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‘Nigeria Air unveiled by shareholders, not FG,’ says ex-aviation minister, Sirika



The immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Sunday, absolved the Federal Government of blame in the unveiling of Nigeria Air.

The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation on June 6 ordered the suspension of flight operations and other actions associated with the Nigeria Air project.

The committee also described the unveiling of Nigeria Air as a fraud and called for the prosecution of individuals or organizations involved in the exercise.

Sirika unveiled the national carrier on May 26 in Abuja.

The former minister has since under criticism from Nigerians after the Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Dayo Olumide, told the Senate Committee on Aviation on June 7 that the aircraft unveiled on May 26 was a chartered from Ethiopia Airlines.

The breakdown of the ownership structure of Nigeria Air revealed the following: federal government (5%), Ethiopian Airlines (49%), and private investors (46%).

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) had in 2022 challenged the federal government’s decision to sell the shares of Nigeria Air to Ethiopian Airlines at the Federal High Court, Lagos.

In a ruling delivered on November 11 last year, Justice Lewis Alagoa restrained the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and Sirika from implementing the proposed National Carrier Establishment Agreement between the federal government, Nigeria Air Limited, and Ethiopian Airlines.

READ ALSO: Group calls for arrest, prosecution of ex-Minister, Sirika, over Nigeria Air scandal

The former minister, who featured in a programme on Arise TV, however, said that Nigeria Air was unveiled by its shareholders as a marketing strategy.

Sirika also admitted that the aircraft was chartered but argued that the government did not pay any money for the arrangement.

He described as disturbing claims that the unveiling of Nigeria Air was shrouded in secrecy.

The ex-minister said: “It was the owners of Nigeria Air, the consortium of the federal government (5%) that decided to do the unveiling as part of their marketing strategy.

“Chartered does not mean they paid for it. If there is anybody that paid for it, it would have been the Ethiopian Airlines. No penny is paid.

“So it is not the government that was doing the unveiling to start the operations. Not at all. It was them who did it and I was invited.

“ I also find claims that the unveiling of the national carrier was shrouded in secrecy mind-boggling and disturbing. This is because the airline was advertised during the procurement stage in the Economist and in national dailies. And there was a bidding process and members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) participated in the bidding conference.”

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