Fresh facts have emerged, revealing how the former minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, deceived President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians to unveil the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, 48 hours before his exit from office.
A source told Aviation World that the minister deceived Buhari that he was to launch the airline, without informing him that he has not gotten the complete certification. It was also gathered that the former minister had stopped NG Eagle proposed by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) from getting necessary certification to fly because their colour and name were similar to the stillborn Nigeria Air.
The source disclosed that the Srika made an attempt to use the Airline Operators Certificate, AOC of NG Eagle but failed. The source also stated that Sirika was keen on self-interest rather than national interest as it ought to be. The development has gained nationwide attention. However, stakeholders have called for his probe along with all agencies attached to him.
Stakeholders also argued that Sirika’s administration was lopsided owing to its appointments, also filled with tribalism, flagrant disregard for the rule of law and annexation of powers belonging to boards of aviation agencies.
For instance, Sirika despite being aware of the Nigeria air litigation, stated that no rational court can stop the airline from flying. He further contracted Ethiopian Airlines to provide an aircraft painted in Nigeria air colour, which was later flown into the country for unveiling without the necessary certification from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
However, the development created a major uproar, as the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation summoned the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Dr Emmanuel Meribole, along with the Managing Director of the airline, Capt. Dapo Olumide and shareholders to an emergency meeting over the project. The legislative body after the meeting tagged the project fraudulent, insisting they will ensure they unravel the nitty-gritty surrounding the project.
Sirika deceived Buhari, Nigerians — Experts
Mr Hadi Sirika a former Minister of Aviation whom Nigerian lawmakers described his handling of Nigeria Air as fraudulent
Meanwhile, stakeholders have continued to express their dismay over the secrecy surrounding the project. In a chat with an Aviation Analyst, Olumide Ohunayo, lamented that the Federal Executive Council, FEC always give approvals to every document presented by the former Minister without proper scrutiny.
He said: “There is a need to go back to all of those processes and probe every document he presented. The agencies under the ministry need to be audited, their staff strength needs to be looked at. The reason being that Sirika during his term compounded the agencies with extra staff, without going through the necessary regulations and federal characters.
“Nigeria air inevitable is a fraud that must also be probed. “It was pure deception and scam. The logo in question was unveiled in 2018, at Flamborough, United Kingdom, what Sirika did was a static display on the 26th of May 2023. We were informed that they are coming in with an airline that will start flying, but what we got is nothing to write home about.
“If we look at the period Sirika came onboard, about six months into the Buhari-led administration, Ibom Air, United Nigeria Airline, Green Africa, Value Jet came onboard, Rano Air just came onboard, NG Eagle was already coming up with three aircraft on ground, Nigerians were waiting in anticipation of its launch after getting an AOC, there was no static display.
“The day they were supposed to kick off operation, the Minister went behind to ensure they did not get their necessary certification to fly because their colour and name were similar to the stillborn Nigeria Air.
“They made an attempt to use the AOC of NG Eagle that they had held on their documents, but unfortunately for them, Arik got judgement two weeks before then against Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, so they could not go for that AOC again because those aircraft with AMCON belongs to Arik.
“AMCON which is under the federal government has Arik and Aero Contractor due to bad debt, why don’t you build your National Carrier from there? Even AMCON offered, but the Minister instated that he wants to have his own.
“For instance, Qatar Air had wanted to partner with Nigeria but due to the challenges they met here, they left for Rwanda where they got a 49 per cent stake and paid about $1.2 billion to the Rwanda government, how much has Ethiopian Airlines paid for the 49 per cent?
Also, the Principal Partner, Avaero Capital, Sindy Foster, said, “This is very poor indeed and a complete reflection of the entire shabby plan by the Federal Government.