The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, is expected to appear before the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property tomorrow.
He is wanted to answer questions bordering on economic sabotage arising from alleged failure by his company to execute a contract of 12 million dollars for the dredging of the Calabar channel.
Senator Uzodinma, who represents Imo West senatorial district, was allegedly arrested on Sunday night at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, on arrival from Lagos.
He was, however, released shortly after, on health grounds.
The contract was said to have been awarded by the Nigerian Ports Authority, which reported the alleged fraud to the presidency.
According to the chairman of the panel, Okoi Obono-Obla, Senator Uzodinma had been evading arrest for about a year until yesterday.
About 50 Senators on Sunday met at a private office in Abuja to deliberate the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The Senators who insist they are in support of the anti-corruption war of the President, however accused the Presidency of instigating the CCB against the Senate President.
Senator Saraki was not part of the meeting, but after exhaustive deliberation, the Senators agreed to defend the Senate as an institution and its leadership.
Some of the Senators who attended the meeting include Senator Samuel Anyawu – PDP Imo East, Senator Dino Melaye – APC Kogi West, Senator Binta Garbamasi – APC Adamawa North and Senator Hope Uzodinma – PDP Imo West.
The Chairman Senate committee on Aviation, Hope Uzodinma on Tuesday expressed concern that some of the country’s airports are not certified according to the standards of international aviation regulatory agencies. Mr Uzodinma, who noted this at the budget defence session of the ministry of aviation, asked the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah to ensure that the 2013 budget is used to address the issue of certification of airports and rehabilitating airport infrastructure.
The Senator said it is ‘’very sad that most of our airports are not certified in accordance with ICAO standards. We must therefore do everything possible to get them certified’’.
He said other areas which deserve serious attention; and upon which government must find a way to fund in the 2013 budget is capacity building and training of professionals/experts by the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), airfield lighting as well the maintenance of the runways.
He emphasised that the Senate and the Ministry must collectively work together to ensure that the 2013 budget improves upon the achievements recorded in 2012 in order to be able to deliver on the expectations of Nigerians who not only expect functional facilities at the airports, but also that Aviation plays a pivotal role in the economic development of the nation.
‘’Let me say that our watch-word for year 2013 budget is must be prudence; realistic, tenacious and accountable execution of capital projects’’, the chairman added.
Mrs Oduah assured the committee that airport certification and modernization are key priorities in the ministry’s 2013 budget.
The Minister said Nigerian airports lack adequate fire cover, efficient airspace communication infrastructure, water hydrant, fire fighting vehicles, airfield lighting, while poor security of the airport, coupled with lack of perimeter fencing, among others, are factors militating against standard airport system stipulated by the global aviation regulatory body.
No airport in Nigeria has met the requirements for certification.
The Minister, in her presentation of the 2013 budget to the committee lamented that it was unacceptable that airports in the country are not certified.
The Senate Committee on Aviation has ordered the British Airways and the Virgin Atlantic Airways to pay a fine of $135 million and $100 million respectively for conspiring to fix prices at the expense of Nigeria, operating a duopoly to the detriment of other airlines and engaging in the passenger fuel surcharge scam.
The committee, in its report on the violation of aviation laws and practice by foreign airlines and lapses in the operations of regulatory agencies, on Tuesday ordered the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to work with the Ministry of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to compel both airlines to pay the fines in line with the Civil Aviation Act 2006.
Presenting the report, the Chairman of the Committee, Hope Uzodinma said both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways were found guilty of the offences.
It also recommended that government officials travelling abroad should mandatorily use Nigerian flag carriers and charged the Aviation Ministry to work with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to enlighten the public on the imperative of flying national flag carriers.
The committee also recommended that the Aviation Ministry be engaged on its plan to float an indigenous national carrier, saying “Arik Airline with over 26 new aircrafts in their fleet and any other local airline with similar capacity which must have operated in Nigeria for a minimum of five years should be granted national flag carrier status”.
The proposal to grant Arik airline the national flag carrier status did not go down well with some lawmakers who argued that the Federal government should rather build its own airline.
The Senate President, David Mark queried the regulatory agencies for failing to protect Nigerians from the exploitation of foreign airlines.
“We need to do our homework before blaming the airlines. Nigerians expect us to protect them. Let nobody exploit Nigerians. The British Airways and the Virgin Atlantic Airways have exploited Nigerians. The regulatory agencies are the problems. They’ve failed in what they’re supposed to do. As weak as the laws are, they are not being implemented. We’ve problems with implementing the laws we put in place,” he said.
Some lawmakers argue that the committee’s report does not address the mandate given to the committee.
The senate resolved to consider the recommendations on another legislative day.