Nigeria Air: PDP Demands Sirika’s Arrest over Alleged N1.2bn Fraud

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Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika
  • Airline operators, Onyema commend FG over suspension of national carrier

Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded for the arrest and immediate prosecution of the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, for using a non-existent national carrier to defraud the country to the tune of N1.2 billion.

This is coming as the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and Chairma/CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema have commended Sirika and President Mohammadu Buhari for suspending the planned national carrier, which was unveiled in July, 2018 at Farnborough, UK.

But the main opposition party stressed that the purported indefinite suspension of the Nigeria Air project was part of the fraudulent script by the Buhari-led Presidency, which knows that it cannot go far with the lie, since the project does not exist in the first place.

The party in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan, noted that President Buhari should speak out on this act of corruption under his watch, particularly following allegations that funds released for the phantom project were diverted to finance his 2019 re-election bid.

He stressed, “Nigerians now know that the reason for the rush to London to ‘unveil’ mere drawings of airplanes, name, logo and imaginary routes of a non-existent fleet as our national carrier, without any structures, operational license, clear partnership agreements and no form of ground activity anywhere in our country.

“What the APC and the Buhari Presidency failed to understand is that lies, no matter how ornamented, always have their expiring dates. The truth may be suppressed for a while, but it always has a way of coming to light.”

“The PDP demands that the N1.2 billion be immediately recovered and directed to critical interventions in the aviation sector, including the unpaid pension owed to retired aviation workers.”

Meanwhile, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) and the CEO of Air Peace have commended the minister and the federal government for suspending the planned national carrier.

AON in a statement signed by its Executive Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison, said the federal government suspended the national carrier project in the interest of the country.

The organisation said it had continued to call for a rethink by government, regarding the project in the light of the tough economic situation in the country, adding that it was a moribund idea.

Commenting on the suspension, the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema commended President Mohammadu Buhari for his bold step and courage to suspend the project.

“I commend the federal government for retracing its steps by suspending the planned national carrier. It shows that President Muhammadu Buhari has the interest of Nigerians at heart. The President has shown he is not interested in political correctness, but the total well-being of Nigerians and the future of the country.

“It is not something you see every day for government to take a decision and see that that decision will not work in the interest of the country and decide to retrace its steps. Not many governments in Africa can do this. It is something that is a rarity. It is something highly commendable. That decision has won millions of hearts for Mr. President.

Onyema said since the announcement of the suspension, “we have received calls from all over the world. The President’s rating because of this decision has soared astronomically; not just in Nigeria but worldwide. Many that called us expressed surprise that Nigeria is going into what other countries are coming out of. The decision to suspend the project is a very welcome development. So, we thank Mr. President and the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Chairman of AON, Meggison said, “We thank President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for listening to our many calls for the idea to be suspended. In our opinion we believe the process was neither transparent nor did it clearly define the role of private investors in the entire process.”

Meggison also said, “Setting up of national carrier will cost Nigeria at least $3 billion (a single Boeing B777 as of today costs about $320 million). Is our priority as a nation to take $3 billion from the Nigerian coffers today and put into a venture that will for sure go down the drain within a maximum of five years?”

He said the planned national carrier would also need additional cash injection of $500 million subsidy per year on average for the next 10 years to keep the airline afloat while about 97 per cent of the 200 million Nigerian masses today are grappling for the basic necessities of life; food, shelter, electricity, water, education and good roads.

“This is corroborated by a recent CNN report stated that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 100 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1 per day,” added.