The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation yesterday declared as a fraud the purported launch of Nigeria Air by the Ministry of Aviation towards the tail end of the former administration.
The immediate past Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had unveiled an aircraft supposedly belonging to Nigeria Air amid fanfare.
This has drawn controversy, with Nigerians raising concern about the whereabouts of the aircraft after its unveiling.
But the chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, declared the purported launch of Nigeria Air a fraud after the ministry officials and the interim management of the national carrier feigned ignorance of the launch.
The lawmaker spoke at an investigative hearing on the launch of Nigeria Air, attended by officials of the aviation ministry, Nigeria Air interim management and the heads of aviation agencies at the National Assembly.
The committee, in its resolution presented by Nnaji, urged Ministry of Aviation and its partners to immediately stop all actions in respect of the Nigeria Air project.
Nnaji said the committee, after careful evaluation of the matter, was dissatisfied with the actions of the former minister, Senator Hadi Sirika for flaunting subsisting court order and went ahead with the launch of Nigeria Air.
“We are equally irked by the role played by Ethiopian Airlines in this whole process. It does not speak well of the excellent brotherly relationship existing between our two nations.
“A careful review of the process indicates the exercise to be highly opaque, shrouded in secrecy, shoddy and capable of ridiculing and tarnishing the image of Nigeria before the international community,” he said.
Flight merely to unveil logo on a real aircraft – MD
Speaking earlier while appearing before the Senate Committee on Aviation, the interim Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Captain Dapo Olumide, told the lawmakers that the project was not launched as being misconstrued by many Nigerians.
He said a chartered aircraft with the inscription of Nigeria Air logo was unveiled to counter the negativity making rounds on social media that the project was fake.
“It was merely to unveil the logo on a real aircraft so that the media could take a picture of a real aircraft.
“Ever since 2018, all you have ever seen about Nigeria aircraft were pictures, drawings not the real aircraft, and we thought it was time to show what the real aircraft will look like,” he said.
Olumide also confirmed that the aircraft that was unveiled as the national carrier was an Ethiopian registered plane.
“Why is it Ethiopian registered? For us to get a license, which is my mandate, we must among other things have three aircraft before the NCAA will give us a license and those three aircraft must be Nigerian registered aircrafts.
“There are five steps that one goes through to have a license. We are still in phase one,” he said.
Project shrouded in secrecy – Senate c’ttee
The Senate Committee on Aviation also criticised how the Nigeria Air project is being implemented, saying it was shrouded in secrecy.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti) said her panel was not carried along and that requests for information on the national carrier project were not responded to.
“This issue was shrouded in secrecy to the extent that it was fraudulently displayed as a new national carrier contrary to extant court order and international rules that strictly guide airline operations,” Olujimi said.
But the permanent secretary of the aviation ministry, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, countered Olujimi’s submission, saying the Senate committee was duly informed about the project.
He said there was a meeting with the committee during which the former aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, explained the details of the project to members of the panel.
By Abdullateef Salau & Balarabe Alkassim