House C’ttee Directs Private Airlines to Account for N4bn COVID-19 Fund or Make Refund

House C’ttee Directs Private Airlines to Account for N4bn COVID-19 Fund or Make Refund

Juliet Akoje in Abuja

The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has given a week ultimatum to all private airline operators  in Nigeria to account for N4 billion collected from the federal government as COVID-19 intervention funds or  refund the money to the government treasury.

The Chairman of the  Committee, Hon. Bamidele Salam (Osun-PDP) handed down the directive at the weekend at the resumed  investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 intervention funds by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government and others who benefited from the funds.

Salam urged all private airlines that received COVID-19 relief funds designated to support the aviation sector to refund the allocated funds to the federal government treasury, if they fail to give justifiable evidence of how the money was judiciously spent within a week.

He lamented that despite appearing before it, several of the airlines and industry stakeholders, including Aero Contractors, Azman, Newrest, and representatives from the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, failed to provide satisfactory explanations regarding the allocation and expenditure of the funds.

However, the committee emphasised the need for accountability and transparency in the utilisation of public funds.

Azman Airlines represented by its Marketing Manager, Odum Uju, admitted receiving N367,935,779.95, purportedly allocated for various operational expenses including aircraft maintenance; spare parts, fuelling, forex purchasing, and insurance premium paid.

 The Station Manager of Aero Contractors, Mr. Abdulmalik Musa, said the company received N217,345,542.05 from the federal government for the Covid-19 intervention fund.

Musa explained that the fund was used for airport handling and facility payment, fuelling payment, on-board catering payment, pilot training payments, and lease rental payments.

Reacting to the submissions on how they utilised the funds , a member of the committee and former pilot with the Nigeria Airforce, Hon. Ojuawo Adeniyi from Ekiti state faulted the submissions,  saying that the services claimed by the operators were applicable only during the regular operations of airlines.

However, Hon. Akiba Bassey moved  that the amount involved should be refunded to the Federation account should they fail to give justifiable evidence before the committee on the expenditure which was unanimously supported by members.

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