Amidst the ongoing controversies surrounding the recent launch of Air Nigeria, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation in Nigeria, Nnolim Nnaji, has denied claims that he requested a five percent stake in the airline.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has faced criticism for chartering an aircraft from Ethiopia for Air Nigeria, and during investigations, he mentioned Nnaji’s alleged request for a stake in the company.
Nnaji, in response to Sirika’s allegations, stated that the former minister is trying to grasp at anything to salvage his reputation following the backlash surrounding the Nigeria Air project.
Nnaji clarified that his focus has always been on promoting transparency and adherence to due process in the aviation sector, including the Nigeria Air project.
He highlighted that further inquiries were suspended by the House when the Airline Operators of Nigeria took legal action, obtaining an injunction against the Ministry and Nigeria Air.
Nnaji explained, “Ordinarily, I would not have bothered to address the accusations of my demand for a five percent stake in Nigeria Air, as claimed during Sirika’s interview on Arise Television.
However, I feel it is my responsibility to set the record straight for the benefit of my constituents and Nigerians as a whole.”
He recalled that when the Minister announced Ethiopian Airlines as a core investor in Nigeria Air last year, his committee received numerous petitions from stakeholders.
As a result, the committee invited the Minister and his team to provide detailed information about the project, including evidence of the bidding process that led to Ethiopian Airlines’ selection and the full business case prepared by the Nigerian Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), outlining the investors and their equity contributions.
During the meeting, Sirika stated that the full business case was still being finalized by the ICRC and promised to provide it to the committee when ready. However, he failed to do so before the Airline Operators of Nigeria obtained the court injunction that halted the project.
Nnaji clarified that all inquiries were suspended to avoid contempt of court. However, he found himself at odds with Sirika again when he issued a statement opposing the pressures faced by key personnel at the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to grant waivers to Nigeria Air for obtaining an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) before the previous administration’s term ended.
Nnaji emphasized that it is a standard parliamentary practice not to discuss matters that are before the court, and his statement aimed to caution the former Minister against undermining the authority of the NCAA, as it could have detrimental consequences for Nigeria’s air transport sector. He also highlighted that the Nigerian institutional investors mentioned by Sirika have all denied their involvement.
Concluding his statement, Nnaji reiterated that Sirika’s baseless allegations were an attempt to deflect attention from the fundamental issue: the need for due process.
He urged Sirika to stay focused on addressing the truth about the Nigeria Air project, which Nnaji described as questionable. Nnaji made it clear that he is not the cause of Sirika’s problems