Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called on the anti-graft agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to arrest the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, over the “suspicious and fraudulent” national carrier project, Nigeria Air.
The federal government had in July 2018 unveiled the much-awaited new national carrier during the Farnborough Air Show in London, however, the national carrier didn’t become operation notwithstanding that in eight years, the Buhari-led administration, with the minister as the arrowhead, spent over N85 billion as shown in data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Compilation of Budgetary Allocations between 2016 and 2023.
HURIWA, in a press statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the sham hurriedly unveiled by the former minister on May 26, 2023, official last day of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, was suspect.
The group said the anti-graft agencies should swing into action to probe Sirika following declaration by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Aviation that the project was a fraud.
HURIWA decried the fact that, the Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air admitted that the Boeing 737-800 Aircraft used to unveil the country’s national career was a chartered flight from Ethiopian Airlines. Olumide also confirmed that the aircraft was returned to Ethiopian Airlines after the unveiling.
“The revelations coming out on the Nigeria Air project is a putrid smell of deep-rooted corruption in the Federal Ministry of Aviation under the eight-year watch of the then Minister, Hadi Sirika.
“The Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Capt Dapo Olumide, told legislators on Tuesday that the aircraft paraded as Nigeria Air plane belonged to Ethiopian Airlines and not to Nigeria, whereas the then minister paraded the aircraft as being originally owned by Nigeria.
“This is fraud of the highest order and the lawmakers have labelled it so including the suspension of all activities regarding the sham called national carrier.
“The EFCC must swing into action now that both the upper and lower chambers have declared the project as a fraud. The anti-graft agency must swiftly arrest, investigate and prosecute the ex-minister if found culpable.
“There are a lot of questions that Sirika must be made to answer including the whereabouts of the N85 billion splurged on the project.
“In fact, aside that the so-called national carrier has not secured a single aircraft for its operations, it has also failed to secure Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
“Sirika must account for the N85 billion taxpayers’ fund allegedly wasted on that alleged ‘fraud’ called national carrier.” Onwubiko declared.