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Anti-Graft Agency, EFCC Petitioned To Probe ‘Nigerian Air’ Fraud By Outgoing Minister Of Aviation, Hadi Sirika

May 29, 2023

The petition was addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, and was signed by the Executive Director of a civic group, Secure World and Liberty Initiative for Peace, Mark Adebayo.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has received a petition to probe the outgoing Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, for allegedly using the establishment of a national carrier, Nigeria Air, to perpetrate fraud and commit economic sabotage against the country.
The petition was addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, and was signed by the Executive Director of a civic group, Secure World and Liberty Initiative for Peace, Mark Adebayo.
The group requested the anti-graft agency to investigate the outgoing minister for displaying “impunity in the unveiling of an aircraft on Friday in Abuja purportedly belonging to Nigeria Air, despite an existing court order restraining the minister from taking any action regarding the project.”
The group in the petition alleged that in a desperate bid to hoodwink President Muhammadu Buhari's government and the generality of Nigerians, the minister imported a re-painted aircraft owned by Ethiopian Airlines and passed it off as the maiden flight belonging to Nigeria Air.
The civil society group averred that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos headed by Justice A.L Allagoa, in a suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria, had granted three separate orders of injunctions, restraining the Federal Government from taking any step about the Nigeria Air project "but the minister in a desperate bid to cover up the monumental fraud in the deal elected to flagrantly disobeyed an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and produced a sham called unveiling of Nigeria Air flight last Friday."
In the petition sighted by SaharaReporters, the group said they were compelled to bring "to your attention that the aircraft purportedly unveiled on Friday, May 26, 2023, by Minister Sirika, as the first flight of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, is still in active service of the Ethiopia Airlines.
"We can confirm that the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 with the registration number ET-APL, has since left the country this weekend for Turkey according to a check on the flight radar; it only transited Nigeria for the farce of a show put up by the minister. The flight landing in the country with Ethiopia Airlines' registration number means Nigeria Air has no Air Operator Certificate. No aircraft can be registered in Nigeria without the carrier having an AOC which means that the aircraft does not belong to Nigeria Air either as leased or owned equipment. So, Sirika should not be allowed to fool Nigerians."
They asked the anti-graft agency to compel outgoing Minister, Sirika to account for a whopping N15.9 billion that had been committed so far to the project by the federal government, alleging that the desperation by the minister was geared towards covering up the misappropriation of funds and monumental fraud.
"The unveiling was a desperate attempt to justify the N15.9 billion appropriated by the federal government to Nigeria Air since 2016. The phantom project has continued to lick up budgetary provisions; N1.3 billion was allotted to it in the 2023 budget with an additional N700 million as ‘working capital’ and N200 million as consultancy fee; so, the minister must not be allowed to hoodwink Nigerians with the 'importation of a rented aircraft into the country and pass it off as a step to the commencement of the operation of the airline days to his exit from office. This act of fraud and economic terrorism must not be allowed to go unpunished. 
"We have confidence that the EFCC will do justice and timely, too, to get to the bottom of this scam and save Nigeria's Aviation Industry from the impending doom," the petition read.