Sunday, 19 May 2013
Jimoh Ibrahim Diverted N35.5 Billion In Aviation Fund And Caused Collapse Of Air Nigeria
Last week, Nigeria’s Senate confirmed that controversial businessman Jimoh Ibrahim fraudulently diverted a loan of N35.5 billion obtained by Air Nigeria from the Federal Government Aviation Fund – and funneled the cash into his personal account. Consequently, the Senate instructed the Central Bank of Nigeria to take steps to recover the money which was routed through the Bank of Industry.
The loan was granted to Air Nigeria as part of the government’s efforts to salvage the ailing domestic aviation industry. The loan was guaranteed by United Bank for Africa (UBA). But Mr. Ibrahim, who is fast consolidating a reputation as one of Nigeria’s most daring kingpins of fraud, diverted the money into his personal account.
Thanks to the diligence of the Senate, Nigerians now know how Mr. Ibrahim pulled off the heist. He had ploughed the loan into NICON Investment Limited, a company owned 100% by him and his wife.
In June 2012, the Nigerian Senate invited me to attend the joint session of the aviation committees led by Senator Hope Uzodinma and Rep. Nkiruka Onyejeocha. I was able to show that Jimoh Ibrahim was a national fraudster. Nigerian senators agreed unanimously, insisting on the recovery of the full loan from the guru of fraud who poses as a businessman.
I’m delighted that the Senate committee granted me the opportunity to alert Nigerians that Mr. Ibrahim stole N35.5 billion from Air Nigeria by arranging a fraudulent diversion. Whilst I was pursuing the cause of justice against Jimoh Ibrahim, assassins were sent to kill me. I was trailed all around the country, even as far as south eastern Nigeria when I traveled to pick documents from my house in Umuahia, Abia State. Mr. Ibrahim later claimed in an interview with City magazine (dated October 3, 2012) that the men who trailed my movements were police officers detailed to arrest me for fabricating lies and making false allegations. Luckily for me, the assassins caged my village home in Ovim, Abia State, while I headed to Umuahia, the state capital, straight from Lagos. I left Umuahia to Abuja without stopping at my village. I escaped Mr. Ibrahim’s assassins to expose his monumental secrets to Nigerians.
Once the N35.5 billion loan was diverted, Air Nigeria did not have the funds for normal maintenance, routine checks and servicing of its fleet of eleven planes, with ten operational. As a result, the airline frequently flew those mass coffins as airworthy aircraft. Yet, those of us with inside information knew that the planes air disasters waiting to happen. The need to save souls was the major reason I decided to take the fight upon myself and ensure that justice was done. Without imminent intervention, an Air Nigeria aircraft would have crashed at any moment and countless souls would have been lost.
During my appearance at the Senate chamber, even the chairman of Bank of Industry, Lady Oputa, and the Executive Director of UBA disagreed with me. When the details of the loan diversion story were made known to Mrs. Oputa, she could not believe what Jimoh Ibrahim did with forged documents to process the Bank of Industry loan. She said that UBA showed her bank officials enough evidence that Air Nigeria needed the loan – and that UBA guaranteed the loan.
In the last nine months, Mr. Ibrahim has defaulted on the payments on the loan that were due UBA. Today, Bank of Industry, UBA, Ex-Air Nigeria CEO, Ex-Air Nigeria Executive Director (Finance), and Nigeria’s 109 senators are all speaking the same language. It’s no longer a secret that Jimoh Ibrahim diverted the huge loan of N35.5 billion into his personal account.
I want this write up to serve as a national wakeup call to all patriotic Nigerians. We all need to speak out to stop people like the unscrupulous Jimoh Ibrahim. We all need to stand up and demand that he refund this loan. The fifteen-year loan with a six-month grace period was only repaid for four months when Jimoh Ibrahim asked me to seek UBA approval to suspend the loan repayment.
That request to have his repayment suspended was a red flag. It signaled that Jimoh Ibrahim had neither intention nor will to honor his obligations. UBA served Air Nigeria notice that the airline could not stop repayment of the loan (see attached letter).
Today, the truth has come to light: Jimoh Ibrahim is a global thief who stole N35.5 billion from Air Nigeria. Nigerians ought to demand the prosecution of this criminal. It should also be noted that the same man stole another N6 billion from Air Nigeria (see attached). The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should take appropriate action against this fraudster. When the two people who managed Air Nigeria, namely the CEO and the Executive Director (Finance), are singing the same song, it is the truth. When I started this struggle, it was terribly rough. But today, even the former CEO, Kinfe Kahssaye, an Ethiopian (who is now in the United States of America) told many Air Nigeria ex-directors and staff that Jimoh Ibrahim stole N6 billion from Air Nigeria. What other evidence does EFCC, CBN, Bank of Industry and other institutions need to collaborate to jail this global thief called Jimoh Ibrahim. The case of the stolen N6 billion is simple. Once money is invested in a public company, it is called capital. The shareholder has no right over the capital of the company, but is entitled to dividend or capital appreciation at the end of the year based on the financial performance of the company as declared at the annual general meeting. In the case of Air Nigeria, it was a case of regular forceful withdrawal of funds, against management advice, out of the company, which is owned 46% by Jimoh Ibrahim, into another company called Nicon Investment Ltd, which is owned 100% by Mr. Ibrahim. It was a daily war trying to stop Jimoh Ibrahim from pulling money by force out of the company. Jimoh Ibrahim threatened staff with sack and police arrest, often telling uncooperative staff he was a lawyer and knew how to tell lies against them until they were jailed. He threatened opponents with the use of newspapers and magazines to carry negative reports about them, adding that he was a baron of the media.
Mr. Ibrahim lied shamelessly in his statement to the EFCC in response to my petition. He claimed the transfers he made represented intercompany transfers. But as an accountant by profession, I know that his definition of intercompany transfer was incorrect. The two companies do not belong to the same owner. Therefore, his withdrawals amounted to fraud. The EFCC should seek the views of other respected chartered accountants on this – and I’m confident any trained account will agree with me. You cannot withdraw money from a company owned by many stakeholders into your pocket and hid the transfers under intercompany transfers. That’s stealing – and that explains why Air Nigeria collapsed.
For pursuing this cause, wicked attempts were made on my life. I was framed up by Jimoh Ibrahim through the police. Mr. Ibrahim declared me wanted in newspapers. I was charged to court just to harm my integrity for telling the world the truth.
During this ordeal, a voice within me kept prodding me to continue to say the truth even if I had one breath left to me. Suddenly, the tide changed when SaharaReporters heard my story – and published an account of my cause that resounded all over cyberspace. Without the website’s timely intervention, many innocent souls would have perished in some Air Nigeria plane crash. There was no doubt in my mind that an Air Nigeria aircraft was going to drop from the sky between April and June, 2012. This projection was based on my knowledge that the aircraft had not received overdue maintenance and servicing. They were in bad shape.
The report on SaharaReporters was soon followed by interviews on Aljazeera and a soft-sell magazine. These galvanized the various stakeholders into taking an immediate decision. First, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority carried out a financial audit and grounded the airline. The airline’s lessors, GECAS, Aersale and ILFC, came to inspect their seven aircraft and repossessed them. The IATA clearing house, after reviewing Air Nigeria’s financial status, suspended the airline. The airline’s engineers were constantly on strike to protest a lack of tools for their work. Pilots walked out due to the bad mechanical condition of the aircraft. Lufthansa Technique cancelled the maintenance contract over non-payment for spare parts supplied to Air Nigeria. The above incidents confirmed the central contention of our petition: that Air Nigeria was a flying coffin. Even when Aljazeera interviewed me for the first time, I knew I was taking a big risk against a man who boasted that he was a media baron. Jimoh Ibrahim’s foot soldiers fanned out to my village to distribute his sponsored newspaper publications. They sent copies to my village, my church, the Abia State House of Assembly, the Senate chamber, our aircraft lessors, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, and Air Nigeria staff.
Today, I have been discharged and acquitted by the courts as Mr. Ibrahim’s police could not prove the case against me. I am deeply grateful to the Inspector General Of Police who sent a special police squad that investigated and found that the allegations against me were baseless.
The investigators certified that no dollar was recovered from me and that my house was never searched. This same squad recommended the withdrawal of the case against me. Today, I am a free man (see the attached court ruling).
I plead with Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank of Nigeria to rise and ensure that the fraudulently misappropriated loan of N35.5 billion is recovered Mr. Ibrahim. I know there is no criminal prosecution for failure to make payments on a bank loan. However, this is a case of fraudulent diversion of a loan – and part of the loan proceed is a crime. This money was never used for the purpose that it was granted to Air Nigeria. To me, this represents a serious crime. And that crime was compounded by Mr. Ibrahim’s theft of Air Nigeria’s sales proceeds. Mr. Ibrahim used his illicit acquisitions to buy properties in Dubai, London, Sao Tome, as well as his purchase of Newswatch magazine and National Mirror newspaper. Mr. Ibrahim is nothing but a fraud on two legs. He even diverted the $40 million AfRExim loan granted to Air Nigeria for general purpose to acquire Energy Bank of Ghana. (See attached copy of telex showing the transfer of approximately $26 million to a UBA London account and the transfer instruction on the acquisition of Energy Bank of Ghana).
In any advanced country, all the businesses established by Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim would have been taken over by the government and the man sent to jail. N10 billion paid by the Accountant-General of Nigeria to NICON Insurance Plc for the payment of pensioners was also diverted by Mr. Ibrahim to buy himself a Bombardier Challenger 625 private jet.
I am aware that Mr. Ibrahim is desperate to eliminate me so as to forestall his prosecution – since I am bound to be the principal witness. I contend that Nigerians ought to stop him on his tracks, for he has defrauded Nigerian taxpayers of a huge amount of money. Once the funds he illegally transferred or misappropriated are recovered, this fake billionaire will crash out of the Nigerian system where he is nothing but bad news. The prosecution of this man should commence immediately so as to prove to Nigerians that he is not above the law.
The chairman of National Mirror editorial board; Dafe Onojovwo, a company he owns 100% died mysteriously. Today, many ex-staff of Air Nigeria are dying because Mr. Ibrahim stole their pension, their cooperative society savings, and their salaries. Our children are out of school, landlords have ejected us, and many of us have developed grave illnesses and diseases. We call on Federal Government to act now; the world is watching our anti-corruption war.