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Nigeria Air project: EFCC grills Ethiopian Airlines CEO

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is intensifying its investigation into the mismanagement of N2.6 billion allocated for the Nigeria Air project.
Recently, top officials from Ethiopian Airlines were debriefed by the EFCC regarding their involvement in the failed venture.

According to sources, the Ethiopian Airlines team, led by Group CEO Mesfin Tasew, reported that Nigeria’s Ministry of Aviation owes the airline $211,000. Tasew also highlighted that the agreement between Ethiopian Airlines and the Ministry, established under former Minister Hadi Sirika, was blatantly breached.

An EFCC insider quoted Tasew, stating that “The Nigerian government lost interest in partnering with a foreign airline” due to the ministry’s handling of the project.

While the exact date of the Ethiopian Airlines officials’ visit remains unclear, the EFCC official emphasized that the $211,000 debt adds a new dimension to the ongoing probe.

The official elaborated: “Our investigation aims to uncover the details behind the alleged N2.6 billion spent on the Nigeria Air project. So far, we’ve identified N1.3 billion spent on consultancy contracts, which is now under court scrutiny. Additionally, we found that the Ministry of Aviation owes Ethiopian Airlines a significant sum.”

As the investigation progresses, the EFCC has been questioning past and present ministry officials to understand the nature of these debts.

Former Minister Hadi Sirika, along with his daughter, son-in-law, and Al Buraq Global Investment Limited, faces prosecution for corrupt practices involving around N2.7 billion.

Sirika had unveiled Nigeria Air on May 26, just days before former President Muhammadu Buhari’s term ended. The partnership deal allocated Ethiopian Airlines a 49% equity stake, the Federal Government 5%, and a consortium of Nigerian investors 46%. However, the agreement collapsed, leading Ethiopian Airlines to withdraw.

The EFCC’s findings suggest that N2.6 billion was spent under questionable circumstances before the deal’s collapse.

In light of these revelations, Aviation and Aerospace Development Minister Festus Keyamo recently announced that Nigeria Air remains suspended. Keyamo stated, “It was never Nigeria Air. It was Ethiopian Airlines trying to fly our flag. Nigeria Air must be wholly Nigerian and benefit our country fully.”

As the EFCC digs deeper, the full extent of the mismanagement and its implications for Nigeria’s aviation sector continue to unfold.



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