Abuja - The Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, has debunked claims by aviation union leaders that she is single-handedly implementing the automation of revenue collection at the Ministry's Agencies.
This is contained in a statement signed and released by Mr Joe Obi, the Special Adviser to the Minister on Media and e-mailed to aviation correspondents in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the acting Secretaries of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ( ATSSSAN) had, earlier on Tuesday at a joint news conference in Lagos, accused the Minister on the issue and others.
``On the automation of revenue collection at the agencies, it is a huge lie, and in fact, mischievous on the part of the unions to insinuate that the Minister single-handedly ordered the exercise.
``To be sure, the unions were fully involved in series of meetings on the subject-matter after which they unanimously gave their endorsement to the initiative which, it must be re-emphasised, is aimed at plugging the hemorrhaging leakages in the system.''
The release added that the Heads of the agencies under the Ministry were also not only involved in the initiative, but they also were in full support of the automation since it meant more revenue to the coffers of the agencies.
``It therefore smacks of cheap blackmail to suggest that the agencies were left in the dark on the automation process.''
The statement also described as falsehood the declaration by the union representatives that a certain $100 million dollars may have been saved through the intervention of the unions with respect to the automation procedure.
``It is further disgusting, if not absurd for the union leaders to charge the Minister with “undue interference with the running of the agencies.
``How could any responsible union leadership allege that the Minister, who has been saddled with the mandate to superintend over the entire sector, is now being accused of meddlesomeness with regard to the running of the agencies? It is indeed laughable.''
Obi in the statement recalled that the current restructuring exercise, which the Union is attempting to discredit, is exactly what the sector needs for a total rebirth and repositioning.
``All those who have been recently appointed, re-deployed and or promoted have the professional competence, capability and experience to drive the vision and transformation of the aviation industry in Nigeria.
`` Compared with similar exercises in the sector in the past, it ranks as the most transparent and devoid of any shades of nepotism.''
He said the present exercise being challenged was not only about a handful of fresh appointments, but mainly also involved the promotion and advancement of existing staff of the agencies who had suffered stagnation in career progression over the years.
``It is strange that the Comrades who addressed the press conference would not acknowledge this positive move.''
The Minister reminded the Union leaders in the agencies to remember that they were first and foremost, employees of the Federal Government and were, therefore, subject to the same rules and regulations governing Civil Service in respect of transfers, redeployment and postings.
``The entire sector can therefore not be grounded and blackmailed on account of the unwillingness of some of these leaders to respect and abide by routine postings in the Service.
``This is the crust of the matter and every other attempt to malign or impugn the integrity of the Honourable and her transformation drive is akin to clawing at imaginary straws.
``She refuses to be distracted or blackmailed.''