Pensioners Want Aviation Minister Probed Over Suspended Nigeria Air Project

The Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) has charged the Federal Government to probe the financial commitment of the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to the suspended national carrier project, Nigeria Air. The union alleged that Sirika was secretive about the spending of government to the project, saying that once investigated, billions of naira expended on the failed project would be unearthed.

Rasaki Ope and Emeka Njoku, Chairman and Secretary of NUP, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch, respectively, canvassed for this today in an interview with journalists in Lagos. Some stakeholders had alleged that for the logo design, which was awarded to a foreign firm, FROM6 Communication in Bahrain, it cost the government a whopping $600,000 (about N219m).

Besides, the Federal Government approved the sum of N1.524, 492,863.62 to hire Transaction Advisers (TA) and other projects for the now suspended national carrier. Also, the road shows held in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom with hundreds of ministry and agencies’ staff, signing of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with aircraft manufacturers, technical personnel, Transaction Advisers, fast-track committee and possibly initial financial commitment out of the $300m earmarked as five per cent for the project by the Federal Government and several other millions of dollars were expended on the national carrier, are also in contention.

According to Sirika, the government was expected to expend $55 million on the project in 2018; $100 million in 2019, while $145m million is expected to be expended on the project in 2020. The leaderships of the union said the action of the government was a vindication of their stance since last year to the effect that the minister had not been transparent from the beginning on the way he had been handling the project. According to the group, the biddings for the project should have opened at a forum where observers would be invited to witness, in the interest of ensuring transparency.

The union added: “That it is the duty of the technical partner and the private investors in the project that will then chart the direction and form the new national carrier will take, since Sirika told Nigerians that the venture will be privately driven and that the Federal Government will not be spending a kobo in floating the new national carrier.” Ope expressed surprise at the stance of the minister that the government would be taking 5 per cent, which amounted to $300 million in the project, while the other 95 per cent would be for investors and technical partners.

“What is the business of the minister, representing the government as minority shareholder in dictating the pace for the majority shareholders and spending millions on designing the logo and embarking on a jamboree to unveil the logo, not in Nigeria, but in far away Farnborough in United Kingdom?” the union queried. Sahara Reporters

Pix: Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika