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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Nigeria Air scandal: EFCC summons former Aviation Minister, Sirika

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken a significant step in the investigation into the Nigeria Air project by summoning the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika. This development comes amidst allegations of financial impropriety surrounding the launch of the airline and the purported utilization of N3 billion in public funds. In response to the EFCC’s invitation, Sirika is expected to appear before the commission within the week to address inquiries related to the Nigeria Air project.

Wilson Uwujaren, the spokesperson for the EFCC, confirmed the ongoing investigation into the Nigeria Air project while refraining from divulging further details. He stated, “I can confirm that there is an ongoing investigation in that regard.” It is anticipated that the EFCC will scrutinize the N3 billion invested in the project, which has already led to the questioning of Nigerian Air officials regarding the recent launch of the airline in Abuja.

Sources within the EFCC have disclosed that the former Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, has been invited for questioning, with his appearance expected in the coming week. Previously, Sirika clarified on national television that the federal government had spent less than N3 billion on the Nigeria Air project thus far. During his appearance on the Arise TV program, he emphasized that out of the N5 billion allocated for the project over the past seven years, only N3 billion had been disbursed. The majority of the funds were directed toward consultancies, salaries, and administrative expenses, dispelling the false and baseless claim that N85 billion had been spent on Nigeria Air.

Regarding the total investment for establishing Nigeria Air, Sirika highlighted a market capitalization of $200 million, with each shareholder responsible for their respective shares. Ethiopian Airlines holds 49 percent, MRS owns 31 percent, SAHCO possesses 15 percent, while the federal government maintains a 5 percent stake. Notably, no cash payments have been made by any shareholders thus far, as the signing of the agreement remains ongoing. Any funds disbursed by the federal government will be considered part of the five percent, with refunds provided if they exceed this amount.

Sirika made it clear that Nigeria Air would not receive any special tax privileges, as the airline would be subject to the same tax obligations as other carriers. In addition, the former minister accused Hon. Nnaji Nnoli, Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, of soliciting a five percent share in the airline for himself and his associates. Sirika responded to this request by advising Nnoli to approach the shareholders directly, as the federal government does not hold ownership of the airline.

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