Reps say Nigeria Air launch a fraud, aviation unionist wants Sirika probed

THE House of Representatives has described the unveiling of the Nigeria Air aircraft a fraud allegedly perpetrated by the immediate past minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, even as an aviation unionist wants him probed.

The lawmakers had summoned the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace, Emmanuel Meribole, and other stakeholders to appear before the House committee on Aviation to brief it on the project.

At the meeting on Tuesday, June 6, the chairman of the committee, Nnolim Nnaji, said the launch of Nigeria Air was nothing but a fraud.

This is even as the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) reportedly told members of the committee that the aircraft bearing Nigerian colours that landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja was on a chartered flight.

Sirika had on Friday, May 26 unveiled an aircraft branded Nigeria Air, amid controversies over its specification, documentation, ownership, and technical agreement.

Commenting on the lawmakers’ declaration, an aviation observer, Simon Tumba, said, “It’s a fraud. That’s my opinion too. Where are the aircraft? Where are the technical staff of the airline, the office, and even the website to book flights?” Tumba asked.

He told The ICIR that Sirika needed to explain to Nigerians how he spent the billions of naira he received for the project.

“We are waiting for his explanation. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) disclosure has proved beyond reasonable doubt that nothing has been achieved with that project,” Tumba added.

The immediate past general secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Olayinka Abioye, said the House of Representatives had affirmed that the so-called launch of Nigeria Air was nothing but a charade, fraudulently birthed.

Abioye said he was one of those Nigerians who suggested and advocated for the birth of a national carrier that he believed would come with huge gains.

“Nigeria stands to gain in terms of cultural heritage, national pride, job opportunities, and foreign direct investments, among others,” he said.

He noted that when Sirika came on board and included the establishment of a national carrier as one of his projects, it was applauded.

Abioye accused the former aviation minister of, however, hijacking the process after a committee of distinguished professionals had midwifed it.

“It is unfortunate that Sirika hoodwinked Nigerians and swindled us all,” Abioye said.

He added, “All said and done, he did not only humiliate Nigerians, he also degraded himself by his shoddy and unpatriotic dispositions. May we never see such individuals as a Nigerian Minister, and if there is the political will for his probe, it will be a welcome deal.”

The Federal government had in October 2016 approved the ‘Aviation Road Map Projects’, which included the establishment and operation of a national carrier.

Structured to be a joint venture between the Federal government and the private sector, the national carrier was to develop and operate flight operations on domestic, regional, and international routes.

In a report seen by The ICIR, headlined, Nigeria Air: The Journey So Far, and issued by the Corporate Office of Nigeria Air with office at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Nigeria Air claimed it had carried out some activities since the approval of the project.

These included the appointment of transaction advisers, development and approval of the outline business case, request for proposals (RFP), evaluation of the request for proposals, and due diligence and negotiations.



    Others were the development of the full business case and draft agreement and the unveiling of the aircraft.

    “The Ministry of Aviation and Nigeria Air sought legal advice, and the Ministry has been briefed that by unveiling Nigeria Air aircraft, the Ministry is not in contempt of court. Nigeria Air has existing approvals by the Federal Government to seek leases to commence operations pending when it acquires its own aircraft.”

    “The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has followed its regulations and processes diligently in processing both the Nigeria Air Transport Licence and Air Operators Certificate (AOC). Nigeria Air has met and surpassed all the requirements. The AOC process is ongoing and there is no intention not to comply with any of the requirements for the granting of an AOC,” Nigeria Air said in the report.

    It added that its next line of action would be to continue with the AOC process in line with extant laws, announce key job openings, saying it plans to fly its first commercial passenger flight by the third quarter of this year.

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