Home » Air Nigeria: Sirika goes on trial for N8bn fraud

Air Nigeria: Sirika goes on trial for N8bn fraud

by Kolade  Kadesh

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will, next week, arraign a former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in connection with the botched Nigeria Air project.

An impeccable source in the anti-graft agency revealed this to our correspondent on Tuesday.

The investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have official permission to speak on the matter, said, “Interrogators are probing Mr Sirika over the controversial Nigeria Air project that failed.

“Though the commission is yet to uncover the total amount that was expended on the project,  the investigation is ongoing, and Sirika will be arraigned in court next week as charges are being prepared against him.”

The ex-minister was on Tuesday taken into custody by the EFCC. He arrived at the Federal Capital Territory Command of the EFCC at about 1 pm on Tuesday.

News men , who were at the Wuse office of the EFCC, observed the arrival of the embattled former minister at the anti-graft agency’s Abuja office.

He was immediately taken in for questioning by EFCC investigators.

Impeccable anti-graft sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak, confirmed the development to our correspondent on Tuesday.

“Yes, that was Hadi Sirika who was taken into our FCT custody. He is currently meeting with EFCC investigators over the alleged N8,069,176,864.00 aviation ministry contract fraud,” a source revealed.

Another source noted, “The N8,069,176,864.00 aviation ministry contract fraud was carried out in connivance with his younger brother, Abubakar Sirika, through the latter’s company.

“Also, the commission has also uncovered the laundering of another large sum of money through another company during Sirika’s term as minister.”

The spokesman for the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, also confirmed to our correspondent that the commission’s investigators quizzed Sirika on Tuesday.

He, however, did not disclose the reasons behind the former minister’s probe.

“Yes, Mr Sirika is being quizzed by our interrogators,” Oyewale simply noted.

The probe, it was reported, centred on conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, contract inflation and money laundering to the tune of N8,069,176,864.

The sum is said to be for four aviation contracts from the former minister to a company known as Engirios Nigeria Limited, owned by his younger sibling, Abubakar Sirika.

Apart from being listed as the company’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Abubakar is said to be the sole signatory to the company’s two accounts.

It was further revealed that the ex-minister’s younger brother had been arrested and detained by the commission in connection with N3,212,258,930.18 paid to his company, Engirios Nigerian Limited’s, bank account by the former minister.

The source said Abubakar, who was arrested on Sunday, February 4, was assisting the EFCC in its probe of the aviation ministry’s financial expenditures during Sirika’s tenure.

The EFCC investigator said, “We’re investigating an N8,069,176,864.00 money laundering case linked to former Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika.

Hadi awarded contracts to his brother Abubakar, knowing that the latter is a civil servant, a deputy director on Level 16 in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, where he has been working since 2000 till date.

“The first of the contracts from the former minister to Engirios Nigeria Limited was on August 18, 2022, for the construction of the Terminal Building in Katsina Airport, at a cost of N1,345,586,500.00. The second was awarded on November 3, 2022, for the establishment of the Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre in Katsina Airport, valued at N3, 811,497,685.00.

“The third contract was on February 3, 2023, for the procurement and installation of lifts, air conditioners, and a power generator’s house in Aviation House, Abuja, at the cost of N615,195,275.000, while the fourth was awarded on May 5, 2023, for the procurement of Magnus aircraft and a simulator for the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, at the cost of N2, 296,897,404.00.

“Out of the total contract sum, the ex-minister paid out N3,212,258,930.18 to his younger brother’s Engirios Nigerian Limited, who, upon receipt of the payment, transferred it to different companies and individuals. There is no trace of work done on any of the contract items to date.

“Abubakar Sirika is currently in our custody at the headquarters, and he is providing us with more useful information on the financial activities of the aviation ministry under the supervision of his older brother, Hadi Sirika.”

Meanwhile, Sirika had earlier claimed that less than N3bn was expended on the Nigeria Air project.

Speaking on Arise TV news programme in Abuja a few months ago, the ex-minister stated that contrary to speculations, less than N3bn budgetary allocation was made to Nigerian Air since the inception of the project.

According to Sirika, reports suggesting that the sum of N85bn has been spent on the Nigeria Air project are baseless and false, adding that the bulk of the expended funds has been channelled into consultancies, salaries, and administrative costs associated with setting up the national carrier.

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