Nigeria’s Aviation Minister pockets $240 million Nigeria Air budget after unveiling one leased Ethiopian Airlines 737 as national carrier
Hadi Sirika the Nigerian aviation minister has reportedly pocketed, the $240 million Nigeria Air budget after unveiling a leased Ethiopian Airlines 737 jet, as the national carrier in Abuja, Friday.
The lavish unveiling ceremony took place at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in the nation’s capital.
The national carrier’s website on a Nigerian Government domain, says it has 200 pilots, 50 passenger planes operating out of 10 major airports and serving over 200 routes.
The outgoing Aviation Minister excitedly announced the arrival of the aircraft via a Tweet: “We are here. To Almighty God be all the glory. It has been a very long, tedious, daunting, and difficult path. We thank everyone for the support.
“This, by the will of God, will be for us and generations to come. Ya Allah make it beneficial for our country and humanity.”
But the Airline Operators Nigerian (AON) described the unveiling of the aircraft as a scam, insisting that the aircraft displayed was a Boeing 737 MAX owned by Ethiopian Airlines and covered with Nigeria Air sticker.
Prof Obiora Okonkwo spokesman of AON and the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines made the allegation in an interview on ARISE News Friday night.
“There is an attempt by somebody to hang on to Nigeria Air, using it as cover to take over Nigeria’s aviation industry. So, the purpose is self-serving. The cost of the establishment of this airline is about $250 million. Who paid the $250 million?” Okonkwo asked.
“MRS and Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SAHCO) listed as shareholders are not talking and have not made any contribution to the company and indications show they are not interested.” He stated.
“Then if after eight years as Minister you can only bring in one aircraft, what do you make of such? Nigeria Air unveiling was meant to confuse Nigerians.” Okonkwo stressed.
According to investigations, the minister of aviation had contacted Ethiopian airlines few days ago, to provide an aircraft that would be presented to Nigerians as an aircraft belonging to Nigeria Air.
Cost of leasing a 737 Max for a month is around $296,000 according to Statista.
Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika
Ethiopian airline obliged by repainting and rebranding one of its Boeing 737-860 Max aircraft.
Felastory investigations show that the Boeing 737-860 Max has registration Number ET-APL, Mode S Q4005C and serial number: 40965/4075.
It was also revealed that the aircraft is about 11 years old and its first flight was on June 22, 2012 as Ethiopian Airlines aircraft.
The aircraft became Malawi Airlines on February 16, 2014 and was returned to Ethiopian Airlines on August 12, 2015.
On December 26, 2022. the aircraft was involved in a substantial accident without loss of life at the Mogadishu Aden Adde International Airport in Somalia.
Sirika said it is envisaged that within the next five years, it will hit the 35 aircraft mark: “You don’t come in one day to dump 35 airplanes. You can’t come in one day and start going to London. So, it’s a gradual process.”
In April the aviation minister was accused of over invoicing the purchase of fire fighting trucks at the sum of $260 million.
Akowe with reports from Abuja