By Ononye VC
Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA), on Wednesday, asked anti-graft agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arrest the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika over the grossly suspicious and “fraudulent” national carrier project called Nigeria Air.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko said the sham hurriedly unveiled by Sirika May 26, 2023, the last official day of the Muhammadu Buhari administration is suspect.
The group said the EFCC should swing into action to probe the former minister now that the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Aviation have separately declared that the project is a fraud.
Recall that the Federal Government had in July 2018 unveiled the much-awaited new national carrier during the Farnborough Air Show in London.
In eight years, the Buhari administration with Sirika as the arrowhead spent over N85 billion on Nigeria Air, as shown in data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Compilation of Budgetary Allocations between 2016 and 2023.
At separate meetings with Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Capt Dapo Olumide, on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Senate Aviation Committee, Senator Biodun Olujimi; and the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, both agreed that the launch of Nigeria Air is a fraud.
In fact, the Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air admitted that the Boeing 737-800 aircraft used to unveil the country’s national career was a legitimate chartered flight from Ethiopian Airlines. He said the aircraft returned to Ethiopian Airlines after the unveiling.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The revelations coming out on the Nigeria Air project is a putrid smell of deep-rooted corruption in the Federal Ministry of Aviation under the eight-year watch of the then Minister, Hadi Sirika.
“The Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Capt Dapo Olumide told legislators on Tuesday that the aircraft paraded as Nigeria Air plane belonged to Ethiopian Airlines and not to Nigeria whereas the then minister paraded the aircraft as being originally owned by Nigeria. This is fraud of the highest order and the lawmakers have labelled it so including the suspension of all activities regarding the sham called national carrier.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must swing into action now that both the upper and lower chambers have declared the project as a fraud. The anti-graft agency must swiftly arrest, investigate and prosecute the ex-minister if found culpable.
“There are a lot of questions that Sirika must be made to answer including the whereabouts of the N85 billion splurged on the project. In fact, aside that the so-called national carrier has not secured a single aircraft for its operations, it has also failed to secure Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).