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Nigeria Air: How EFCC nabbed Sirika over N8bn ‘fraud’

A former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was yesterday arrested and taken into custody by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over its ongoing…

A former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, was yesterday arrested and taken into custody by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over its ongoing probe on the botched Nigeria Air project, Daily Trust reports.

Apart from the project, Sirika was still being grilled at the time of filing this report last night over alleged conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds to the tune of N80.06bn, and contract inflation when he held sway at the aviation ministry, credible sources said.

Specifically, one of the sources said the former minister, who was being quizzed at the Federal Capital Territory Command of the anti-graft agency, was taken to the commission’s office at about 12:55 pm on Tuesday by some operatives of the agency.

“He was picked up at his Abuja residence by our operatives,” the official of the anti-graft agency said. 

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The official who spoke in confidence because he wasn’t authorised to speak, said they quietly went to the residence of Sirika when they were least expected. 

Another source said, “Yes, he has been taken into custody and is meeting with our detectives to explain how some funds to the tune of N8, 069,176,864.00 were expended in his ministry when he was the minister.

“All necessary checks have been done before the invitation and he will be asked to explain the role he played in the (alleged) infractions.

“It is an ongoing thing, we will not relent,” the source said.

Our correspondent tried Sirika’s telephone but it was not going through as of the time of filing this report. 

Sirika, who served under former President Muhammadu Buhari, had also served as a member of the House of Representatives, and thereafter, as a senator representing Katsina North Senatorial District under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011. 

 

EFCC to invite sacked directors

In a related development, Daily Trust learnt that the EFCC is also planning to invite all the sacked directors who worked directly under the embattled minister in the aviation ministry. 

Sources said trouble started with the directors following several petitions submitted by stakeholders, especially some aviation unions and civil society organisations, calling for the probe of the sector after the failed national carrier imbroglio.

President Bola Tinubu had in December 2023 sacked the heads of Nigeria’s aviation agencies including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) and Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT).

Those sacked included Kabir Mohammed of FAAN; Tayib Odunowo of NAMA; Akinola Olateru of NSIB; Prof. Mansur Matazu of NiMet; and Alkali Modibbo, the Rector of NCAT while also suspending the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Musa Nuhu. 

An official of the anti-graft agency confirmed that letters of invitation to the sacked and suspended officials were already prepared to come over to explain their roles in the alleged different fraudulent activities that took place in the ministry under Sirika. 

 

Sirika’s younger brother’s account remains frozen 

Findings by this newspaper last night revealed that the EFCC was yet to lift restrictions placed on an account linked to the former minister’s younger brother, Abubakar Ahmad Sirika, which was allegedly used to launder money.

In February, the anti-graft agency froze an account belonging to Abubakar after he was arrested when about N3.2 billion was traced to his private company, Engirios Nigeria Limited.

According to EFCC’s detectives, Abubakar, who is also, a Level-16 officer and a deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, was listed as the company’s MD/CEO and the sole signatory to the two accounts linked to the firm with two banks.

The detectives had said the four contracts the ex-minister awarded to his brother which were not executed are the construction of the Terminal Building in Katsina Airport (N1.3 billion) and the Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre in Katsina Airport (N3.8 billion). 

Other contracts were the procurement and installation of elevators, air conditioners, and power generator houses in Aviation House, Abuja (N615 million) and the procurement of Magnus Aircraft and simulator for Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria (N2.3 billion).

Investigators revealed a payment of N3.2 billion out of the total contract sum to Engirios Nigeria Limited. Upon receipt of the payment, he allegedly transferred it to different companies and individuals.

The investigators also alleged that no trace of work had been done on any of the contract items to date.

Even though Abubakar could not also be reached last night for comment, an insider said the Sirika family had resolved not to discuss the matter in the media.

 

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