The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) are yet to take action on the perpetrators of fraud that led to the missing Duty Tour Allowance put at N7 billion.
In March 2023 EFCC arrested four top officials of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, over alleged N2 billion Duty Tour Allowance fraud, which was later discovered to be about N7 billion.
The suspects were taken to EFCC custody and these include Bilkisu Adamu Sani, Director, Finance and Accounts; Hart Benson Fimienye, Deputy General Manager, Treasury; Obene Jenbarimiema Turniel, Deputy General Manger (Management Accounts) and Nathaniel Terna Kaainjo, General Manger (Accounts and Stores).
THISDAY learnt that in addition to those earlier arrested, EFCC later swopped on other officials of the Finance Directorate of the agency and these officials were also arrested: Mr. Esuruoso Olayinka Ajibola, Mr. Davies Udeme Bassey, Okeke Paschal Ebuka, Lasisi Kazeem Olayinka and Henry Emem Ekpo in addition to others whose names were yet to be made public by EFCC.
Dependable source from the agency told THISDAY that more than N7 billions had so far been found in the account of the alleged suspects, which include most officials that work in NCAA’s Finance Directorate
“More than N7 billions has so far been found in the account of these people and low-level staff in NCAA that works in the Finance Directorate. They have been stealing money in NCAA, and have continued to do so even today. These officers bought houses in Abuja and Lagos, bought cars and other properties. Some of them were forced to remit up to 300-400 million Naira from their accounts that they stole. One of the General Managers in the finance department had up to N800 million in his account,” the source said.
A source in the agency also disclosed to THISDAY that the Director General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu was not signatory to the accounts of the agency, so he did not know the financial transactions that go on in the organization.
“The worst part of the problem is that the Director General of NCAA is not signatory to any of the corporate accounts of NCAA. So, he does not know how much that comes into NCAA and how much that goes out. The previous Director General, the Late Captain Murhtar Usman, was also not signatory to the accounts. But he made the then Technical Assistantto the Ministerof Aviation, BenTukur (now the Nigerian representative in ICAO) to be signatory. Captain Usman did this so that no politician would mount pressure on him to release any money. But he was smart enough to include his phone number in the bank accounts so that he could see the credit and debit alerts.
“However, when the new DG (Captain Nuhu) took over, and Tukur was drafted to ICAO (and requested that he be removed as signatory), he did not at least make his phone number to be receiving the alerts,” the insider said.
Meanwhile, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) has threatened that it might withdraw the services of its members from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority over nonpayment of daily duty allowances amounting to several billions of naira.
In a letter dated April 19, 2023 with number NAAPE/23/NCAA-03, with title: ‘Delays/Non-payment of Estacode/Duty Tour Allowances to Aviation Safety Inspectors Assigned Official Duties Outside Nigeria or Outside Their State’, addressed to the Director General, NCAA referred to earlier letter on the matter and stated, “Sir, we wish to kindly inform you that till date, some of our members who submitted their confirmed flight tickets to DFA (Director of Finance) prior to embarking on either official assignments or training outside the country were not paid their estacodes prior to embarking of those trips.”
The letter stated that even the inspectors who returned from assignments a year ago had not been paid.
The letter also said, “In light of the above, NAAPE -NCAA branch is very much concerned about the reasons our members are subjected to untold hardship before they are paid their estacode and duty tour allowances. The reasons for the delay have become worrisome “.
NAAPE threatened that no aviation inspector ” who is our member shall embark on any kind of official assignments/training within and outside Nigeria unless payment of their estacode/Duty Tour Allowances have been made.”
The letter was signed by Diepreye Stephen Saburugha NCAA branch Chairman and Celestine Nkemakolam Chukwu, Branch Secretary of NAAPE.
In response, the NCAA Director General attributed part of the delay to the new policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on intangibles like allowances and Tour Duty Allowances.
Insider source also told THISDAY that the safety implications of the nonpayment of these allowances is that “when an operator knows that an Inspector who is coming to inspect his aircraft has not even been paid for his accommodation and feeding, they often leverage on these to bribe the Inspectors by offering to handles their expenses for them. The implication is that if the Inspector sees any safety critical findings on the aircraft, he/she would look the other way and issue the operator the necessary certificate to operate. This is not good for the travelling public. It should be noted that since these personnel from NCAA finance department were caught with billions, they are still walking freely in the office. They were neither suspended nor relieved or their duties,” the source said.
However, when contacted, the General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY that investigation into the fraud was still on, noting that it is the responsibility of EFCC to disclose the status of the case.
“The investigation is still on. EFCC is in a position to tell us the status of the case, but that is all I know,” Adurogboye said.