Former Buhari’s minister Hadi Sirika has finally opened up on the allegations by some Nigerians of using Ethiopian Airlines to scam Nigeria as the Minister in charge of Aviation.
The former minister who served under the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari for eight years said that the allegation that he scammed Nigeria of N139.3bn using Ethiopian Airlines as Nigeria Air Was false and imagination of those peddling the rumour.
MetroBusinessNews (MBN) had reported that the former minister has been under fire over the unveiling of the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, 48 hours before his exit.
The purported Nigeria Air was discovered to be a hired aircraft from Ethiopian Airline, repainted and rebranded in Nigeria colours
The alleged scam has put the country in bad light globally.
This is even as he declared that the country did not pay a dime for the Chartered Ethiopian Aircraft showcased a few days before President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration ended.
“From 2016 to 2023, all the money voted and budgeted for Nigeria Air is N5 billion. But all that was released was in the neighbourhood of N3 billion, not N85 billion, and not all of the N3 billion has been expended as of the time I left office.
“What has been done with the money is nothing but to get special advisory services, the AOC processes, salaries, consultive services, and the maintenance of the office in Abuja.
“No contract was awarded by Hadi Sirika, these are the things the money was used for. And there is the Freedom of Information Act, people can apply and get all the information about what the money has been used for.
“The N85 billion being mentioned is only in the imagination of the people carrying it about,” Hadi Sirka said.
During a hearing by the House of Representatives, Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation had declared the launch of Nigeria Air a fraud. Nnaji had picked holes in the project, criticising the federal government for what he described as poor handling. He said after careful evaluation of the matter, his committee was dissatisfied with the actions of Sirika.However, reacting, the former Aviation Minister said: “On the issue of Hon Nnaji who called Nigeria Air launch a fraud, I will respond now. I will say exactly what I told him in private when we spoke. Hon Nnaji asked me that I should give him 5% of Nigeria to carry him along with his people, and I said to him at that time, Honourable, a bidding process that has taken place, and some people won. So, I think you should go to those people and ask for the 5 percent.
“He asked me that please I should give him 5 percent of Nigeria Air to carry him along with his people. I said to him that time that look, Honourable, but he did not understand me, this is a bidding process that has taken place and some persons won. So, I think he should go to those people and asked them about the 5 per cent”.
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The former Minister also criticised Nnaji and the aviation committee for conducting what translated to a “predetermined hearing”.While admitting that the Ethiopian aircraft that was showcased as the success of the project was chartered, Sirika said the government did not pay for the aircraft as it was brought by Ethiopian Airlines to demonstrate their commitment to the project.“The AOC owned by Ethiopian Airline is known to Nigeria and the NCAA, they are permitted to come in either with scheduled passengers, chattered or cargo. They have to come in under one of the 3. So, they came as chartered. Being chartered does not mean that anybody paid for anything. The government did not pay a dime for that aircraft to come in.“Secondly, there was no revenue passenger in the aircraft because that would have been totally against the law and wouldn’t have been allowed. It was their own marketing strategy as equity partners. They came to do this unveiling on a special allowance called chartered and it does not mean that we paid for it. If anybody was to pay for it, it would have been the Ethiopian Airline, not the Nigerian government. No penny was paid,” the former Minister said.