By Suleiman Umaru AndLateef Adegbite
Ahmad Lawan, outgoing Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker House of House Of Representatives, appear to have exposed theweakness of the Natioal Assembly as a toothless bulldog during former President Muhammdu Buhari’s eight years in office.
Given that the Katsina state born former Nigerian President and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an erstwhile governor of Lagos state and now President and Commander In-Chief of The Nigerian Armed Forces , were said to have imposed the duo the National Assembly may have informed why the Lawmakers could bark and not bite.
It was not surmising why they have rubberstampped every request made by the former Nigerian President without properly scrutinizing the requests. One of such projects that was said to have received the express approval of the 9th National Assembly was the Nigeria Air project, allegedly managed by the Ethiopian Airline, the preferred bidder.
With barely one week out of office by the immediate past Nigerian President and takeover by Tinubu, by have emboldened the Committee on Aviation in both the Senate and The House of Representatives who were once praising Hadi Sirika, the minister of Aviation in the former Buhari’s Administration, to turn their back on him alleging that ‘’the project was shrouded in secrecy, shoddy and capable of ridiculing and tarnishing the image of Nigeria before the International Community’’.
The Committee members, in the National Assembly, may have been forced to speak out to win the heart of Tinubu, who has already appointed Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House as his Chief of Staff, expected to be sworn in on June 14, 2023. Many had described the outgoing House Speaker as a deft political move to get an insider information on the controversial projects and loans of the previous Administration and how to handle such controversial issues.
Recall that at a recent meeting with the All Progressive, APC, governors, the former Lagos state governor had said that the current Administration’’ inherited the Assets and Liabilities of the Buhari’s Administration but will not complain because government is a continuum’’.
Note that the National Assembly Aviation Committee members were said’’ to have expressed their misgivings towards the unveiling of the Nigeria Air during a recent meeting with Emmanuel Meribole, Permanent Secretary, ministry of Aviation, since Sirika, the erstwhile minister of the ministry , who had worked closely with Buhari, to unveil the national carrier have vacated office , following the inauguration of President Tinubu, on May 29, 2023.There are indications that Dapo Olumide, the Interim Managing Director of the Nigeria Air as well as Heads of the Aviation agencies under the ministry were also at the heated meeting .
Abiodun Olujimi, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, was said to have queried why Serika, the immediate past minister of Aviation, who incidentally has the backing of the former Katsina state born Nigerian President could agree with him to unveil the national carrier on the last days of the Administration when he knows that’’ it was a fraud’’.
An aggrieved Senator Olujimi, had revealed that ‘’the aircraft used during the unveiling was a Legitimate Chartered flight from the Ethiopian airlines and after the unveiling the East African country airline went back to Ethiopia. This may have informed why Nnolom Nnaji , the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation has described the Launch of the Nigeria Air by the Buhari’s Admnistration as a ‘’fraud’’ , that even stakeholders in the nation’s aviator sector had denied knowledge of the Launch.
The House Committee on Aviation had said that after a careful evaluation of the circumstances surrounding he unveiling of the airline, ‘’it felt totally dissatisfied with the actions of the former minister of Aviation’’ who was said to have acted out a script of the former President in going ahead to flag off the operations of the Nigeria Air despite standing Court injunction against such and without any provision for sustain the airline’’.
The Committee was said to have also chided the Ethiopian airline management for their Collaboration with the former Nigerian government Leadership in the alleged fraud, stressing that ‘’it does not speak well of the excellent brotherly relationship existing between the two nations’’.
But Olumide, the interim Managing Director,, of the national carrier, would not agree with the House Committee reports that the Buhari’s Administration had unveiled the airline to prove ‘’to Nigerians that it was not a fluke’’, which Aviation experts say ‘’beg the question’’.
As a prelude to getting the facts on the Nigerian Air project the House Committee on Aviation was said to have urged the Nigerian President ‘’to as a matter of urgency constitute a high-level Presidential Committee to undertake a holistic review of the processes and advise the government on way forward .
The House House Committee on Aviation members, were said to have also called on the Tinubu’s Administration ‘’to ensure that all individuals, groups and organisations involved in the controversial Nigeria Air Take-off , were brought to book and prosecuted and sanctioned’’.
It is on record that towards the tail end of the former Buhari’s Administration, it has received the first alleged Nigeria Air, Boeing 737-800 with retrofitted winglets which was spotted at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, confirming people’’ claim that it was a Chartered aircraft from the Ethiopia Airline.
There are insinuations in both official and unofficial circles, that going by the way the present National Assembly Leader are going about the Nigeria Air project to get the incumbent Nigerian President probe it, former President Buhari and Sirika, the then minister of Aviation , may be dragged to court over the National carrier , Take-off without proper preparation.
Between 2021 and 2023, the former President Buhari’s Administration had proposed to spend a total of N7,454,000,000, to establish the Nigeria Air, which was said to have been approved by the National Assembly . For the 2023, budget, the Lawmakers, were said to have approved the government provision of N1.3 billion for the national carrier. The further breakdown of the ministry of Aviation budget for the year also shows that it had planned to spend the sum of N700 million as the national carrier working capital f and an additional N200 million for Consultancy fee.
Even in the previous 2022, annual budget provision for the Nigeria Air, the government was said to have budgeted N1 billion on the project and N250 million as Consultancy fee , while in 2020, alone, the government has proposed to N4.6 billion as the airline working Capital and N304 million as Consultancy fee.
The Guardian had reported that the former Buhari’s Administration had consistently racked up appropriation votes for the project since 2019, noting that hat as at 2022, it has gulped N14.65 billion.The Newspaper had reported that out of the over N14 billion that was said to have been appropriated for the project, the sum of N6.25 bellion , was channeled to the airline working capital, Consultancy and transaction advisers’ fees.