Former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said, calling Nigeria Air project as fraud by the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, portrays a man angered for not getting a 5% equity in the business as he demanded.
Nnaji had recently declared the launch of the Nigeria Air as fraud during his Committee’s hearing in Abuja.
In an interview on ARISE TV on Sunday alleged that, “Hon. Nnaji asked me that I should give him 5% of Nigeria Air to carry him along with his people, and I said to him at that time, Honourable, a bidding process has taken place. And some people won, So, I think you should go to those people and ask for the 5 percent.”
Asked by anchor Reuben Abati, anchor to clarify if the lawmaker indeed asked for bribe for himself and other legislators, Sirika said, “Let’s be fair, Hon Nnaji didn’t say other members. He said he wants it for himself and his people. His people could be his family; could be members and it could be leadership. I don’t know, but he insisted on 5%. I said that he should relax and approach the owners. That’s exactly what I told him.”
The former Minister also criticised Nnaji and the aviation committee for conducting what translated to a “predetermined hearing”.
“I was a member of the House of Representatives 20 years ago, and 10 years ago, I was a Senator. I know the workings of the National Assembly. He [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 of Reps 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,” Sirika said.
Responding in a statement on Monday, Nnaji said, “Ordinarily l would not have bothered to reply to his allegations of my demand for 5 percent equity in Nigeria Air as he claimed during his interview on Arise Television but l believe l owe my constituents and indeed Nigerians a duty to put the records straight.
“It is on record that last year when the Minister announced Ethiopian Airlines as core investor in Nigeria Air, my committee which was also inundated with petitions from various stakeholders regarding that announcement invited the Minister and his team to furnish the committee with the details of the project.
“The committee requested for the evidence of the bid process that gave Ethiopian Airlines the award and, the full business case as prepared by the Nigerian Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, (ICRC) which was supposed to spell out the details of all the investors and their equity contributions.
“Sirika at that meeting said Full Business Case was still being worked out by the ICRC and promised to make it available to the committee as soon it was ready which he failed to do before Airline Operators of Nigeria, (AON) took the Ministry to court and got injunction restraining it from going ahead with the project.”, Nnaji said.
The lawmaker, who said all enquires were suspended to avoid court contempt, added that he crossed Sirika’s path again, when issued a statement against threats of mass resignations by key personnel of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) due to pressures from the Ministry to give waivers to Nigeria Air to enable it secure Air Operator’s Certificate, (AOC).
“Of course, we suspended our discussions and enquiries on the project the moment court got involved. Normally when a matter is before the court the parliament does not discuss it.
“However, on May 20th 2023, l received reports of threats of mass resignations by key personnel of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) due to pressures from the Ministry to give waivers to Nigeria Air to enable it secure Air Operator’s Certificate, (AOC) so that it could take Off before the exit of the last administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I quickly issued a statement warning the former Minister against subverting the authority of NCAA because of its severe consequences on the Nigeria’s air transport sector. It is also a common knowledge that the Nigerian institutional investors he mentioned as participants have all denied him.
“It is not strange that Sirika came up with these spurious allegations against my person because l remained consistent in demanding that he followed due process.
“He should not deviate from the subject matter. Let him tell Nigerians the truth about the contraption he sold to us as Nigeria Air. Nnolim Nnaji is not his problem,” Nnaji added.