Over the years, the average Nigerian had become accustomed to being taken for granted by politicians and government appointees. But nothing prepared the country for the show of shame put up on May 26 by Hadi Sirika, former minister of aviation. Desperate to claim the bogus Nigeria Air was launched by the Buhari administration, the aviation minister sought for, repainted and displayed to Nigerians, a plane borrowed from Ethiopian airline.
Some members of the House of Representatives have now also labelled the entire exercise a fraud, and we call on relevant law enforcement agencies to see this as their cue to take action. Hadi Sirika must be prosecuted for this brazen attempt to defraud the entire country openly.
The former aviation minister, in an attempt to defend the charade, was on a TV programme on Sunday, where he claimed that Nnolim Nnaji, chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, only labelled the unveiling spectacle as a fraud, because of an unmet bribe for 5 percent of Nigeria Air.
Whether this claim is true or not, we believe it also gives law enforcement officers yet another person of interest that should be interrogated for any culpability in the collective disgrace Nigeria was subjected to. Everyone involved, starting from Sirika, the former aviation minister, to even those who may have allegedly requested or taken bribes to allow this charade go so far until the shameful display, must be made to account for it.
Everyone involved, starting from Sirika, the former aviation minister, to even those who may have allegedly requested or taken bribes to allow this charade go so far until the shameful display, must be made to account for it
BusinessDay had reported that the aircraft that was presented to Nigerians as one belonging to Nigeria Air, was a Boeing 737-800 with registration Number ET-APL, Mode S Q4005C and serial number: 40965/4075. It was further found that the aircraft, which was first flown on June 22, 2012, as an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft, was briefly used by Malawi Airlines from 16th February 2014 to August 12, 2015. Checks had also shown that while the aircraft changed colours, ownership remained that of Ethiopian Airlines.
That same aircraft was what was flown to Nigeria, with a claim that it belonged to Nigeria Air. By May 28, two days after the circus by Sirika and his cohorts, the aircraft was flown back to Ethiopia. Whatever undisclosed amount of money had gone into the spectacle, was money gone forever, down the drain, straight from the purse of a very broke country.
It is also instructive to note that in eight years, former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration spent over N85 billion on Nigeria Air, including expenses on transaction advisers, working capital and consultancy bills between 2016 and 2023. This much was spent on a phantom airline, despite dilapidated infrastructure in need of urgent attention across the country.
Despite the billions of naira spent on Sirika’s illusions for a national carrier, the airline has not only failed to secure an Air Operating Certificate, an approval granted by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to an aircraft operator to allow it to use aircraft for commercial flight operations, but it has also not secured a single aircraft for its operations, BusinessDay had reported.
In 2015, when Sirika was appointed minister of Aviation, he had put forward an aviation roadmap with a National Carrier as the main project, which he promised must be delivered to the Nigerian people before the end of Muhammadu Buhari administration.
After failed attempts by other ministers to set up and successfully run a sustainable national carrier in the last 50 years from Nigerian Airways to New Co, Nigerian Global, Nigerian Eagle, Virgin Nigeria, Air Nigeria and Nigeria one, Sirika had promised that the former President Muhammadu Buhari administration was going to restore the pride of Nigeria in the skies by floating a national carrier which would bear Nigerian flag.
Sirika failed to achieve this, likewise his boss, former president Buhari. After failing for eight years to even get certifications, approvals and meet other requirements to run an airline, Sirika should have taken his failure in good faith and retired to his home.
But he felt the need to insult Nigerians at the twilight of the Buhari administration. Worse, with a spectacle that reeked of a fraudulent display of epic proportions. Hadi Sirika must be prosecuted, to answer for any and all financial crimes he may have committed in respect of the bogus Nigeria Air project. This will also serve as a deterrent to others who may feel the need to toe this shameful path in the future.