, Mr. Festus Keyamo, S.A.N. directed that the headquarters of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) be relocated back to Lagos. This directive was not difficult to comply with because the Abuja Headquarters status was just on paper as the day-to-day administrative and operational activities of the agency have always been carried out from Lagos.

A statement by Mrs. Obiageli Orah, the Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection of the agency, said those affected by the decision have since returned to Lagos as there is no office space for them in Abuja That was even before the relocation order of the Honourable Minister was effected.

The question begging for an answer is how a critical, hands-on agency like FAAN relocated to a new city without first making provisions for adequate offices to accommodate her working staff. The second paragraph of Mrs. Orah’s statement should draw the attention of all men of conscience as it brings to mind how important government decisions are taken just to satisfy a few.

With an agency as technical as FAAN, decisions are supposed to go through some laid-down procedures, and the input of industry stakeholders is sought at all times but this never seems to have been done in this particular case.

In her widely circulated statement, Mrs Orah said; “Having returned to Lagos, the Authority would be liable to pay them DTA (DUTY TOUR ALLOWANCE) because technically they are working OUT OF STATION as their official posting is to ABUJA. The Minister has decided to stop this waste of public resources and rip-off on the public purse”.

This shows that the relocation of the Headquarters to Abuja was a very crafty way to line the pockets of some fat cats and big men in the agency who will be living their normal lives and working from the comfort of their offices in Lagos while smiling to the bank through claims of estacodes and other travelling allowances as Lagos would have been designated as an out-station when in a real sense, it is the actual corporate headquarters. Thankfully, the Honourable Minister intervened.

I believe this must have pricked the conscience of Keyamo. As someone who spent his early childhood going about with his father, a Jehovah’s Witness faithful; sharing tracks, handbills, and newsletters to the public for free, Mr. Keyamo was tutored in the act of bringing the ‘gospel’ to the doorsteps from infant and the aviation gospel is now beginning to feel the impact of this activist in government. This background could also be partly responsible for Mr. Keyamo’s vast knowledge in fields assumed to be strange to him and his strength in approaching every argument from an informed position, always quoting facts and figures to buttress his points.

For a man who began his professional legal practice at the Law Firm of the erudite social critic and rights activist, the Late Chief Gani Fawahinmi, Keyamo has found it difficult to divorce himself from the crusade for prudence and cost savings in government. To think that he can continue to cohabit with the wrongs of the past is like asking an architect to live in a house built on quicksand. I’m sure wherever Chief Fawehinmi is watching from right now, he would certainly be proud of the man Mr Keyamo has become.

The Bible says “When the foundation is faulty, what can the righteous do?”. Mr Keyamo is now providing an answer to this age-long question as a faulty foundation needs to be destroyed and a new one laid. For efficient and effective service delivery, a new solid base is needed to accommodate the realities of today and the dreams for tomorrow in the country’s aviation industry and that’s exactly what the Honourable Minister is doing.

An outspoken man and a fierce lawyer, Mr Keyamo who served as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Employment under the immediate past administration, shocked his former colleagues in his speech during the valedictory session by President Mohammadu Buhari to thank his Ministers and those who served in his government. Taking to the microphone with great confidence, Mr Keyamo who was first appointed as Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs before being redeployed said the position of Minister of State was unconstitutional.

He explained that it is difficult to rate the performances of Ministers of State since their prudence was shackled with that of the substantive Ministers as any original ideas developed have to pass through the table of another colleague in the cabinet before they can sail through for consideration by Council.

If Mr Keyamo had any regret as Minister of State or an unimplemented policy during his time playing second fiddle in the office, God answered his prayers through President Bola Tinubu and allowed him to showcase and distinguish himself as a top-notch administrator and policy expert and so far, he has not betrayed the trust nor abused the confidence of Mr. President.

The laudable plans by the Minister as contained in the statement by Mrs Orah to get concessionaires to build befitting offices for the Authority in Lagos and Abuja must be commended. Over time, estate developers and rent-seekers have continued to connive with agencies of the federal government to milk the public purse through inflated rent bills that under normal circumstances, are big enough to erect permanent structures of a high standard for those agencies.

The aviation sector in the country today can be said to be in safe hands with Mr. Keyamo as Minister because he has proven himself to be a team player, ready to listen and work with expert opinions while building capacity across the board. He has put everyone concerned with the safety of our airspace on their toes and strived to rid the industry of indolence. The relocation of the FAAN Corporate Headquarters to Abuja in the first case was intended to encourage highly trained personnel to roam about without an office or equipment to work with.

It would be recalled that barely one month to the expiration of the tenure of the last administration of President Mohammadu Buhari in May 2023, the then Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika ordered the relocation of some aviation agencies from the Muritala Mohammed International Airport Lagos for their office buildings to be demolished and pave way for the construction of an acropolis. If the idea is a developmental step worthy of commendation, the right thing to do would have been to find another befitting structure to accommodate those agencies rendering critical services in the aviation industry within the city.