Group Captain John Ojikutu has asked that the Senate investigation into the disbursement of the N300billion Aviation/power intervention fund be extended to include UBA following claims by owner of defunct Air Nigeria Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim that he got a loan of N35bn at 2% interest to buy off the debt of over N40bn owed in UBA by the defunct Virgin Nigeria
The chief executive of Centurion Securities made this known in a correspondence with Nigerianflightdeck.com explained that if Barrister Ibrahim’s words were anything to go by, it was curious that chose to give Jimoh lbrahim a loan as aviation intervention at 2% which the CBN had pegged its lower rate at 6%
The Nigerian Senate had on Monday declared that N300 billion aviation/power intervention funds were transferred to private accounts and diverted to purchase of properties in Ghana.
The 10 airlines, according to the Central Bak of Nigeria (CBN), had benefited from the funds and they included: Arik Airlines, Dana Airlines, Aero Helicopters, Kabo Air, Caverton Helicopter, Overland Airways, First Nation Airways, Chanchangi Airlines, Odenegene Air, and Air Nigeria.
Although Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, explained that out of the 10 beneficiary airlines that two of them: Air Nigeria and Chanchangi have become defunct yet failed to mention how much each of the airlines collected.
Ojikutu in his submissions however said the whole thing was a circus as the funds received by the aviation section, which was about N120billion, were just used to fund banks calling for the banks to be investigated.
He wrote,”The currently investigation into the Aviation Intervention Fund is not different from the one conducted on the same fund in 2012 following the Dana airlines aircraft accident. What should be clear to most discerning minds watching and listening to the drama playing out at the NASS public hearing is that certain politically exposed persons, without the knowledge of the aviation ministry, got the ears of the Presidency to give intervention funds to some airlines which they had interest in.”
He continued,”Jimoh lbrahim had claimed in 2012 Public Hearing as he has also said at on going one that he did not get any intervention fund from government. However, he got a loan of N35bn at 2% interest to buy off the debt of over N40bn owed in UBA by the defunct Virgin Nigeria.”
“Should the Senate Public Hearing now find Jimoh lbrahim’s claim to be correct, as it is being suggested, it probably meant that his loan was cleverly converted to intervention fund by the UBA and the politically exposed facilitators of the funds.”
“The Senate Committee on Aviation should: (1) find out the role of UBA in particular, in the facilitation and disbursement of the fund (2) find out the actual debt portfolio of Virgin Nigeria, if any, before its defunct (3) find out why UBA chose to give Jimoh lbrahim a loan as aviation intervention at 2% which the CBN has pegged its lower rate at 6% (4) Above all, why the Ministry of Aviation was deliberately sidelined in the facilitation of the fund with the Presidency and the disbursement to the airlines”
He went on,”Should Jimoh lbrahim be justified in his claim, UBA should be made to return the fund of N35bn with the interest of 6% if indeed it converted Jimoh lbrahim’s loan to Aviation Intervention Fund.”
“By sidelining the ministry of aviation in the facilitation and disbursement of the intervention fund was possibly to avoid the payment of the airlines recurring debts to the agencies under the ministry. We must be very clear in our mind that the main objective of the intervention fund, was to pay debts on bank loans and those owed the services providers.”
“If we must sustain the Nigerian civil aviation industry, there must be financial discipline, enforced by the responsible aviation authority on the participants both public and private without interference from any political office holders and the politically exposed persons with keys to the doors in the Presidency.”
However during the hearing Group General Counsel for United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Samuel Adikamkwu came out to agree with a former Executive Director of Finance of Air Nigeria, Mr. John Nnorom, who said thathis former boss actually applied for and got the loan through UBA.
Nnorom explained to the committee that he did due diligence on the loan and secured necessary documentation, and decided to be servicing the loan with N228m monthly for nine months before the airline collapsed.
He alleged that the diversion of the fund to other ventures led to the collapse of the airline.
Nnorom stated, “The very moment the N35.5bn intervention fund was paid into the airline’s account through the United Bank for Africa, it disappeared into one of the private accounts of the owner without any amount from the fund injected into the airline, paving the way for its eventual collapse.
“The Aviation Intervention Fund was taken by Air Nigeria. In my capacity as the executive director of finance, I needed documents to pay and I did due diligence and I discovered that Air Nigeria actually took the loan.”
Also the UBA representative presented documents to the committee to show that the loan was actually requested for by Air Nigeria and that the bank applied for N41.1bn, being the indebtedness of the airline, but N35.5bn was approved.
He said, “In 2010, Air Nigeria made an application to us to apply for N41.1bn from the BoI because that was what they were owing us; but in the end, we ended up getting N35.5bn, which we used in refinancing part of what was outstanding at that time.
“No one can buy a company with assets and liabilities and now claim that he had paid the loan. The letter was issued for a purpose to enable him assess loans from local and external sources. Air Nigeria remains indebted to UBA. There was no time when Air Nigeria was not indebted to UBA.”
However the Senate is also questioning why the bank management in July 9, 2010 wrote a letter to NICON Group of Companies giving a clean bill of health to Air Nigeria when indeed the airline was still indebted to it.