Investigations (Part 1): After stealing billions, grounding Nigeria Airways, indicted officials still enjoy loot

Nigeria_Airways_jpg
Nigeria_Airways_jpg

While the Federal Government has concluded plans to spend N75 billion ($500 million) to procure 30 aircraft for airlines, none of those indicted, by a government White Paper ten years ago, for the fraud and misappropriations that led to the collapse of the Nigeria Airways has been prosecuted or made to return the money they stole.

A PREMIUM TIMES Investigation revealed that some of those indicted are still active players in the aviation industry and may directly benefit from the government’s intervention. Nobody has been prosecuted or convicted for his/ her role in the scam.

In 2002, outraged that the national carrier that had 32 airworthy aircraft in the early 1980s has only two functional airplanes, former President Olusegun Obasanjo set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the management of the Nigerian Airways.  The commission was mandated, amongst other things, to “examine all books of account and records and determine whether there has been compliance with appropriate regulations.”

After a year’s work, the commission submitted a four-volume report that revealed mind-boggling fraud, misappropriations and wanton recklessness running into billions of naira involving several officials of the airline, administrators, travel agencies, financial institutions local and foreign companies, as well as one prominent development organisation.

On December 11, 2002, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, the country’s highest decision making body, met and approved a draft White Paper on the commission’s report and directed the Ministry of Justice and the police to prosecute and recover the stolen funds. It also directed the office of Secretary to the government to gazette the recommendations of the White Paper.

Nobody remembers what happened afterwards, but neither did the police, Justice Ministry or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation follow through the FEC’s directives.

If they know what happened, officials of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration are unwilling to tell Nigerians. Media aide to the president, Reuben Abati, did not respond to our questions about the status of the White Paper. Ambrose Momoh, the media aide to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, could also not get his boss to respond.

Mr. Momoh did not respond to our enquiries several weeks after they were sent to him.

Just before he took ill and was taken to Saudi Arabia for treatment, the late President, Umaru Yar’Adua, had vowed, to those close to his government, to prosecute those indicted. That was the last that was heard of the report.

An orgy of fraud

Findings by the Justice Nwazota led Commission of Inquiry revealed that Nigerian Airways was run like a repulsive orgy of corruption.

In total disregard for all decency, huge sum of monies were stolen and misappropriated by the airline officials. Administrators arbitrarily signed shady contracts with agencies and companies without recourse to regulations, funds were dubiously deposited and lost in moribund financial institutions; and airworthy airplanes were sold as junks and the money embezzled. Also, huge loans were taken on behalf of the airways and pocketed by private individuals.

The report painted a bacchanal of fraud where every administration was jostling to out-steal the one before it.

Between 1997 and 1999 “every project and contract was conceived with fraudulent intent,” the report noted. The Managing Director of the airline during the period, Jani Ibrahim, was described as “fraudulent and highhanded.” It revealed that Mr. Ibrahim treated the airline’s account like his personal wallet and summarily sacked those “he thought were threats to his fraudulent practices.”

Between 1997 and 1999, Mr. Ibrahim spent $4,052,234.00 (N607.84 million) rental due to the airways without recourse to lay down regulations.

Also, he single-handedly paid $1.78 million (N267.8 million) without guarantee to a travel agency, Alpine Aviation, for the 1999 Hajj operation. Only $560, 000 (N84 million) was recovered. The balance of $1.22 million (N183.75 million) was never recovered.

From 1997 to 1999, Mr. Ibrahim appointed a third party company to collect revenue on behalf of Nigerian Airways even when the airline had the capacity to carry out the job. He subsequently paid a commission and handling charge of $928,895 (N139 million) to Hak Air, the agency he recruited for the purpose.

Mr. Ibrahim also presided over the overpayment of $1.45 million (N222 million) to Hak Air for the overhauling of two aircraft – DC10-30 and B737, the report stated.

Mr. Ibrahim also spent N607.84 million ($4,052,234.50) being rent due to the airline “without regard to laid down regulation.”

During the first C-Check of an Airbus in Nigeria by Revilo, Mr. Ibrahim made an over-payment of N92.4 million ($616,052.26). He also “single-handedly signed and disbursed N156 million ($1,039,439.00) without the signature of the airline’s financial director as regulation required.”

Between 1996 and 2001, he also unilaterally allotted 24 plots of land belonging to the airline in Ayobo, a suburb of Lagos to non-staff members.

In keeping faith with his authoritarian approach to leadership, the committee found that Mr. Ibrahim went into a Wet Lease agreement with Al-Mahfooz that was to last for a year, but the venture collapsed because Mr. Ibrahim excluded the airline’s technical department. The failure of the agreement cost the airline N247.28 million.

Mr. Ibrahim could not be reached for comment as his whereabouts remain unknown. 

Banned from holding public office

Perhaps the biggest damage done to the Nigerian Airways by an individual was done by its former Managing Director of the company, Mohammed Joji.

Mr. Joji, a retired Air Force Captain and the current Secretary General of Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, was so unabashedly corrupt as stated in the report, that the FEC banned him from holding public office in Nigeria.

The White Paper revealed that in March 1993, Mr. Joji, who is the owner of Sky Power Express Airways, “unlawfully approved” N2 million to one Grace Hembah as imprest account.

In the same year, Mr. Joji “collected and spent” N1.8 billion ($12 million) royalty from Swissair without approval.

Also in 1993, Mr. Joji claimed that he paid N1.62 billion ($10.8 million) to Sabena Airline but it was later discovered that he only paid N150 million ($1million), the panel discovered.

In 1992, Mr. Joji also paid NICON Insurance Plc, N361.7 million ($2,458,064) less premium due. This fraud was even made worse by the fact that N 33.5 million ($2,230,357) being discount on premium that accrued to the airline had vanished without a trace, the white paper stated.

It was also revealed that he would willingly choose foreign consultants for jobs that the airline staff could handle. The committee found “he would hire them in with all expenses paid.”

In 1993, Mr. Joji outsourced the maintenance of a Boeing 737 aircraft to consultants from Brazil and paid them fully even after staff of the airline has completed 75 per cent of the maintenance. The airline lost N176.56 million ($3,531,358.50) in the process.

In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Joji denied any wrongdoing. He said the White Paper was a product of a “witch-hunt” orchestrated against him by former Aviation Ministers, Babalola Borishade and Kema Chikwe.

“There were several panels. Nwazota was just a consultant. Is that what you call a panel? They didn’t do a proper job,” he claimed.

“Do your research. The question you have to ask is who wrote the white paper? Was it gazetted? Was anyone charged?”

Mr. Joji also uttered a subtle threat of litigation to PREMIUM TIMES. He wondered why we were interested in the story 10 years after:

“At that time, no newspaper wrote about it. The White Paper was published 10 years ago, why are you just writing about it now,” he queried.

When told we recently started publishing, he replied:

“You are starting on a bad note. They will charge you to court. The White Paper is not gazette. You’re playing a dangerous game. Ten years ago something was written and you just came over night and want to write something about it.”

 “It just a wishy-washy thing by Mr. Borishade and Kema Chikwe. It wasn’t gazetted and I wasn’t charged,” he said.

To be continued…


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  • Innocent

    Hmm… What can I say. The corruption in this country is really explainable. Its just everywhere you look. One wonders if Nigeria can really get out this mess anytime in the nearest future.

  • Strata

    Jani Ibrahim, Mohammed Joji….a coincidence? Or are some ethnic nationalities really more corrupt than the others? Just confused.

    • Omo naija

      FYI jani ibrahim is a Yoruba man. He owns Lubcon

  • Ayemi

    What a wasteful country! Nobody would believe that Nigeria had 32 aircraft for airlines in 1980s, and had nothing to show for it in 2013. This is so sad!!! Our political leaders and elites have sold all Nigerian heritage. What a country of waste are we in? We deliberately refused to make things work for us in Nigeria. No electricity, no water, no good roads – people are dying everyday on the death traps we called roads. No jobs! The quality of our education has collapsed completely! Graduates are roaming about the streets! And at the same time losing our best intellectuals to foreign lands! Our economy is going down everyday. Why are we doing all these immoral,injustices, injuries, and evil to ourselves? Our airports are below the standard compared with all other countries like America and Europe. Sometimes we wonder if our political leaders and elites’ thinking faculty are working at all? What do they see whenever they travel abroad? What do our aviation ministers and others who are holding political offices see when they travel out of the country as it is commonly said? Why are they not implementing those good things they have seen there each time they travel out? Are they the enemies of our country, who are pretending to be our leaders? They send their children abroad to study, train them to come back to dominate Nigerians again in order to continue the evil doings of their parents. Their children are neither committed nor dedicated to our dear country- Nigeria, yet they come back to rule us. These evil perpetrators do not allow Nigeria as a nation to serve as a role model to other African Countries.What negative impressions are you creating of Nigeria? This is the right time to begin to dig deep into all our sectors and bring these wicked leaders into justice before 2015 election in order to prevent wrong choices again. Everyone of them who had played one role or the other in aviation industry and other sectors should be listed out with all the monies that each person had
    stolen. We, Nigerian deserve to see the list of their names and what they had stolen.

    • Enemona

      On point, they’ve sold everything, at the price of nothing, to themselves. These are our collective properties that should be held in trust by our government. This heinous crimes were committed under the guise of indegenization, privatisation, deregulation etc.

      Our government cannot manage any business, how can it manage anything when the ordinary day-to-day administration is a very difficult task for them. I still keep saying it that all government from independence to date (we can excuse Idiagbon and Buhari’s regime) have been wasteful, inept and corrupt.

      In sane countries, many of our elites should be in jail for their crimes yet they enjoy their stinking wealth at the expense of the entire masses of the country. We, the people of Nigeria, have sat idly by as we get scammed by these thieving public officers.

      • Dolop

        And part of the reason they get away with stealing is that we all envy them and silently await our turn (or that of a close friend or relative) to have access to the commonwealth. If we were truly and sincerely offended by all these flagrant disregard of our common heritage, we would have taken care of this long ago.

  • Nigeria may never get out of this corruption grave. Its not an impossibility though. If God blesses us with a government that is serious about fighting corruption, it can be rooted out. First of all, you deal with the big fishes and the small ones will learn. You now carry out far-reaching and comprehensive review of the legal and judicial system, you empower institutions and ridyourself of corrupt friends. Only then will such a president be able to fight corruption. Obviously, nigeria has been blessed with corrupt leaders and insincere and clueless individuals governing the affairs of this land. It is not the common man on the street that is corrupt, but the leaders, who steal billions and still use the proceeds to impoverish the masses in anyway they can. I SALUTE THE COURAGE OF PREMIUM TIMES AT BRINGING OUT SOME OF THESE ISSUES WE MAY NEVER HAVE KNOWN ABOUT. I SALUTE YOUR PATRIOTISM, PREMIUM TIMES.

    • Es3

      PeaceAmbassador,
      Just a few questions to you and others that fail to appreciate the failure of decades of leadership and preferring to dump all the mess on Jonathan!
      Have you bothered to confirm when this mommoth corruption reported here actually took place and under whose watch as President or Head of State?
      The white paper and the indictments, was it during the present governnment of Jonathan? If not, why didn’t the lions and tigers that ruled Nigeria before Jonathan do what Nigerians are now looking up to Jonathan to do? Was it a case of ‘liver fialure’ or plain dodging to accummulate for another who is not afriad to be insulted, abused, maligned and ‘wished dead’?
      Yes, I want to see Jonathan clean yet another ‘augean table’ that those before him ran away from! But how many of these can he actually succeed without the active support of the people that matter most – Nigerians?! Bearing in mind that he is not just going up against these individuals, but the national assembly with non-existent or porous laws, judiciary where the rich get away with ease and families (oligarchs) whom generations upon generations have been eating directly from our national treasury and know no other option that to defend their source of food and wealth “by any means neccessary”, and of which Jonathan is working to end?????!

      • Es3, you are not as passionate about President Jonathan’s success more than I did, and still do. As a matter of fact, I’ve grown up in my expectations. I demand tangible performance. I voted for him, in case you didn’t think so. As such I have the right to demand a change. Yes, it took years of corruption by oligarchs to put nigeria in its present sorry state. But we have a C-in-C who promised us that all that bullshit will be over. How comes the Presidency usually maintains a mute posture when issues of corruption are mentioned about those who are considered friends of the President? Why does the Pressidency lie about the fight against corruption when what we see is actually a fight for corruption? ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY THAT THE PRESIDENT DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO SEVERAL PANEL REPORTS AND THOSE OF PAST COMMISSIONS SET UP TO LOOK INTO ONE CASE OR THE OTHER? Nigerians would feel at ease if the recommendations of those panels have been implemented. I ask you again, how panels, committees, commissions has President Jonathan set up and how many of those reports’ recommendations has he implemented? If past offenders are not punished, how do you want to deter others? If anti-corruption crusade is only on the TV and pages of newspapers, who do you think will take you seriously? Every President has an opportunity to step on toes and leave a legacy by providing the common man hope through genuinely fighting corruption. But this administration will not have any of that. How many anti-corruption bill has the Presidency sponsored? Why is the President’s asset declaration form a thing that no one should give a damn about? Why is our corruption index worsening? Why are we not having a big politician in jail? When will we have results? Or is this administration fighting corription on twitter and facebook alone? For the white paper and indictments that didn’t happen during Jonathan’s time, he still owes us a duty to open those books and ensures that those involved are NOW punished. In the west, crimes are punished no matter how long it takes. That the crime was committed yesterday and the person was set free corruptly does not mean you can punish him today. Actually, that is where the President should start from. He should have looked at those white papers and all the reports, and today’s corruption would have been reduced by 50%, but the problem is that he surrounds himself with people like you who are either sycophants or simply lack the wherewithal (no insults intended). Consider the BBC and the abuses that went covered up for decades. It gets punished. When people know the law will catch up with them no matter how long, they watch their acts. But when you know that your crime has a little or no chance of getting punished, then anything goes. That is where we are. I’ve always said it, laws in Nigeria are made for the common man while the politicians and the elites are free to be lawless. If the President is serious about anti-corruption, let him start implementing past recommendations. Let him appoint more judges, sponsor reformationary bills, build more courts, ensure indicted politicians go to jail and let him step on feet that are unwilling to move. For God’s sake he’s the Commander-in-Chief. For the past ‘lions and tigers’ that ruled the Nigerian jungle, well we were in a jungle then. Indeed, they messed up the country and Jonathan. And I didn’t vote for any of them. I demand good governance because I voted for President Jonathan. He promised us change, and that change will not come if the evil of yesterday is not punished; if he blames the other man when he has all the power to effect that change. As a VP, he witnessed the rot in the country. When he completed the tenure of his late boss, he saw even more. When he contested and made all those promises, he knew what he was up against. Now, how is going to give us a breath of fresh air when the foul air of yesterday’s dead animal is permeating the air? Its a simple logic and task. Clear the dead animal of yesterday, else the air can never be fresh. But fresh air we demand.

        • Es3

          PeaceAmbassador,
          You have the answers to most of your questions here from my last post and I would only refer you to them in this.
          You have and sure retain a right to ask for action from Jonathan, as others do too. But what I do not buy from Nigerians is making that demands with words that create impression that the mess came with Jonathan as such he is a villian when the truth indicates otherwise?! On your questions on why culprits have not been jailed to deter others (though already answered), I would prefer to remind you that a successful prosecution and jailing of any criminal is not just a function of taking the person to court?! It is a combination of existing qualitative laws that can really bite leaving less and less room for corrupt judiciary to play games with! Remember that we are in a constitutional democracy and Jonathan (executive) alone can’t jail anybody!!!
          Jonathan proposed for a special court to try terrorism cases and the senate shouted it down on the floor of the chambers and the new chief Justice (Mukthar) supported the senate after her swearing in?!!! Now that has left us where serving and ex-semators, governors accussed of sponsoring terrorism will be taken to courts and thye will dance around it, same with arrested Boko Haram foot soldiers???! Jonathan sent in a bill to ammend the loose and watered down anti-terrorism law but till date senate and the house of Reps are having a tea party over it?! There are other laws and instances that can still be cited here but then one would ask, what is the primary function of the national assembly? Is it that they are not seeing the corruption and terrorism in the land and the need to fight with draconian laws (if need be)? If they have, why are they making or ammending the relevant laws on their own without any prompting by others? Yet Nigerians are contented with calling for one person’s head, why? Are others doing their own part as should be and its only Jonathan that is unwilling to make full use of excellent tools others have placed at his disposal???
          Also I will inform you that when one is bringing a change to an evironment is deep and entrenched (became a way of life) in messes like ours, going by what is available to you for the fight, you do not bite more that you can chew at a time to avoid all of them rising up in prosecute a case of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’! This would not matter if you had overwhelming peoples support as those cliques, clans, cabals, groups are mostly always afraid of the peoples’ power! But here, and in the face of these handicaps, what is the kind and quality of support that is available (in the first instance) to Jonathan on this fight???
          Lastly I wish to inform you that I do not surround Jonathan neither am I in government at what ever level, but by the virtue of classified (regularly updated) information available to me, I know the sheer mommoth of what Jonathan is confronting or confronted with on these! Take it or leave it that as far constitutional democracy is concerned and he is keeping to the rule of law, the fight will drag, drag, drag and at the end, he may not achieve much except we have new and ammended laws with a ‘new judiciary’ in Nigeria.
          That being the bitter truth, what are Nigerians doing to ensure that others (national assembly and judiciary) do their parts well so as to make it obvious that Jonathan is the unwilling or incapable one? Blinding our eyes to others and focusing only on Jonathan will lead us somewhere painful and over a long while to come!!!!!
          I beleive he will succeed and I sincerely wish him well in the face of all these!

          • I’m impressed with your willingness to painstakingly explain your position. I agree with you. Like I said, I’m not against GEJ, you or anyone for that matter. I’m only a citizen who is asking for basic good governance. We can’t continue like this. We can’t be walloping in poverty in a land blessed with everything. I’m sure a lot of people will get to read your response. But I still believe that the executive can cause a lot to happen. I don’t have to be told that our National Assembly is populated by a shameless majority who have nothing to offer. They lack the wherewithal. Any issue that will not bring immediate gratification to them is not their concern. But we will keep complaining until something happens. We are just tired. If the national assembly members don’t know that they are doing disservice to the country, I bet, one day, the irk of the masses will get to their doorsteps. From terrorism to anticorruption, it is evident that the national assembly does not care. Otherwise, the extant laws would have been so stringent that certain crimes would never be contemplated. But too bad, we have a national assembly of ‘let’s share the money’.

  • Philemon A.

    The transformation agenda is on course. Hurray!

    • Dollop

      Nobody was transforming anything 10yrs ago. Restrain your bile.

      • Enemona

        Like anybody is transforming anything even now!

  • OCCUPY NASS

    Premiumtimes, A big thank you for publishing this. Nigerians need to know who are the real enemies of the state. Though GEJ may not be doing enough in the fight against corruption but media has a role to play. I believe premiuntimes are doing their bit.

    Nigerians, let not the names of these two guys, Jani Ibrahim and Mohammed Joji before they come out to contest for one position of the other.

    Let the media war and public enlightenment start before 2015.

    We have to also ask if the current minister of aviation and co-coordinating minister got a laid down plan to ensure that the new planes the FG is financing would get to the hands of the right people and that their operations can be checked and managed using ICT.

    Again, thank you Premiumtimes.

  • Comfortkay

    The Press are the eyes of the public and we ( Nigerian) thank you for this report and one thing is very clear that PDP cannot move Nigeria forward, anywhere in the world where the same political party is in power there is a continuation but since 1999 PDP had produce three President and every one with different Agenda and Nigeria has enough of this and with united voice PDP will be remove from power. In case you don’t like my comment please go and jump into the Sea.

  • Okey

    The White Paper was issued under Obj, it will be callous to ask Jonathan “why Obj did not take action?” Secondly, as for the “Aviation Intervention Fund”, please, place your calls to Fani-Kayode and Obj.