Nigerian Air: A Belated Cry Of National Assembly

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.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari

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’’.

Gbajabiamila: Outgoing Speaker, House Of Representatives

 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.

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