A wave of criticisms and outrage has trailed the recent approval of astronomical airfares for the management and staff of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Both the traditional media and the new media have been awash with reports of how the management of NPA approved bogus airfares that are far above the prevailing airfares in the country for its staff.
A look at the contentious airfares leaves one really breathless, as they do not bear any semblance to the prevailing airfares on the country’s domestic routes. NPA’s airfares range from an utterly outrageous N200,000 to N220,000 for economy class travels and from N250,000 to N320,000 for business class travels. This inflated amount is more than four times the prevailing average market rate about N40,000 for economy and N70,000 for business class domestic travels.
Though the organization has tried to do some damage control since the inflated figures went viral, it has not succeeded in dousing the outrage from aggrieved and pained Nigerians. The feeble attempt by NPA spokesman, Adams Jatto, who originated the controversial memo seeking approval for the outrageous airfares which was approved by NPA Managing Director Hadiza Bala Usman, holds no water. Rather, it portrays the NPA as an organization deeply rooted in corruption and that requires urgent cleanup.
Jatto’s unconvincing argument that the scandalous airfares include airport taxi and other expenses the staff would incur on a journey falls flat on its face. This argument is far from the truth as the memo specifically talked about airfares.
According to Jatto’s memo: “The Division has observed the recent hike in prices of local tickets across the country. In view of the above and in order to keep abreast with reality of our times, it is hereby recommended that the rates for local flights be reviewed upwards accordingly as detailed below.” This statement is clear and unambiguous. The amount is strictly for airfare and does not include airport taxi, lodging or feeding.
Anybody familiar with the public service knows that there are travelling allowances, hotel accommodation and feeding and other perks, which the staff enjoy, which cannot be lumped together as airfare.
There is really an urgent need for NPA to come clean on this matter. The scandalous and outrageous airfares do not serve the best interest of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, which is seen as one that is strong in the fight against corruption. If allowed to pass, the inflated figures will lead to the loss of billions of Naira that will be siphoned through equally corrupt travel agencies.
The right of the citizens to demand accountability from public officers should not be lost on the NPA management. Accountability is so crucial in the life and survival of a nation to the extent that without it, the nation will remain underdeveloped. It is a concept in which individuals who exercise power on behalf of the people are constrained by both external forces and internal norms to be accountable to them. Thus, the people act as a watchdog, which helps to guide and modify the behavior of those who manage government agencies for the good of the people and the society.
It is on this score that the NPA management should understand the people’s outrage, and immediately withdraw the controversial memo, reverse the inflated airfares and ensure it purchases its travel tickets at market rates. It must also apologise to Nigerians and promise to eschew actions that portray the agency and Nigeria in bad light.