From the Senate to the House of Representatives, the monumental scam orchestrated by the Ministry of Aviation to give an impression of a national carrier taking off has been exposed.
Bemused the federal lawmakers listened as the interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Captain Dapo Olumide, regalled them with a story that has been in the public domain, for which some Nigerians called for the head of the former Aviation Minister, Mr. Hadi Sirika.
An aircraft was flown into the country for display, but as it turned out through leakage from aviation sector officials and journalists, the craft was not registered in Nigeria as required for the national airline. More or less, it was borrowed, actually chartered, for a show to give an impression of a fulfilled promise. Sirika had promised a national carrier will be in place before President Muhammadu Buhari left power on May 29, 2023.
Capt. Olumide said the recently unveiled Nigeria Air launched by former President Muhamadu Buhari, was a chattered aircraft from Ethiopia hired for five days to show case the logo to Nigerians and their shareholders.
The aircraft, he admitted, was not registered and came into Nigeria with a few days clearance from Ethiopia and was returned after use.
“I will like to address your question first before I go on. The aircraft that came in and left was a legitimate charter flight.
“Anyone of us here if we have a destination wedding in Senegal, we can charter an aircraft. You don’t need to have a licence to do that, you just charter an aircraft, an aircraft you pay for it, it will be brought here, take your passengers and off you go.
“And that is what we did. But in this case, it was to unveil, ever since 2018, all you have ever seen about Nigeria Aircraft were pictures, drawings not the real aircraft, and we thought it was time to show what the logo will look like on a real aircraft and also to let our shareholders see the effort we have made so far.
“Our institutional investors are not in aviation, but they are putting their money for 10 or 15 years. So they need to see what the actual aircraft with logo will look like. Then the social media dimension came into it.
“It is Ethiopian registered one. Why is it Ethiopian registered. To operate aircraft in Nigeria, they must be Nigerian registered; that aircraft was not 5th November registered because it was a chartered flight and it came in with just a few days clearance and off it went.
“For us to get that licence which is my mandate, we must, among other things, have three aircrafts before the NCAA will give us a licence and those three aircrafts must be Nigerian registered aircraft.
“There are five steps that one goes through to have a licence. We have gone from the first one to the second one but the problem is that when you change what we call post holders, post holders is a technical term for director of maintenance, Chief pilot, when you change them and replace them completely, you have to go back to phase one to interview them to be compliant to the authority.
“But haven gone back to phase one doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong. That is a correct and normal process.
“So when this aircraft came on a chartered flight, everybody said we have launched Nigeria Air, I want to clarify that we have not launched Nigeria Air”.
At the lower house of the NationalAssembly, the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, said the launch of Nigeria Air was a fraud.
Aviation Ministry officials that were at the House Committee meeting said the airline was only unveiled and not launched.
In its resolutions, the House of Representatives stated:
The Committee after careful evaluation of the issues on deliberation is totally dissatisfied with the actions of the former Minister of Aviation, Sen, Hadi Sirka in going ahead to flag off the operations of Nigeria Air despite a standing Court injunction against such, and without any provision for sustaining the operations of the airline.
We are equally irked by the role played by Ethiopian Airline in this whole process. It does not speak well of the excellent brotherly relationship existing between our two nations.
A careful review of the process indicates the exercise to be highly opaque, shrouded in secrecy, shoddy and capable of ridiculing and tarnishing the image of Nigeria before the international community.
We want to put on record, that the Committee and indeed the National Assembly had no role in the purported launch of Nigeria Air or anything related thereof.
While the Committee and indeed the parliament is not opposed to Nigeria having a National Carrier, as a matter of fact having a National Carrier is highly desirable to us as a people and Nigeria, as a nation. However, such a process should be transparent and all embracing.
We, as a Committee, would not accept any attempt by any individual or group of individuals or organization to hide under the project and siphon our commonwealths.
Consequently, the Committee hereby resolves to:
1. Direct the Federal Ministry of Aviation and its partners in the Nigeria Air project to immediately suspend flights operations and every other actions with respect to the Nigeria Air;
2. Urge our new President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR the President and C-in-C, to as a matter of urgency constitute a high-level Presidential Committee to undertake a holistic Review of the Processes of the whole Nigeria Air project, and advice the government on the way forward.
3. Ensure that all individuals, or groups, or organization involved in the controversial shenanigan named “Nigeria Air Take-Off” are brought to book, prosecuted and sanctioned.