The launch of Nigeria Air, the proposed national carrier of Nigeria, has sparked a controversy that has led to the invitation of the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Newsflash Nigeria gathered that the anti-graft agency has also interrogated some officials of the Nigerian Air over the recent unveiling of the airline in Abuja, which was allegedly done in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines.
The EFCC wants to know how much money was spent on the project, which some stakeholders claim was over N80 billion, while others say it was only N3 billion.
The agency also wants to verify the ownership structure of the airline, which was supposed to be 49% owned by Ethiopian Airlines and 46% by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, with the government holding only 5%.
However, many Nigerians were outraged when they saw an Ethiopian aircraft landing in Nigeria with Ethiopian colours and logo, and being presented as Nigeria Air. The former minister had defended this move as “a marketing strategy” in an interview with Arise News Channel.
Wilson Uwujaren, the spokesman of EFCC, confirmed that there was an ongoing investigation into the matter. “I can confirm that there is an ongoing investigation in that regard,” he said.
Nigeria Air was announced at the Farnborough Air Show in 2018, with plans to start operations in December 2018. However, the project was suspended barely two months after its proposal, without any explanation from the government.
Nigeria has not had a national airline since 2003, when Nigeria Airways ceased operations. Air Nigeria, a successor of sorts, was established in 2004 as a joint venture between Virgin Group and Nigerian investors, but it also folded up in 2012.