by Niyi Odebode, Everest Amaefule, Fidelis Soriwei, Josiah Oluwole and Tunde Odesola
The Senate on Sunday said any Senator that tavels with the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, on her proposed three-nation tour would not be representing the upper arm of the National Assembly.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, made this known in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Sunday.
“If any senator is there, he is there on his own and he cannot commit the Senate in that respect,” Abaribe said.
The aviation minister, our correspondents learnt, was said to be planning a foreign investment road show to China, the United States and Canada.
In the minister’s entourage to study airspace policies of the three countries are said to be three Senators.
The three Senators had reportedly accepted the offer, which was said to have been rejected by the House of Representatives.
Special Adviser to the minister, Mr. Joe Obi, on Sunday confirmed the trip, saying that there was nothing malicious about it.
He said, “It is not a trip for leisure at all; it is a working tour. We decided to invite members of the committees in the two chambers because they are critical stakeholders whose experience and input could help our investment drive.
“The lawmakers have always been part of our programmes. They participated in our recent conference on aviation development in Africa. We need to carry them along so that if we come back to Nigeria, they will be in the full picture of the investments we have attracted and assist us with the appropriate legal framework.”
But commenting on the proposed trip, Abaribe said the Senate had not accepted any invitation from the Ministry because its members were currently on break.
“The Senate, you know, is on break and we have not considered any invitation for our committee members to attend the road show. Since we are on break, there is no way we will be participating. The Senate will have to give its approval for such participation,” he said.
Abaribe’s reactions came on the heels of warnings by opposition parties and civil rights groups that the involvement of the National Assembly members in the trip would compromise probes into the Dana Airline crash and the aviation sector.
The Senate had probed the breach of aviation laws by foreign airlines, while the joint committee of the National Assembly investigated the Dana plane crash.
Faulting the lawmakers’ involvement in the road show, the Congress for Progressive Change said that it was a veritable way of compromising the legislature.
“We have seen in the Herman Hembe/ Arunma Oteh saga that the Executive’s overture of gratification is a veritable way of compromising the legislature,” the CPC National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said.
He noted that the minister was under probe on the account of preventable air accidents in the country.
The National Chairman, Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Bisi Akande, also described the proposed tour as a jamboree.
Reacting through his spokesperson, Mr. Lani Baderinwa, on Sunday, Akande said the participation of the Senators in the tour showed their insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.
He said, “The tour is a waste of public funds; it shows lack of care for public feeling. It is bad enough that so much of taxpayers’ money will go down the drain in the bid to go for a road show.
“Sadly, the road show is to see airports. Why can’t we rehabilitate our own airports here? The Federal Government always gets it wrong because selfishness and corruption form the basis of its decisions.
“It is a pity that the Federal Government cannot even wait for the burial of all those who died as a result of its carelessness in the Dana Air Plane crash before embarking on this jamboree.”
Also, the Campaign for Democracy President, Joe Okei-Odumakin, said, “That the aviation minister is talking of road show for legislators in the midst of insolvency in the country is evident these people don’t give a damn.”
But the minister, in a statement on Sunday, in Abuja by her spokesperson defended the road show.
According to her, the trip is to woo foreign investors “to key into the transformation and infrastructural development of the aviation sector in Nigeria.”
She said that the road show was coming on the heels of the one held in Abuja, for local investors.
She said, “The huge capital outlay required to carry out any significant transformation of the sector cannot be funded from statutory appropriations alone, hence the need to woo both local and foreign investors to make up the deficit.
“Investors would particularly be wooed to key into the development of the proposed four new international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano as well as the development of aerotropolis around the major airports across the country.
“The proposed aerotropolis model holds immense benefits for Nigeria, the citizenry and the economy as it would promote regional transformation and economic growth, open up other sectors to reduce over-reliance on oil revenues, promote culture and tourism, enhance safety and drive the rapid transformation of the industry as a whole.”
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