May 08, 2023
Lawmakers Allege Fraud in Launch of Nigeria Air, Seek Suspension of Operations, Prosecution of Actors
Former Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika is under fire after it was revealed that
Former Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika is under fire after it was revealed that the plane presented as Nigeria's national carrier was a chartered flight.
The unveiling of a Nigeria Air plane a few days before the Muhammadu Buhari administration came to an end, has raised concerns from the House of Representatives, which has deemed it a fraud.
Speaking at an investigative hearing on Tuesday with Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and representatives of ministry of aviation, Nnaji Nnolim, chairman of the House committee on aviation, said the unveiling of Nigeria Air was a fraud.
The committee also passed a resolution asking the federal government to suspend the operations of Nigeria Air.
Hadi Sirika, former minister of aviation, unveiled Nigeria Air — the national carrier — about three days before the end of the former president Muhammadu Buhari's administration.
On May 26, a plane flying the colours of Nigeria Air touched down at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
Sirika,m hailed the arrival of the aircraft as part of his ministry's initiatives to resurrect Nigeria's national carrier.
When NAMA revealed that the plane flying the Nigerian flag was on a chartered journey to Nigeria, committee members were astounded.
The committee rejected the Ministry of Aviation's assertion that Nigeria Air was just showcased and not officially launched as a ploy to deflect legislators’ attention.
The committee additionally passed a motion requesting that Nigeria Air's activities be halted by the federal government.
The committee said it is "totally dissatisfied with the actions" of Sirika flagging off the operations of Nigeria Air "despite a standing court injunction" and without any provision for "sustaining the operations of the airline".
"A careful review of the process indicates the exercise to be highly opaque, shrouded in secrecy, shoddy and capable of ridiculing and tarnishing the image of Nigeria before the international community," the committee said.
The committee asked the Ministry of aviation and its partners in the Nigeria Air project to "immediately suspend flights operations"
The committee also called on President Bola Tinubu to urgently constitute a "high level" presidential committee to "undertake a holistic review" of the processes of setting up Nigeria Air.
The lawmakers said, "all individuals, groups or organisations involved in the controversial shenanigan named ‘Nigeria Air take-off’ must be brought to book, prosecuted and sanctioned".
Rowland Iyayi, a member of the AON, alleged that the Nigeria Air project has gulped about N85.4 billion.
"The Nigerian government has appropriated N85. 2 billion. The point is what exactly are we talking about when you’re talking about Nigeria Air? In one breath, we’re told in the outline business case that it's a flag carrier. In another breath, we were told it's a national carrier," he said.
"There's a clear distinction between what a national carrier is and a flag carrier and to all intents and purposes, what we have here is a flag carrier.
"Nigerian should not be hoping to believe that we have a national carrier. What we’re saying is, we need accountability to tell us exactly what has been with all the funds appropriated since 2017 and 2016. And if indeed all the shareholders are party to this, how much have they contributed?