Red Alert! Benin Airport Is Next Death Trap

Magazine cover 26Magazine cover 26The airport at Benin, capital city of Edo State has been described as a death trap waiting to snare flights either landing or taking off the airport. Two incidences of near misses last week gave credence to the troubling prospect of the next airport that may become the epi-centre of bad news in the aviation sector.

Not a few passengers on an Aero Contractor’s scheduled first flight to Benin from Lagos this past Monday, 20 July 2009 suffered a shake down resulting from a massive pump of adrenalin as the pilot of the airline reportedly made two unsuccessful but near fatal efforts to land on the runway of the Benin Airport. The pilot had to return to Lagos after the second attempt.

“We arrived at the vicinity of the Benin Airport without any incident, and we were actually in descent to the runway for final landing when suddenly all passengers, and apparently, the pilot saw that we were far away from the airport runway. What suddenly jumped at house from the ground was a mix of green field and trees while the airplane speed was at full throttle,” said a passenger who shared his experience with Fortune&Class Weekly.

“The pilot had to quickly revert position by taking off. He announced through the cockpit’s address system that he had to abort landing procedure because of poor visibility caused by low hanging cloud. He then informed us that he would make a second try, the passenger added.

However, according to the passenger, the second landing effort turned out scarier than the first.

“That second attempt threw every passenger aboard into panic; again, the pilot had to abort the landing and announced that he had to make a turn back to Lagos because of the bad weather. I must confess that when we heard the pilot’s voice on the address system, the voice was much shaken. In fact, we were made to understand that the experience got under the skin of the pilot that he had to surrender the control of the flight back to Lagos to his co-pilot, a female,” the passenger said.

Meanwhile, another reported that as the Aero Contractor airplane, a Boeing 737-500, headed back to Lagos, two Arik airplanes, one from Abuja and the other from Lagos successfully landed at the Benin Airport and this roused a heated debate among passengers on the flight on the possible reason for the successful landing of the two Arik Air planes while Aero Contractor had to abort landing.

Aviation experts we spoke with, however, explained that the Arik Air planes were of smaller carrying capacity which allows them to manoeuvre for landing better than the Aero Contractor’s Boeing 737-500.

Another expert, however, submitted that the lack of appropriate instrument landing system at the airport has made the airport a potential death-trap. The expert argued that the Aero Contractor’s plane made those near disastrous landings because it was not properly directed from the control towers, “and that is because the airport doesn’t have reliable landing instrument to guide the effort of the pilot. I hope the authorities will quickly address this shortcoming before something disastrous happens,” the expert said.

Between Aero-Contractors and FAAN The Rigmarole

This report as submitted by Jonah Etufunwa

It was clear to us that Aero-Contractors must have knowledge of what happened that fateful Monday morning when the passengers had their hearts in their mouths as their aircraft’s attempts to land twice at Benin Airport were aborted. Even the pilot, a male, who became faint-hearted, we learnt, had to be assisted by the co-pilot, a woman, back to Lagos.

Getting to their office at the local airport, Ikeja, we were jolted by the evasive attitudes of officers there.

We wanted to speak with the public affairs manager, but the receptionist told us that the person to talk to us was the commercial manager, who was not in the office then, so his secretary after hearing the story from us, told us to hold on. We waited for more than 40 minutes and later discovered that for more than additional 15 minutes her lines rang without her response as the receptionist tried to remind her that we were still waiting.

The woman who asked us to hang on had disappeared. We could understand her situation; she was not authorized to speak on such matters to the press, but she could have treated us in a much better way. One thing was obvious at Aero-Contractors, a public affairs manager is not on their payroll.

Before leaving we reminded the receptionist that we did not want to report our story without confirmation, but that they were making things difficult for us.

Our investigation took us to NAMA and we were told by a source at their public affairs department that Aero-Contractors’ difficulty with landing could be associated with the aircraft’s malfunctioning or the pilot’s error. “As far as we had given them the right to land, missing the run-way twice is between Aero and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN). FAAN is the landlord, it provides landing equipment.”

An official of NAMA who would not want his name in print, however, noted that if there was a fog or cloud, it is not advisable to land. “If you are driving, and it begins to rain, visibility can be maximally reduced, that does not mean the road is not good; and at such a situation one may even park for a short while,” the official reasoned with us.

We asked if nothing could have been done to aid visibility in the inclement weather. He said the landing lights are supposed to be on. “Could the light have been off due to one reason or the other,” we further asked. He said that NAMA manages Nigeria’s airspace and they are responsible for airborne aircraft from zero to 5,000 feet and to make sure that their equipment are always functioning to make communication possible with all aircraft landing or taking off, “NAMA maintains powerful generating sets every time. FAAN does same,’ he said.

The following day, last Friday, we were at the office of the General Manager, Public Affairs, Akin Olukunle. After listening to our story of the averted tragedy, he said he was just hearing that for the first time, that he would commence investigation immediately and would get back to us. We knew he would like to also get firsthand information from the Aero-Contractors’ management. We therefore decided to return to Aero-Contractors office. The receptionist knowing we were there the previous day, called the commercial manager’s office. The secretary, (not the one that spoke with us the day before, Thursday) in the absence of her boss, directed the receptionist to a captain, who definitely we thought would solve our problems, but unfortunately when we were asked to speak with someone on phone, we ended up talking with the secretary.

What we got from this secretary was an anti-climax. She blurted: “Go to Control Tower.”

“Where is the Control Tower,” we asked.

The secretary further shocked us, saying, “You say you are a reporter and you don’t know Control Tower? Go to FAAN.”

“Why are you getting angry?” we asked her and she never replied. We did not have to go to FAAN because the air-lord of Nigerian airports, the controllers of the Control Tower, is NAMA, not FAAN and we had already spoken with FAAN’s GM, Public Affairs.

To expedite action, our reporter sent a text message to FAAN’s GM thus: “Pls, assist me with d investigatn of what happened to Aero-Contractors’ aircraft on Monday morning @ Benin. My editor is waiting for the story 2day. When u’v found out, flash me n I’ll call u. Tanx.”

Until Saturday morning before going to the press, we did not hear from the FAAN’s GM.

The Call To Upgrade Instrument Landing System

An Aeronautical Scientist, Mr. Dauda Ajeye Nuhu, had in a presentation argued for the upgrade of certain major airports in Nigeria to the optimum category (CATIIIB) for Instrument Landing System (ILS) approaches.

Dauda writes: “ILS approach is that which allow the automatic pilot land the aircraft in poor visibility without the human pilot’s manual input on the yoke during aircraft landing at airport runway. It is true to say that not every airport in the developed world has Category Three B (CATIIIB) autopilot approach ILS installed on all, but most of the busy airports are. This goes to say that at least certain airports in Nigeria can get these systems installed and certified, especially for International airports and the busiest local airports that run relatively active local flights on day to day basis.

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FINANCIALBRIDGE: HOW TO DO BUSINESS WITH THE AMERICAN INVESTMENT COMPANY THAT FACILITATES OFFSHORE FUNDING FOR NIGERIAN BUSINESSES

When Patrick Fournie, Senior Advisor with FinancialBridge, Inc. made his presentation on the “Private Ownership of Modular Refineries in Nigeria: The New Trend in Building Petroleum Refining Capacity: The Financialbridge Experience” at a seminar organized by the Energy Industry Development Initiative at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos State, this past Tuesday, 11 November, 2008, seminar participants listened with rapt attention.

Fournie presentation, was for the Nigerian and other foreign participants at the seminar, a revelation of a new vista in financing strategies on the pivot of offshore financing, he informed the seminar of how FinancialBridge is facilitating funding for a Pharmaceutical Project in Abuja, at a cost of $12.2 million and an aluminum roofing sheet & allied project at Onna in Akwa Ibom State at a cost of $6.6million. FinancialBridge, he said, is also involved in funding for an amusement park project at Isheri, Ogun State, at a projected cost of $22.3 Million, a pit quarry mining project at Oyebiyi, Oyo State at a projected cost of $7.5 million and a 5-Star luxury hotel in Abuja at a projected cost of $55.8 million.

Other projects FinancialBridge had been engaged to facilitate funding for by Nigerian entrepreneurs are the phase one of the 12,000Barrels per day modular refinery project at Eket in Akwa Ibom State at a cost of $43.7 million and the 12,000Barrels Per Day modular refinery project at Kolo Creek in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State at a projected cost of $121.3 million. A $197.5 million 18,000Barrels Per Day modular refinery project in Edo State is also one of the projects FinancialBridge is facilitating offshore funding for.

Fournie who flew into Nigeria to make further revealed how his company had structured funding and project implementation procedures for the soon to be streamed 12,000 Barrels Per Day Amakpe Refinery Project at Ikot Usekong – Eket in Akwa Ibom State and the Rehoboth Refinery, also a 12,000 Barrels Per Day Refinery Project in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Fournie, who, on behalf of Financialbridge, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) appointing Energy Industry Development Initiative as its representative in Nigeria, explained that FinancialBridge is an export finance and business credit consulting firm:

“We work with U.S. and international financial institutions to provide innovative funding solutions to private companies and government agencies, including: export trade finance, project finance, public sector financing and export working capital. We are also involved in equity financing and facilitation of bridging loans” Fournie said.

“We cooperate with Project Implementation and Management Companies in ensuring effective utilization of procured funds for successful planning and execution of related projects and trade transactions.”

Highlighting its primary sources of export funding in the United States financial market, Fournie said his company’s sources include: Export-Import Bank of the United States (U.S. Ex-Im), Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export Finance Banks and Credit Insurance Companies, among others:

“Ex-Im Bank is the official Export-Credit Agency of the United States that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by financing the sale of U.S. Exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world. Ex-Im Bank provides Loan Guarantees, Export-Credit Insurance and Direct Loans, in fiscal year 2007, Ex-Im Bank authorized $12.6 billion in financing to support an estimated $16 billion of U.S. exports worldwide.” Fournie said.

Perhaps, of importance to Nigerian entrepreneurs, is the revelation by Fournie that the Ex- Im Bank has approved a $1.0 billion facility to guarantee Nigerian Projects (of which $800 million is still available) despite the global financial melt down.

Explaining the process for securing offshore funding for projects in Nigeria, Fournie said:

“Under the Ex-Im Bank Guarantee Program, the Promoter is required to provide Statutory Equity Contribution of 15% of U.S. Cost Content, while the U.S. Lender funds 85% of the U.S. Cost Content utilizing the Comprehensive Credit Guarantee of Ex-Im Bank. The Project Promoter is further required to provide Local Bank Guarantee to support the 85% portion of the U.S. Loan as well as finance local In-Country Costs requirements within the overall Project Cost.The U.S. Ex-Im Guaranteed Loans have Medium Term Tenure of 5 to 7 years at Interest Rates of +/- 2% above Six Months Floating LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate).

Some of the projects funding prospects of FinancialBridge include Oil and Gas (Modular Oil Refineries, Gas Gathering & Processing Plants, Downstream Petrochemical Projects, Pipelines, etc.), Energy (Gas Turbines and Diesel Powered Plants), Communications (Wireless VSAT Network VoIP Telephone, Fax, High Speed Broadband Internet Systems, Cable TV, etc.) and Solid Mineral (Quarrying & Processing).

Other funding prospects are: Manufacturing and Assembly (Small and Medium Scale Plants), Construction (Pre-engineered Buildings & Facilities, Stadiums & Arenas, Industrial Parks, etc.) Agro-Business (Farming & Food Processing), Medical (Pharmaceutical Projects, Supplies & Clinics), Tourism (Amusement Parks, Hotels/Resorts, etc) and Aviation (Used & New Passenger & Cargo Aircrafts, Helicopters, Airport Development & Expansion, Avionics & Spare Parts, etc.)

Highlighting the milestones already attained with the 12,000 Barrels Per Day (BPD) Amakpe Refinery as a case study, Fournie said:

“The Amakpe Refinery is being implemented in two phases, with Phase 1 – 6000BPD Refinery Plant originally estimated to cost about $36.5 million and now revised to cost $43.7 million, including Escalation, and revised Field Erection Costs. Construction of 12KM Dual Steel Pipeline connecting Exxon/Mobile QIT and Amakpe Tank Farm is estimated at $10 million of Additional Cost. The Project is expected to start production by October 2009. Out of the current revised Project cost of $43.7 million, $26.2 million has been expended while $17.5 million is outstanding to complete full funding of the Project.

“UPS Capital/Ex-Im Bank Loan of $10.3 milion is being disbursed to Ventech, based on P&M Construction Progress Payment while Amakpe Refinery has fully paid required statutory Equity Contribution and continues to pay the Counterpart Funds. Akwa Ibom State Government Investment of $8.5 million has also been applied to the Project

“As at June 27, 2008, Ventech achieved 50% Mechanical Completion of the Refinery Plants and Machinery Fabrication, which was certified by visiting representatives of the Department of Petroleum Resources, including Mr. M.D.B. Ladan-Head Downstream, Mr. O.A. Adeleke- Assistant Director, Dr. D.M.E. Eradiri- Chief Environmental Officer, Mr. Oyedele Sangobowale and Mr. Hussaini Basaka-Site Representatives. Based on this development, Amakpe Refinery has qualified to receive $1.2million Security Deposit earlier paid to DPR as a requirement for revalidation of related Refinery Construction License.

“Sterling Bank has approved additional $9.3 million Loan Facility for the Project. Amakpe Refinery is planning to issue 15,000,000 Shares of Common Stock of the Company for sale to Private Investors. The Private Placement is being packaged by Financialbridge and Sterling Bank for issuance by Sterling Capital Markets (Issuing House).

To start -up the process of obtaining required funding, a Company is required to retain the services of Financialbridge which will develop a Bankable Business Plan that will satisfy U.S. Export Financial Market requirements and procure the Project Loan.

The retainership will further cover service coordination of Project Loan Packaging and Procurement that will involve the Borrower and the U.S. Lender. The U.S. Lender will underwrite the submitted statutory documentation leading to Loan approval, following which the Lender will request the U.S. Ex-Im Bank for issuance of Political Risk and Medium-Term Insurance/ Comprehensive Credit Guarantee before disbursement of related Loan. The process of underwriting the Loan through approval and disbursement could be concluded within 45-90 days after the U.S. Lender receives the complete statutory documentation as outlined.

Financialbridge be responsible in carrying out tasks that will result in the successful procurement of U.S. Loan for the implementation of the project which include: Conduct of Feasibility Study and preparation of Bankable Business Plan that will satisfy U.S. Export Financial Market requirements. The Business Plan will be concluded within 30-45 days from receipt of Engagement Fee, Data from Market Research as well as Borrowers information. The draft of the Business Plan will be forwarded to the Company for approval and possible input before production of final Document.

FinancialBridge also processes Due Diligence, Approval and Disbursement of Project Loan within 45-90 days of the U.S. Financial Institutions receiving and underwriting complete statutory documentation from the Nigerian company.

If required, Financialbridge can also be engaged to Package and Instrument Private Placement of Shares of Common Stock of the company to raise additional funds through Private Equity Investment, utilizing a local Nigerian Bank as Issuing House.

The Funds raised through the Private Placement could be applied to fund Local Project Site Development and In-Country Costs as well as required Equity Contribution, etc.

The Nigerian company shall be responsible for the following within the requirements for successful Loan Procurement, including: Obtaining Nigerian Bank Guarantee for 85% or 75% of the total U.S. Loan amount to fund the Project, depending on the Ex-Im Bank or OPIC requirement.

Securing all required Permits and Licenses from Nigerian Regulatory Authorities, submission of three years audited financial statements of the Nigerian bank as certified by a renowned accounting firm. Provision of Equity Contribution of 15% of total U.S. costs content within the overall Project cost for U.S. Ex-Im Bank Guaranteed Loan to be added to 85% of total U.S. cost content as Loan, or 25% as statutory Equity contribution of total Project

Confirming Energy Industry Development Initiative’s (EIDI) relationship with FinancialBridge, the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Tom Obaseki said FinancialBridge has already shown interest in facilitating funding for some project ideas it had forwarded to FinancialBridge.

“As we speak, we have forwarded project proposals for the establishment of 5-7 MMSCFD Modular Gas Gathering, LPG and Lean Gas Production Plant in Nigeria, the establishment of Integrated 55MW Power Plant, Natural Gas Gathering and LPG Processing Project in Nigeria and for Development of Pre-engineered Medical Clinic & Diagnostic Centers, Pharmaceutical Project and Customized Medical Trailers & Boat Clinics, complete with Outreach Medical Technicians Training Support.” Obaseki explained.

FOR THE FIRST TIME…A SOCIALIST IN A STATE HOUSE

Finally, an avowed socialist is in a government house in Nigeria. It has been a long trek for that community that belongs in the ideological bend of the Marxist/Engel political thoughts. The first experience with a publicly declared socialist inclined government was way back in the 1950s when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was Premier of the Western Region. Even as the British colonialists lingered in the background of the nation’s political cadence, Awolowo wrought some of the most astounding welfare programmes that till date, people of south west Nigeria embrace the Awolowo years with the nostalgia of a baby’s yearn for a mother’s breast.

Though years had passed, Awolowo’s political exploits and programmes implementation in government have been passed from one generation to the other, and has continued to generate a yearning for a re-enactment of the Awolowo years. This yearning has become more intense with the growing state of hopelessness of Nigerians, seemingly captured in the vice grip of a generation of political brigands that has raised mediocrity to new standards, celebrating the nation’s state of decay with all imaginable plum. It has become so bad that when a Governor of a State buys a bucket for the state’s house bathroom, a large press conference is called and the drums are rolled out to celebrate the “massive” achievement. It tells how much government provision for the needs of the governed has reduced to the deliquence of tokenism.

The coming of Adams Oshiomole to the government house in Benin Edo State provides a new vista for refreshing expectations. Labour and all its philosophical postulation should be the very antithesis of the free wheeling politics of the area boys in Nigeria. The Nigerian state is even more unfortunate because the politicians that straddle the landscape have no idea of what ideological governance must of necessity be administered. The consequence for the country has been the wholesale violence of misdirection that has seized the political environment.

This is just by the way. The truth of the matter is that Oshiomole former labour leader and unarguably, a respected radical now sits in government house, and already, we are getting a feel of the flurry of progressive activities that will characterize political administration of Edo State in the next four years. Immediately after he was sworn-in, the governor declared free education as a state policy in Edo State. It’s a policy that always sits well with the people, south of Nigeria. It was hailed.

Then the governor reeled out other banishments; the banning of illegal taxes at all motor parks within the State and a hint of probing the administration of his immediate predecessor, Prof. Osunbor. It’s just all right the governor has moved the State to the action mode, even, when he was yet to see a single file in the State House.

I dare to call for a slow down, at least in the first few weeks of the administration. Many well intentioned programmes and ideas have failed on the implementation scale, most often, because they lacked well thought out processes. I believe that government policies must be well researched on the template administrative briefing by appropriate officers of state administration. Even if there is a primordial suspicion of civil servants, consultation with them and other stakeholders in governance is important.

While not questioning the competence of Comrade Oshiomole, of course, he had shown sterling qualities with his leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress, I still think governance is different from politicking. It is even more important for the Comrade-Governor to conduct a minimum one week review of the state of situation in Edo State before rolling out his programmes implementation direction. This is against the background of the deplorable state of infrastructure and morale Edo State had degenerated into in the administration of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors.

Generally, Comrade Oshiomole’s coming is a good thing for all that bid good for Nigeria, at the minimum, there is a now a basis to compare labour with the band of degenerates that had for long assailed our sensibilities.