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EFCC arrest ex-aviation minister’s brother over N8 billion fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has apprehended Abubakar Ahmad Sirika, brother to the former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on the grounds of suspected corruption.

His arrest, which occurred on the 28th of February, is connected to an ongoing investigation into the procurement of contracts in the aviation ministry.

The EFCC alleges that during his tenure as Minister, Hadi Sirika colluded to misuse his office and divert public funds amounting to N8,069,176,864 through four aviation contracts awarded to Engirios Nigeria Limited, a company owned by his younger brother.

Sources within the EFCC allege that Sirika awarded the contracts to his brother, despite knowing that he was a civil servant, thus violating the regulations.

The contracts in question comprise the construction of a terminal building in Katsina Airport, the creation of a fire truck maintenance center, the procurement of equipment for Aviation House, and the purchase of an aircraft simulator for the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology.

The anti-graft agency claims that the first contract from the former Minister to Engirios Nigeria Limited was awarded on August 18, 2022, for the construction of a Terminal Building in Katsina Airport, at a cost of N1,345,586,500.

The second was granted on November 3, 2022, for the creation of a Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre in Katsina Airport, with a value of N3.8 billion.

The third contract was awarded on February 3, 2023, for the procurement and installation of lifts, air conditioners, and power generator’s house in Aviation House, Abuja, at a cost of N615 million, while the fourth was granted on May 5, 2023, for the procurement of Magnus Aircraft and simulator for Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, at the cost of N2.2 billion.

It is also alleged that after receiving N3.2 billion from the ministry, Engirios Nigeria Limited transferred the funds to various companies and individuals, with no evidence of work done on any of the contracted projects.

Abubakar is currently in EFCC custody, reportedly providing information about the financial activities of the aviation ministry during his brother’s tenure, according to the source.

Last year, the former minister was summoned to the EFCC’s office concerning the controversial Nigeria Air project, which he alleged had consumed N3 billion.

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Dana Air sponsors cabin crew contest in Port Harcourt

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Dana Air, Nigeria's foremost airline renowned for its commitment to Excellence, Innovation and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has

Dana Air, Nigeria’s foremost airline renowned for its commitment to Excellence, Innovation and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has announced its sponsorship of the Cabin Crew Contest in Wiiyaakara, Rivers State in partnership with the Crew Training Institute (CTI).

This initiative which is scheduled to hold on the 19th of April 2024 at the T-fad Hotel and Resort Wiiyaakara, Rivers State is part of Dana Air‘s broad corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts aimed at enhancing human capacity development, nurturing the passion of aspiring aviation professionals, and promoting professionalism in the industry said Kingsley Ezenwa, Dana Air’s Head of Corporate Communications.

According to him, ”this ”Special Edition” of the Cabin Crew Contest serves as a platform to identify and showcase the talents of young individuals aspiring to pursue careers in the aviation sector. By sponsoring this event, Dana Air demonstrates its dedication to nurturing the next generation of aviation professionals and providing them with opportunities for training, exposure, and career advancement.”

” Dana Air recognizes the importance of passion and professionalism in the aviation industry. Through initiatives like the Cabin Crew Contest, our aim is to instill these values in aspiring cabin crew members, emphasizing the significance of excellent customer service, safety consciousness, and teamwork.” He Added.

Apart from the airline’s partnership with MMA2, opening its aircraft doors to students of secondary and tertiary institutions during facility tours for educational purposes, recall that Dana Air also recently recruited young licensed aviation professionals and youth corp members across various departments empowering them with necessary hands-on training and exposure to the beautiful world of aviation.

Dana Air is one of Nigeria’s leading airlines, operating domestic flights to major cities with a focus on safety, reliability, and customer satisfaction. The airline is committed to excellence in service delivery and making a positive impact on society through its corporate social responsibility initiatives.

 

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‘Devilish Conspiracy’, Air Peace chair blasts foreign airlines over price slash

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The Chairman of Nigerian indigenous carrier Air Peace, Allen Onyema, has raised the alarm that foreign carriers operating the Nigeria-UK

The Chairman of Nigerian indigenous carrier Air Peace, Allen Onyema, has raised the alarm that foreign carriers operating the Nigeria-UK route are allegedly conspiring to send Air Peace out of international operations by crashing airfares on the route.

There is an “unspoken alliance” among foreign airlines to use lower pricing to eject Air Peace from the Nigeria-London route, alleged a visibly displeased Onyema on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Tuesday.

“If they take out Air Peace prematurely, this country will pay dearly for it, 10 times over, billions will be lost, there will be another heavy strain on the naira,” he said.

On March 30, 2024, Air Peace reciprocated the lopsided Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the United Kingdom when the local airline began direct flight operations from Lagos to Gatwick Airport in London.

The Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo; and his counterpart at the Trade and Investment Ministry, Doris Uzoka-Anita; were onboard the inaugural Lagos-London flight alongside businessmen and women.

The development has been applauded by many industry observers with more local airlines being encouraged to commence international flights to profitable routes.

The price of international flight ticket on the Lagos-London route was as high as N3.5m but with Air Peace pegging a return economy class ticket for N1.2m, foreign airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways have been forced to slash their prices to stay competitive.

‘Deliberate Frustration’
The Air peace boss said foreign airlines operating the route “are fighting back”. “We are being deliberately frustrated in all ways,” he said, citing groundhandling and space allocation difficulties at Gatwick Airport in the last couple of days.

“It’s a very devilish conspiracy,” said a dissatisfied Onyema. “All of a sudden, (foreign) airlines are underpricing, below the cost, it’s not up to one month, an airline was advertising $100, another one $305, $350. Fill up the entire aircraft and carry people on the wings, it’s not even enough to buy your fuel. So, why are they doing that? Their governments are supporting them because Nigeria has been a cashcow for everybody.

“Their governments are supporting them to do this and take Air Peace out. The idea is to take Air Peace out and the moment they succeed in taking Air Peace out, Nigerians will pay 20 times over again.”

The airline boss invite other Nigerian airlines to join the Nigeria-UK route to break the monopoly hitherto enjoyed by foreign carriers operating into the four major gateway airports of Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.

“I invite other Nigerian airlines to join the fray, let them come, let all of us do international operations. Yes, international aeropolitics is very dirty but somebody must pay the price,” he said.

Onyema expressed appreciation to President Bola Tinubu and Minister Keyamo for being “solidly behind” Air Peace even as the airline navigates the politics side of operating to London.

 

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Passengers not abandoned at Gatwick Airport, says Air Peace

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Air Peace clarifies leaving passenger at Gatwick Airport

Air Peace on Tuesday offered clarifications on the status of it’s returned flight from Gatwick , London into Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos saying passengers were not abandoned.

The carrier also clarified that it did not engage in overbooking of flights, as those who could not meet up with the scheduled time arrive the terminal when the counters for check – in had closed.

In a statement signed by its spokesman, Stanley Olisa , the airline noted that information circulating in some platforms were carried out by persona intending to misrepresent the situation.

The statement reads:”Our attention has been drawn to a video circulating on social media that Air Peace not only abandoned their passengers at Gatwick Airport, but closed their counter before closing time because the aircraft was overbooked on our London-Lagos flight on Monday, April 8, 2024.

“This video recording was a deliberate and malicious attempt to tarnish the image of Air Peace.
In the video, a number of falsehoods were claimed, specifically: “Firstly, we closed our counter before time.

“Secondly, we overbooked our flight and our aircraft was full, hence we quickly closed the door and departed for Lagos.

Thirdly, take off time was supposed to be 12:00noon. We want to state categorically that the passenger, who the narrator escorted to the airport, came very late after check-in phase was already concluded and the counter had closed.”

He said :” Gatwick Airport operate by slot timings allocated to each of the airlines operating out of this airport. The check-in operations of airlines are slot-based, and airlines take turns based on their approved times.

“Once your slot timing is up, you must vacate the counters for the next airline’s utilization. The check-in process ends at 09:00am, as advised in the Terms and Conditions section of our e-ticket and website, and the counter was vacated by Air Peace in accordance with our slot allocation at 09:55 am.

“To ensure passengers do not miss their flights, we send them multiple messages at different times before their flight – 24hrs, 14hrs and 6hrs before flight departure.
“Departure for this flight was scheduled for 11:10am, so all processes needed to adhere to this time.”

He said :” It was also claimed that we overbooked our flight. The UK Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority can attest to the number of passengers on our manifest for the said flight. The aircraft left Gatwick with some seats unoccupied, so no overbooking took place.

“Gatwick Airport has CCTV coverage showing the time the passenger arrived at the airport/Air Peace counter and the time the maker of this video got to the airport. The late arriving passenger duly paid the no-show fee, was booked to travel on a subsequent flight, and therefore the issue was resolved at the airport. It is disappointing that a different version of what transpired has been circulating.

“Air Peace will continue to do its best to meet the needs of our passengers, but we also require passengers to work with us to ensure they can travel to their destinations by adhering to specified times. As always “Your Peace is Our Goal”.

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Aero Contractors offers clarification on payment of outstanding redundancy benefits

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Aero relaunches Calabar route as governor Otu plans additional three aircraft

…Cites cessation of operations for extended periods

Aero Contractors Airlines has offered clarifications on the settlement of outstanding redundancy benefits for its workers separated from the carrier since March 2017.

The carrier said it is working diligently to address the issue noting that it acknowledges with concern the reports attributed to the
National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) officials, protesting the failure of the company to pay off some of its workers pulled out since seven years.

In a statement the management of the airline said it is disappointed and surprised that NAAPE , having called for a meeting regarding payment of outstanding benefits to a number of former employees decided to go public before the meeting.
According to the statement, the airline said it has successfully disbursed redundancy payment to at least 95 per cent of the affected staff.

The carrier said :” A few clarifications need to be made to put things in context and clarify issues. The company has successfully disbursed redundancy payments to at least 95 per cent of affected staff.
“Admittedly, we still have outstanding financial commitment to a few affected staff. However, plans are under way to defray these and we have been engaging with affected staff to carry them along in all the company has been doing and going through.
” For the avoidance of doubt out of a total number of 237 staff affected by the redundancy, 225 have been paid off representing 94.94 pee cent of those affected.

“Nonetheless, we still have a total of 12 outstanding staff that are yet to be paid. This represents about 5.06 per cent of the original population. Of this number 3 are ATSSSAN members and 9 belong to NAAPE. Efforts are being made in the near future to pay the outstanding to the staff.

“Aero Management empathizes with the discomfort and strain this experience has put on the affected individuals as well as the whole company. We ask for more understanding as we work towards resolving all outstanding issues.

“We believe it is important to situate the whole experience within the operational context that Aero Contractors in particular and the industry in general has had to operate over the period in question.”

Citing harsh operating environment within the aviation industry, Aero Contractors Airlines said it has been overwhelmingly challenging, with the company enduring significant challenges including two instances of cessation of operations for extended periods.

The statement added :” The first was in August 31, 2016 to late December 2016 and the second was in July 20th, 2022 to December 4th, 2022. “After about a five months shut down we have assiduously worked on defraying outstanding payments and commitments, not only to affected personnel but to ensure the viability of operations and to continue as a going concern.

“This is in spite of additional challenges posed by escalating cost of operations, particularly the substantial cost the fuel component of our operational costs which has severely constrained our finances and affecting allocations to various expense headings, including terminal benefits owed to former employees.

“Be that as it may, as the figures show, management has been relentless in ensuring a vast majority of affected persons are settled. We assure you that Aero Contractors remains committed to fulfilling its obligations to all stakeholders. We continue to actively work to resolve all outstanding issues and ensure that affected individuals receive their rightful entitlements.

“Since the return of the company in December 2022 to operations, we have ensured a call back of all employees and reintegrated them to be in a position to contribute to building the organisation they love back to the stature for which it has always been known. It is an onerous task that we (former and current staff), owe the company and the heritage we have laboured for over the years. We shall succeed.

“We appreciate your understanding. Our commitment to operating with integrity and accountability remains unwavering, and Aero Contractors remains steadfast in its dedication to the well-being of its employees, past and present.”

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Keyamo, Doris Uzoka-Anite, NCAA DG commend Air Peace as Airline commences direct flights to London

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Nigerians have commended Air Peace for its successful inaugural flight from Lagos to London on Saturday, March 30, 2024, with a high figure of 260 passengers, marking the resumption of flight service since 2019 by an indigenous carrier to one of the most lucrative routes from the country.

The airline, which operated a 274-seat capacity Boeing 777 for the maiden flight, held a brief ceremony at the Muhammed International Airport (New Terminal) to celebrate the occasion.

Some of the dignitaries present at the occasion include the Minister of aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka-Anite, acting Director, General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Chris Najomo, the Chairman and CEO of United Nigeria Airlines, Professor Obiora Okonkwo, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), former Director General of NCAA, Board Member of Air Peace, Benedict Adeyileka and many others.

Many of the passengers on the Air Peace flight to London said the flight was long awaited and it signaled a new dawn in the travel industry in Nigeria, adding that Air Peace is a Nigerian project and Nigerians should be commended for making this possible.

“It’s a new dawn for travellers. We are tired of exploitative fares charged by foreign carriers. Air Peace is changing the narrative to air travel with this maiden flight. We see that fares are gradually reducing since Air Peace announced flight to London. This is good for air travel and Nigeria,” Tony Ike, a passenger on the flight said.

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Keyamo who was obviously elated by the result of the hard work and commitment he and others in government had made to pave way for the airline to begin operations to London, promised that the Federal Government would continue to protect the airline and other Nigerian carriers that might want to operate international service.

He said the commencement of direct Lagos-London route by Air Peace would ease the pressure on naira, while the demand for foreign exchange by Nigerians and foreign airlines would reduce.

Keyamo explained that the start of the route by the airline had also compelled some mega carriers on the Lagos-London route to drop fares and assured of government support.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka-Anite described the feat by Air Peace as the convergence of innovation, determination, and the unwavering commitment to excellence.

“Nigeria has needed a local airline flying directly to the UK for a number of years. Air Peace proudly wears the badge of. Made in Nigeria. It is a symbol of our collective effort to showcase our capabilities to the world. From the skilled hands that maintain the aircraft to the warm smiles of the cabin crew, every aspect of Air Peace reflects the spirit of our nation.

“Let us reflect on the economic impact of this flight. Air Peace’s presence in London is not merely about arrivals and departures; it is about trade, investment, and collaboration. By choosing Air Peace, you choose to invest in Nigeria. You choose to empower local businesses, create jobs, and strengthen our economy. In December 2023, the UK exported £185 million to Nigeria and imported £154 million, resulting in a negative trade balance of £30.8 million. This is a trend we wish to change in Nigeria’s favour and an additional trade route is a major step in the right direction,” she said.

She said the choice of Nigerians to fly with Air Peace is a vote of confidence, adding that the airline has a commendable safety record, holding a 7 out of 7 safety rating according to Airline Ratings and has successfully undergone the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification four times, signifying its commitment to rigorous safety standards.

“So I entreat all potential passengers to trust them to carry you safely across continents, and remember that you are part of a movement—a movement that encourages Nigerians to patronize their own. Let us be ambassadors in the skies, sharing stories of our rich heritage, our vibrant culture, and the warmth that defines us,” Uzoka-Anite added.

Similarly, Capt. Chris Najomo, the Ag. Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCCA), insisted that for indigenous airlines to succeed on any international routes, it was necessary for the government to adopt the Fly Nigeria Act for public officials.

Also, he promised that the apex regulatory body would support Air Peace and other indigenous airlines to succeed on international routes unlike in the past.

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Foreign carriers urge FG to settle outstanding trapped funds

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Foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have commended the Federal Government for clearing the backlog of over $800 million owed them.

Specifically, the airlines called on the Nigerian government to consolidate efforts at ensuring whatever funds is still trapped in Nigerian commercial banks are paid.

To achieve this, the carriers said it is ready to interface the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and other relevant bodies for the verification of the outstanding funds left to be settled.

President of Association of of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria (AFARN), Dr. Kingsley Nwokoma said with substantial part of the $800 million already cleared , the body is calling on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to speed up the remaining funds, including the huge sums trapped in indigenous commercial banks to encourage the carriers to do business in the country.

Nwokoma said the impact of the payment of the funds is currently being felt with the reduction in air fares on international routes.

He said as the government intensify efforts to resolve the matter, the carriers are encouraged to carrying out their business in the country with assurance that funds generated is remitted to the benefiting airline and their country.

Nwokoma said :” Though the Federal Government has paid substantial part of the over $800 million trapped funds, there is need to ensure that Foreign carriers, operating into the country are not short changed under any guise. “Therefore we commend the minister for hitting the ground running and also the Central Bank of Nigeria for having a listening ear given the austere time, the country is going through.”

He called on Nigerian carriers to step up their game by making foray into international flight operations, including Air Peace, which is commencing its Lagos / London route by March 30, 2024.

Nwokoma called on Nigerian carriers to negotiate partnership and collaboration with international carriers, which is strategic for seamless intercontinental connections through codeshare agreements.

He affirmed that getting into the clearing house of the global airlines trade association – International Air Transport Association (IATA), will create better avenue for enhanced capacity , connectivity and other benefits for the airlines.

Nwokoma said as much as more carriers need to make foray into international routes, Nigerian airlines must consolidate their capacity to enhance their market share and boost competition.

He said :” AFARN congratulates Air Peace Airlines on its recent audacious step for venturing into the Lagos- London route and wish more Nigerian carriers can explore same option for more international routes.

Nwokoma urged Air Peace to learn from the pitfalls of other carriers that have operated flights on the Lagos / London route to ensure sustainability of the flight operations.

“We want to state that collaboration and alliances are key in world aviation. No one airline can do it alone. We will continue to seek this collaboration amongst operators. “Similarly, AFARN also encourages the foreign airlines to start selling low inventory tickets to the flying public. This will not only boost the business in the industry but would increase the number of air passengers.”

He called on State Governments to step up their game in their investment in air transport infrastructure, saying it is one of the steps that will grow the contribution of the aviation cargo sub sector to the gross domestic product.

The AFARN president said more investment in air transport infrastructure will position the States to drive export of agricultural produce from their domains and create additional revenue.

He listed produce that could be export from such terminals to include : yams, flowers, pepper, tomatoes and others.

Nwokoma said :” Most of you for instance are aware of what is going on in the Cargo sector, whereby state owned cargo airports are springing up, with the overriding intent to stimulate the economy and to also ensure that Nigeria goods are sold to the outside world. I am also aware that lots and lots of standardization, modernization and procedures are being carried out to make operations simple and to also reduce bureaucratic procedures that makes imports clearing and export forwarding friendlier to ensure the acceptability of international values.”

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