The Joint Senate Committee on Aviation and Anti-corruption investigating the disbursement of N500 billion power and aviation fund has revealed that the N35 billion loan collected by the Chairman of the defunct Air Nigeria, Jimoh Ibrahim, was diverted to Ghana.
The Federal Government in 2011 released N120 billion through the Central Bank of Nigeria to the aviation sector as intervention fund to rescue the sector from total collapse.
At the investigative hearing by the Joint Senate Committee on Aviation and Anti-corruption on Monday, the Deputy Leader of House and also Vice Chairman of Aviation Committee, Senator Ibn Bala’ Nallah, disclosed that the fund allocated to Virgin Nigeria was diverted to another project in Ghana by Ibrahim, who is the CEO of Energy Group.
Confirming the diversion of funds incident, a former Director of Finance and Accounts of Air Nigeria, John Nnorom, said Ibrahim worked with the United Bank for Africa on the project.
Nnorom explained that prior to getting the funds, Ibrahim brought in UBA as part of Directors of Air Nigeria.
He, however, said surprisingly, the very day the N35 billion hit the account of Air Nigeria domiciled with UBA, it was also paid out.
He said: “Distinguished senators, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and the United Bank for Africa know what they were doing with the missing N35 billion aviation intervention funds.”
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, while responding to questions, revealed that though the fund was released in the name of Aviation, it did not pass through the Ministry of Aviation and there was no record anywhere to show the money was received by the Ministry.
Amaechi said: “Distinguished Committee Chairmen, members, my job here is to watch proceedings because I know nothing about about it and there is no record showing how the funds was disbursed.”
The Committee also queried the Central Bank of Nigeria for its inability to provide the record of N120 billion loan disbursed to rescue airlines in Nigeria as the Committee mandated the apex bank to provide the record within 24 hours.
According to the Committee Chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma: “We want the report of the disbursed fund with 24 hours.
“If you are not able to account for it, we will hold you responsible for the fund.”
The Committee also asked for the criteria used to shortlist airlines that benefited from the aviation intervention.
Earlier, Uzodinma, in his welcome address, made a shocking revelation that most of the airlines that benefited from the N120 billion intervention fund have become moribund.
He said: “That is why it is a very disturbing development to learn of allegations that monies were not properly utilized for the stated objectives.
“These allegations are just absurd, but shocking.
“We are here to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of such allegations of misappropriation or diversion of the said funds.
“As is normally the rule in any investigation, we hold nobody guilty unless it is proven beyond all reasonable doubts that he or she is guilty.
“Curiously however, from the list of beneficiaries of funds, some of the airlines have long folded up.”