The controversy trailing the unveiling of Nigeria Air at Abuja on May 26th has taken a new twist as the immediate past Nigeria’s minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has alleged that the leadership of the immediate past Committee on aviation once approached him to be apportioned five percent shares in the purported national carrier.
Sirika made the claim while appearing on Arise Television to clarify issues on the wide controversy the national carrier project has been generating.
Sirika took a swipe at the Honourable Nnolim Nnaji led aviation committee for describing the national carrier’s unveiling at Abuja as a fraud.
According to Sirika: “I was a member of the House of Reps 20 years ago, and 10 years ago, I was a Senator. I know the workings of the National Assembly. Nnaji called for public hearing. And right under the public hearing, he just turned the paper and read the riot act. The practice in the National Assembly is that after hearing people and the complain, you now go and sit down as a committee, discuss the issues, raise them, approach the whole house and take position of the house plus leadership and come back and make your findings known, but not immediately you just read the riot Act out. It means is predetermined.”
The former minister who denied any fraudulent attempt, cited how Honourable Nnaji once approaches him and requested to be granted 5 percent equity shares in the national carrier, an offer which he turned down.
Reacting to the insinuation that he spent over N85 billion on the project, Sirika said between 2015 and 2023 when he left government that out of the N5 billion approved, only N3 billion was released.
He however said part of the released fund was used to pay workers of the airline and run the office while he left the remaining in the ministry’s account.
The minister when asked about how much each of the shareholders had invested on the project, said no money has been invested since no agreement has been signed by the shareholders.
He however, said the amount each of the shareholders will invest shall depend on the percentage of their shares.
The former minister took time off to equally attack the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) particularly its spokesperson, the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Professor Obiora Okonkwo and Air Peace Chairman, who is the Vice President of AON for spearheading the court case against the national carrier project.
Sirika used the opportunity to declare that rather than being accused of not carrying stakeholders along, that he did not only hold up to six meetings with all stakeholders on the project, but personally invited the domestic carriers to invest in the proposed national airline.
The minister’s appearance on the Arise Television has started eliciting reactions across the sector with many describing the indictment of the lawmakers as a confirmation of their negligence to carry out their oversight function on the project.
Others have called out the former minister for choosing the path of blackmail rather than clarifying issues beclouding the project.