CIVIL rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA), on Monday, described as indefensible, the excuses given for the shabby and alleged ‘fraudulent’ Nigeria Air by the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko labelled as conspiratorial, the silence and inaction of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the anti-graft commission’s reluctance to arrest Sirika despite the allegations of fraud levelled against him by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The group also tasked the President Bola Tinubu administration to set up a presidential panel to probe Sirika’s time in office and make the report known to the public.
Just on Sunday, Sirika, who has been under fire over the sham called Nigeria Air project, said that he spent nearly N3bn to hire consultants, pay salaries, and cater for the Abuja office of Nigeria Air.
On national television, Sirika denied embezzling the N85 billion meant for the project. He launched the Nigeria Air on May 26, two days to the end of the Muhammadu Buhari government despite a standing court order halting the carrier.
“In 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, all of the monies voted and budgeted for the national carrier was N5bn. But all that was released is in the neighbourhood of about N3bn, not N85bn and all of the N3bn has not been expended as of the time I left office.
“What was done with the money was nothing but transaction advisory services, the AOC process, salaries, consultancy services and the offices in Abuja. No contract was given by Hadi Sirika or the administration at the time. These are the things that the money was used for,” the former minister stated on Sunday.
He also accused a House of Representatives member, Nnolim Nnaji, of asking for 5 percent equity shares in the national carrier after the lawmaker described the controversial project as a fraud and condemned the use of an Ethiopian Airlines’ registered aircraft during the launch in May.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “Sirika’s empty explanations haven’t answered the critical questions. The issue is where is Nigeria Air and why hire an aircraft from Ethiopia to deceive Nigerians? 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).
“The EFCC should stop pretending not to be aware of the case, not after the National Assembly declared it as fraudulent. The anti-graft commission should immediately arrest of former minister while the new administration should set up a presidential panel to probe the whole sham!”
A.Tags: Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko EFCC Hadi Sirika HURIWA