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Nigeria Air: Anti-corruption body drags Sirika to EFCC, wants minister probed for fraud



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 A Nigeria-based anti-corruption group, SecureWorld and Liberty Initiative for Peace, SELIP, has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to probe the outgoing Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, for allegedly using the establishment of a national carrier, Nigeria Air, to perpetrate fraud and commit economic sabotage.

The petition, which was addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, was signed by the Executive Director of SELIP, Comrade Mark Adebayo, requesting the anti-graft agency to investigate the outgoing minister for undertaking ventures designed to benefit a few individuals and lead to the eventual collapse of aviation, a critical sector of the Nigerian economy.

The group noted with dismay the unveiling of an aircraft on Friday in Abuja purportedly belonging to Nigeria Air, despite an existing court order restraining the minister from taking any action regarding the project.

READ ALSONigeria Air plane to arrive on Friday — Hadi Sirika 

The group alleged that in a desperate bid to hoodwink President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and the generality of Nigerians, the minister imported a re-painted aircraft owned by Ethiopian Airlines and passed it off as the maiden flight belonging to Nigeria Air.

The civil society group averred that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos headed by Justice A.L Allagoa, in a suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria, had  granted three separate orders of injunctions, restraining the Federal Government from taking any step about the Nigeria Air project ‘but the minister in a desperate bid to cover up the monumental fraud in the deal elected to flagrantly disobeyed an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and produced a sham called unveiling of Nigeria Air flight last Friday.’

The group urged the anti-graft agency to make Sirika account for a whopping N15.9 billion that has been committed so far to the project by the federal government, alleging that the desperation by the minister is geared towards covering up the misappropriation of funds and monumental fraud.

Sirika claimed that Nigeria Air Limited is a private sector-led airline, with only five per cent of the company owned by the Nigerian government. The minister also added that a consortium of entrepreneurs in Nigeria owns 46 percent while investors in Ethiopian Airlines retain 49 percent of the shares.

READ ALSOFG will not be involved in running of national carrier – Hadi Sirika

However, SELIP in the petition, countered the minister saying the conception and implementation of the national carrier project were shrouded in ambiguity and designed to defraud the people of Nigeria by a few Nigerians in connivance with their international collaborators.

“There’s no agreement with the stakeholders in Nigeria, so on what basis has a painted plane been brought in to deceive Nigerians?  The lack of transparency on funding and alleged zero consideration for local players and national interest is frightening as the proposed Shareholders’ Agreement which is yet to be signed reserves all Executive Directors positions for the Ethiopians with Nigerians as deputies,” the group said.

SELIP said Sirika must be compelled to explain why in the proposed Shareholder Agreement, Ethiopian Airlines will also collect millions of dollars yearly as management fees despite having 49% shares and why the East African company will attract such grace by using just their own planes as contributions to the project.

“This scam scheme can only be compared to the daring scam by a Nigerian who sold a phantom airport to some Brazilians years ago. We are sure the Commission has an institutional memory of that obnoxious financial crime that caused Nigeria international embarrassment. The current scam is no less obnoxious.

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