Former Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said that he did not pay a dime for chattering the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft that was used for the unveiling of Nigeria Air.
The Federal Government was reported to have flown in a Boeing 737-800 series aircraft belonging to Ethiopian Airlines into Abuja for the unveiling of Nigeria Air.
The aircraft flew for its original airline a few days before it was rebranded and flown into Nigeria on May 26.
Flightradar, the popular flight tracking website, said the aircraft operated between Tel Aviv and Mogadishu, Somalia, still on May 21, 2023.
On 20th May, it operated both Mogadishu in Somalia and Beirut on 20th May while the previous day it also serviced Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.
The Acting Managing Director of Nigeria Air, Capt. Dapo Olumide, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation, had opened up that the aircraft was chartered.
Asked to state how much was spent for the trip when he featured on ARISE TV on Sunday, Sirika said no dime was spent on the exercise.
Sirika said the unveiling with the ET-registered aircraft was a marketing strategy adopted by the shareholders of the airline and not his decision, adding he was only invited to partake in the unveiling, which held at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
He also said only N5bn was budgeted for the national carrier since 2016 when the project started.
He said out of the N5bn, only N3bn was released which was utilised for transaction advisory services, consultancy services, the process of getting the Air Operator’s Service (AOC), office accommodation in Abuja and salaries of staff.
Clearing air on the project, the Minister said, “All the money voted for national carrier was N5bn and only N3bn released and it has not been fully expended as of the time I was leaving. The money was meant for transaction advisory service, salaries, consultancy services and AOC.”
He faulted the claim that N85bn was spent on the project, saying, “N85bn is in the head of the person who said it.”
Ethiopian Airlines is a majority shareholder in Nigeria Air project. It has a 49% stake, a structure which made domestic airlines under the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) file a suit against the Federal Government.
According to the ownership structure, two Nigerian companies hold a 46% stake while the remaining 5% stake is held by the Federal Government.
Source : Daily Trust
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