The Osun State Government has reacted to a PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation on the poor state of the MKO Abiola International Airport, Ido Osun, despite billions spent.
In a statement by the state’s Commissioner for Information, Adelani Baderinwa, the government said the project only suffered a ‘temporary setback’ due to the failure of the concessionaire to deliver.
The government also admitted it had spent about N3 billion public funds on the airport so far.
The statement also highlighted the efforts of the state government in ensuring the completion of the airport project which has been awarded twice and failed twice.
The two-part series by PREMIUM TIMES chronicled anomalies inherent in the concession and incompetence of the concessionaire, AWOL International Limited.
But the state government said it is still committed to completing the project even though Mr Aregbesola has a few more months in office as governor. Election to elect a new governor in the state will hold on September 22.
“The government of the State of Osun will like to state that the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola is still very much positive and focused on having the project done and that the temporary setback suffered cannot be the reason for anybody to declare the airport project as a failure. In fact, with a sense of pride, we say that the project has not failed, it will not fail with the kind of attention it gets from Governor Aregbesola.
“Rather, we say with utmost sense of responsibility that it is the concessionaire, All Works of Life International Limited, (AWOL) that has failed in living up to its responsibility and the picture of its stated capability and competence. Government of the state of Osun, under Aregbesola meant so well in having the project executed and completed in the bid to complement its set agenda of promoting the state’s infrastructure to ensure fast economic development of Osun has been the basis for its pursuit abinitio. And we state that the Aregbesola’s administration is still fully committed to the airport project and all efforts are being channeled towards making the project a successful reality,” the statement reads.
The statement notes that the state has begun discussions with interested investors, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), in a bid to ensure the completion of the project.
“May we note that many rational and reasonable local and international investors who appreciate the essence of the project have been showing sufficient interest and these include the Afrian Development Bank (AfDB) with whom official discussions have begun with a view to ensure that the airport project was achieved and made to provide the needed services for the good of the people and the growth of the state.”
It also set out to ‘correct’ what it described as ‘factual errors’ in PREMIUM TIMES report.
The government stated that ‘all necessary procedures’ were followed in the concession. But it failed to address issues raised in the report.
The first part of the investigation questioned the state government’s style of awarding contract without recourse to the state public procurement law and its failure to conduct due diligence on AWOL, a company that has never handled an aviation project.
PREMIUM TIMES made an FOI request to the state Ministry of Works but got no reponse close to two months after.
The newspaper also contacted the state Public Procurement Agency whose head declined to comment.
In the report, Mr Baderinwa justified the lapses on the peculiarity of the project and the state’s lack of funding capacity.
He told PREMIUM TIMES in June: “It wasn’t as if we had ready hands that wanted to do the job. So, if you find one that is interested… the peculiar situation of that particular projects warrants such. You are able to see somebody who is interested in it, you know how much that is going to be expended and it’s not going to be government’s money. On the basis of that, the concession agreement was done properly.”
However, the commissioner in the statement, instead of providing evidences of the ‘due process’ that were claimed to have been followed re-worded his comments, without a mention of procurement or procurement law.
“To start with, government states that all necessary procedure and due process were followed in the concession arrangement between the state government and AWOL. This is in the style and normal operation of the Aregbesola administration as could be fact-checked in all its transactions in the last eight years or thereabouts. We are very proud to say that the Aregbesola government has not been found wanton in its operations which has been subjected to audit scrutiny on regular basis by necessary authorities.”
The transparency exuded by the government gave it the confidence to terminate AWOL’s contract on March 5 and as a follow up to inform the police on April 20, the statement noted.
The statement gave a breakdown of what has been expended on the airport site. It also noted that works had reached 75 per cent completion before AWOL’s takeover in 2017.
“As at today, the total amount that has been expended on the project is N2,926,207,948.05, including those spent by the previous administration. This was expended on the construction of runaway, perimeter fencing, land clearing, etc. Specifically, the site for the 3.5km runway, taxiway, aircraft parking apron, has been cleared.
“The Substructure (foundation) of the terminal building, fire building and control tower is complete. However, only 50 per cent of work had been done on the superstructure (main building) of the control tower, and fire building. Three main single culverts and 4 3m x 3m Double Culvert have been completed remaining two for the entire runway.
“The total cost of the work done so far on the airport project before the concession arrangement was 3,667,178,112.15, out of which the government paid N2,926,207,948.05, leaving the outstanding of 740,970.164.10.
“The contract was originally commenced by the immediate past administration which had an agreement with the federal authority to co-sponsored it financially. There was no indication that the federal government lived up to that agreement.”
The statement also traced the history of the airport project. It noted that it would be the third airport with cargo and hanger only after South Africa and Egypt in Africa “had the concessionaire not failed”.
The statement insinuated PREMIUM TIMES investigation “would have focused on the work completed” while emphasising that the project has not failed.
“Government finds it essential to state that if the tenet of developmental journalism which is being espoused and promoted by the international community and specially recommended for Africa’s quick growth is anything to go by, then the focus of any researcher should be on the extent of work done, especially on the runway and the watch tower which are the main heart of airports development.
“This will undoubtedly help investors in making up their minds on the visibility of the project. To roundly condemn the totality of the project is a disservice to humanity and the strenuous efforts being made here by the Government of the State of Osun to develop needed infrastructure in anticipation of buoyant economy in which life will be more abundant for our people.
“It is unfortunate that the concessionaire failed but the pursuit of having a standard airport with special features envisioned by Ogbeni Rauf on MKO Airport has not failed, it is dear to the Aregbesola’s administration and the government is committed to completing the project,” it added.