Coalition Raises Concerns Over Alleged Plans to Relocate Katsina Airport Project
By Matthew Eloyi
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has raised concerns about the purported plans by the Federal Government of Nigeria to move forward with the relocation of a critical project at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua International Airport (UMYIA) Katsina to another region.
Speaking at a press conference in Katsina on Sunday, Mr Bishir Dauda, the National Secretary of Voice of the Masses, expressed his dismay, labelling the decision as an “unfortunate, deliberate, malicious, and subversive attempt” by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo.
Dauda emphasized the CSOs’ stance, stating, “Such efforts to relocate a project from Umaru Musa Yar’adua International Airport, Katsina to another part of the country was on baseless and preposterous excuses.”
The project in question, awarded to Avsatel Communication Limited on Dec 7, 2022, aimed to refurbish Airport Rescue and Firefighting Vehicles (ARFF) at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua International Airport, Katsina.
Dauda pointed out, “It is important to note that this contract was awarded, with a down payment, during the last administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari. The gigantic project would have tremendous economic benefits to the state and Nigeria as a whole.”
He expressed concern about the potential relocation, stating, “Hence, these organisations consider the harmful and retrogressive action of relocating this vital project from Katsina to another part of the country for a flimsy reason, as an attempt to shortchange the good people of Katsina state, who massively voted for the President.”
“We the people of Katsina state cherish the international airport because it is very strategic in actualising the development dreams of our forefathers,” Dauda added.
The coalition called on Governor Dikko Radda, Katsina elders, and all patriotic sons and daughters of Katsina to convey their rejection of the decision to the president, hoping that “the president, as a listening leader, will do the needful by reversing the subversive action of his minister.”
The CSOs expressed the belief that the president would direct the contractor to expedite action on the project or revoke the contract and re-award it to another firm with the capability to execute it.
Muhammad Danjuma-Katsina, the convener of the CSOs, remarked, “Government is a continuous process, coupled with the fact that Tinubu had repeatedly promised to complete projects started by his predecessor. The minister and the contractors seem to have a different agenda.”
The CSOs involved in this protest include the Katsina Youth Enlightenment Crusade for Peace and Development, the Citizens Participation Against Corruption Initiative, the Voice of the Masses, and the National Council of Women Society.
It was reported that AVSATEL Communication Ltd, the contractor handling the project, initiated the move for the relocation in a memo to the minister dated Dec. 4, 2023. The letter, signed by Mr George Eder, the Managing Director of the company, proposed moving the project away from Katsina to Abuja or any Southern part of the country for logistical reasons. Eder stated, “Our proposal is based on practical considerations to ensure economic viability and long-lasting success.”
“We believe that relocating the project to the South or the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) offers a promising future. We are prepared to address any questions and appreciate your consideration of this proposal,” he said.