Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila

By Our Correspondent

The House of Representatives, Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber is concluding plans to commence investigations into a recent approval of N320, 000 for a business class local air fare return ticket from Lagos to Yola and N290, 000 for economy class on same route by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman through which the agency loses in excess of N785million annually.

Recall that in a leaked internal memo dated January 4, 2020, raised by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA, Engr. A.A. Jatto to the Managing Director with reference no. HQ/GMC&SC/OP/VF045 entitled: ‘Review of Air Flight Rates (Local)’, Jatto had sought an approval to hike local flight rates in view of recent ‘hike’ in local air fares in the country.

The Memo reads in part: “The division has observed the recent hike in the prices of local tickets across the country. In view of the above and in order to be abreast with reality of our times, it is hereby recommended that the rates for local flight be reviewed upwards accordingly as detailed below”

Part of the recommendations of the memo, which was given an expressed approved by the MD, was that local flight return ticket from Lagos to Yola on business class would be N320, 000 while the same flight on economy class would cost the authority a whopping N290, 000 while a Lagos –Maiduguri flight return ticket on business class would cost N300, 000 and N250, 000 on economy class.

Others include Lagos –Jos on business class, which costs 270, 000 and N250, 000 on economy class, Lagos –Port Harcourt on business class is N300, 000 and N260, 000 on economy as well as Lagos-Sokoto on business class, which is now N260, 000 while it is N240, 000 on economy, among several other routes. It is estimated that the agency would lose over N785million annually if the was not reversed.

A member of the lower legislative chamber, who spoke exclusively with BUSINESS AND TRANSPORT in Lagos, expressed shock that an agency of government would still at this time display such level of brazen corruption on verifiable expenditure item such as flight ticket.

The controversial memo

According to him, relevant committees of the lower house are still gathering materials and comparing notes as well as receiving pieces of information volunteered by public spirited and honest Nigerians in order to facilitate a robust inquiry.

“It is a matter of rude shock to hear that an agency approves a quarter of a million naira (N250, 000) for a local flight on the economy class. We will get to the root of the matter and I am sure it is an investigation most Nigerians would be willing and in a haste to know the outcome, when we get to the bridge, we cross it.

The investigation would not be limited to one committee of the House, so it would be inter-committee, we will also look at the threshold of other agencies because it is not only one agency that travels to Sokoto or Port Harcourt and categories of members of staff, who fly business and economy classes for future action. The enquiry will be an in-depth and far-reaching one”, he assured.

On the specific committees of the House that are investigating the matter, he noted that that would be preemptive but he assured Nigerians that the House will do a good job.

Available statistics show that depending on the season and when one books the flight in terms of the scheduled travel date, most business class flights are N100, 000 or thereabout, also depending on the airline involved and availability of seats etc.

Other aspects of the memo showed that return tickets on routes such as Lagos- Abuja, Lagos- Benin, Lagos -Calabar, Lagos – Kaduna, Lagos – Kano and Lagos – Uyo would cost N250,000 for business class and N200,000 for economy class apiece except for Uyo, which has N220,000 approved for it.

Also, business class tickets for Owerri and Ilorin ranked the lowest cost as N200,000 and N180,000 were approved for business class on the routes respectively while N180,000 and N150,000 respectively were approved for economy in that route.

However, efforts to speak with the GM Corporate and Strategic Communications, Engr. Adam Jatto were rebuffed as he refused to pick his calls nor respond to SMS sent to him.