The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called for the arrest of the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, over what it described as the “fraudulent” Nigeria Air.
This is contained in a statement signed by the group’s National Coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Onwubiko, and made available to newsmen in Owerri on Wednesday.
HURIWA, a human rights advocacy group, said that the hurriedly unveiling of Nigeria Air by Sirika on May 26, the last official day of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, was suspicious.
The group called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to swing into action and probe the former minister now that the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Aviation had separately declared that the project was a fraud.
“The Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Capt. Dapo Olumide, told legislators on Tuesday that the aircraft paraded as Nigeria Air plane belonged to Ethiopian Airlines and not Nigeria whereas Sirika paraded the aircraft as being owned by Nigeria.
“This is fraud of the highest order and the lawmakers have labelled it so, including the suspension of all activities regarding the sham called national carrier.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must swing into action now that both the upper and lower chambers have declared the project as a fraud. The anti-graft agency must swiftly arrest, investigate and prosecute the ex-minister, if found culpable.
“There are a lot of questions that Sirika must be made to answer, including the whereabouts of the N85 billion splurged on the project.
“In fact, aside that the so-called national carrier has not secured a single aircraft for its operations, it has also failed to secure Air Operating Certificate (AOC) from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) “, he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Federal Government had in July 2018 unveiled the much-awaited new national carrier during the Farnborough Air Show in London.
In eight years, the Buhari administration with Sirika as the arrowhead spent over N85 billion on Nigeria Air, as shown in data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Compilation of Budgetary Allocations between 2016 and 2023.
At separate meetings with the Interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Capt. Dapo Olumide, on Tuesday, the Chairman of the Senate Aviation Committee, Sen. Biodun Olujimi and the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, both agreed that the launch of Nigeria Air was a fraud.
Olumide admitted that the Boeing 737-800 aircraft used to unveil the country’s national career was a legitimate chartered flight from Ethiopian Airlines.
He said the aircraft returned to Ethiopian Airlines after the unveiling.