EFCC Probes Ethiopian Airlines CEO Over N2.6b Nigeria Air Funds

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As part of the ongoing probe of the N2.6 billion allegedly spent on Nigeria Air, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has debriefed top officials of Ethiopian Airlines on some of its findings on the botched project

 

It was gathered yesterday that during the interface, the team led by Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines Mesfin Tasew claimed that the Ministry of Aviation owed them $211,000.

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Afam Osigwe

Chukwuemeka Mbamala

Chukwuemeka Mbamala

 

 

The team also alleged that the terms of the “pact” entered into with the Aviation Ministry during the tenure of former Minister Hadi Sirika were “brazenly breached.”

 

Tasew was quoted by an EFCC source as saying that “The Nigerian government lost interest in partnering with a foreign airline” because of the manner the project was handled by the ministry.

 

The EFCC official did not say when the Ethiopian Airlines officials visited Nigeria on the invitation of the anti-graft agency.

 

He, however, explained that the claim on $211,000 debt was ‘’another dimension to the probe of Nigeria Air

 

He said: “As part of our investigation, we want to find out how about N2.6 billion was allegedly spent on the botched Air.

 

“So far, we were able to uncover N1,326,731,470.97 allegedly spent on a Consultancy contract for Nigeria Air. This is already an issue before a court.

 

“In the course of findings, our operatives also discovered that the Ministry of Aviation was indebted to Ethiopian Airlines.

 

‘’Some officials of Ethiopian Airlines were in the country for interaction. We debriefed them and they explained the details of the Nigeria Air project.

 

 

“They confirmed that the implementation of the agreement was faulty because the Ministry of Aviation did not keep to the terms.

 

“They also said the ministry owed the airlines about $211,000. We have been inviting some past and present officials on the nature of the debts.

 

“Our operatives are digging deeper.”

 

Sirika, his daughter, son-in-law- inlaw and a firm, Al Buraq Global Investment Limited, are being prosecuted by the EFCC over corrupt practices involving about N2.7 billion.

 

The former minister unveiled Nigeria Air on May 26, about 72 hours to the end former President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.

 

According to the agreement on Nigeria Air, Ethiopian Airlines had a 49 percent equity stake; Federal Government, five percent; and a consortium of three Nigerian investors, 46 percent .

 

The deal however collapsed leading to the withdrawal of Ethiopian Airlines from Nigeria Air.

 

EFCC investigation indicated that before the pact collapsed, about N2.6 billion was sunk into the project in alleged “questionable circumstance.”

 

Aviation and Aerospace Development Minister Festus Keyamo recently affirmed that Nigeria Air remained suspended.

 

Keyamo said: “It remains suspended. It was never Nigeria Air. It was not Nigeria Air. That’s the truth. It was only painted Nigeria Air.

 

“It was Ethiopian Airlines trying to fly our flag. If it is so, why not allow our local people to fly our flag? Why bring a foreigner to fly our flag? So nobody should dispute that it was Nigeria Air.

 

 

“Nigeria Air must be indigenous, must be wholly Nigerian, and must be for the full benefits of Nigeria, not that 50 percent of the profit is for another country.”

 

 

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