An anti-corruption advocacy group under the aegies of SecureWorld and Liberty Initiative for Peace (SELIP), has dragged outgoing Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for allegedly using the establishment of the controversial Nigeria Air to perpetrate fraud and commit economic sabotage.
In a petition on Sunday addressed to the Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, signed by the Executive Director of SELIP, Comrade Mark Adebayo the group said the anti-graft agency should investigate Sirika for “undertaking a venture designed to benefit a few individuals and lead to the eventual collapse of aviation, a critical sector of the Nigerian economy.”
The group said it 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.”
“We are compelled to bring to your attention that the aircraft purportedly unveiled on Friday, May 26, 2023, by Minister Sirika, as the first flight of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, is still in active service of Ethiopia Airlines”, the petition said.
“We can confirm that the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 with the registration number ET-APL, has since left the country this weekend for Turkey according to a check on the flight radar; it only transited Nigeria for the farce of a show put up by the minister.
“The flight landing in the country with Ethiopia Airlines’ registration number means Nigeria Air has no Air Operator Certificate.
“No aircraft can be registered in Nigeria without the carrier having an AOC which means that the aircraft does not belong to Nigeria Air either as leased or owned equipment. So, Sirika should not be allowed to fool Nigerians,” the petition reads.
The group alluded to the fact that the Minister, in a desperate bid to cover up the monumental fraud in the deal, elected to flagrantly disobey an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and “produced a sham called unveiling of Nigeria Air flight last Friday.”
It urged the EFCC to compel Sirika to account for the 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.
“The unveiling was a desperate attempt to justify the N15.9 billion appropriated by the federal government to Nigeria Air since 2016.
“The phantom project has continued to lick up budgetary provisions; N1.3 billion was allotted to it in the 2023 budget with an additional N700 million as ‘working capital’ and N200 million as consultancy fee; so, the minister must not be allowed to hoodwink Nigerians with the importation of a rented aircraft into the country and pass it off as a step to the commencement of the operation of the airline days to his exit from office.
“This act of fraud and economic terrorism must not be allowed to go unpunished,” the petition reads.
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