Special Report: How 12 men killed, buried Nigeria Airways
Nigeria Airways used to be Africa’s flagship national carrier until it went moribund some years ago —down from initial 32 airplanes to zero aircraft to date!
It was revealed through a panel of inquiry set up by former President Obasanjo that officials of the airline stole and misappropriated tens of millions of dollars.
Administrators arbitrarily signed shady contracts with companies without recourse to regulations, while monies were dubiously deposited and lost in moribund financial institutions.
Functional airplanes were sold as scraps and the revenue was stolen.
Officials collected huge loans from financial institutions with the name of the airline and kept the money for personal use.
In a special report, Premium Times beams its searchlight on the 10 men who were indicted by the judicial panel of inquiry for their roles.
This includes the stealing of several millions of dollars, which culminated in the eventual demise of the flagship carrier. Some persons received prominent mentions for their brazen and unrestrained looting of the airline.
1. Mohammed Joji
No single individual should be blamed as much as a former managing director of Nigeria Airways, Mohammed Joji, the judicial commission found.
In fact, the commission stated that Joji, who owns Skypower Express Airways and is the secretary-general of Aircraft Operators of Nigeria, was brashly corrupt and handled the affairs of the airline in such a reprehensible manner that it recommended he should be banned from ever holding public office in Nigeria.
The Nwazota-led commission found that in 1993, Joji “collected and spent” N4.37 billion ($12 million) royalty from Swissair without approval.
In the same year, he diverted N3.57 billion ($9,800,000) to himself in a single transaction.
According to the judicial committee, Mr. Joji claimed that he paid N3.93 billion ($10.8 million) to a defunct Belgian national airline, Sabena Airline, but he only paid N364 million ($1million), the panel discovered.
Further, the white paper revealed that in March 1993, Mr. Joji “unlawfully approved” N2 million to one Grace Hembah as imprest account.
In the same year, Mr. Joji outsourced the maintenance of a Boeing 737 aircraft to Brazilian consultants paying them in full despite up to 75 percent of the maintenance being done by employees of Nigeria Airways. The committee said the airline lost N1.28 billion ($3.53 million) in the process.
A year before, Mr. Joji had paid Nicon Insurance PLC N896.43 million ($2,458,064) less premium due to the then government-owned insurance company. Also, the judicial committee found that during the tenure of Mr. Joji as the managing director of the airline, N813.38 ($2,230,357) discounted from the premium accrued to the airline had vanished into thin air.
2. Jani Ibrahim
The second biggest culprit in the demise of Nigeria Airways identified by the Nwazota commission of inquiry is Jani Ibrahim. The chieftain of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State was indicted for several fraudulent and illegal acts between 1996 and 2001 that he was the managing director of the airways.
Mr. Ibrahim, who is now a director of Heritage Bank, was so enmeshed in corruption that the investigating commission declared that “every project and contract was conceived with fraudulent intent.” The white paper specifically described him as “fraudulent and high-handed.”
According to the white paper, Mr. Ibrahim treated the airline’s account as his personal wallet and summarily sacked those “he thought were threats to his fraudulent practices.”
The judicial commission found that between 1997 and 1999, Mr. Ibrahim collected rent valued at N1.47 billion ($4,052,234.00) due to the airline and spent the money without recourse to laid down regulations.
He unilaterally paid $1.78 million without guarantee to Alpine Aviation, a travel agency for the 1999 Hajj operation. The agency failed to deliver. But only $560,000 was recovered from the agency. The balance of N444.92 million ($1.22 million) could not be recovered, the commission stated in the white paper.
Between 1997 and 1999 was the period Mr. Ibrahim was most profligate, the report stated. In that period, he appointed and paid a third-party company, Hak Air, N338.75 million ($928,895) to collect revenue on behalf of the airline. After analyzing the deal, the judicial commission stated the Hak Air has no capacity whatsoever to carry out the job assigned to it.
Mr. Ibrahim also overpaid Hak Air (N529 million) $1.45 million for overhauling two aircraft – DC10-30 and B737, the white paper stated.
During the first C-Check of an Airbus in Nigeria by United Kingdom-based aircraft maintenance firm, Revilo Aerospace, Mr. Ibrahim made an over-payment of N224.68million ($616,052.26). He also “single-handedly signed and disbursed N379 million ($1,039,439.00) without the signature of the airline’s financial director as regulation required.”
Mr. Ibrahim also unilaterally allotted 24 plots of land belonging to the airline in the Ayobo area of Lagos to non-staff members of the airline.
In keeping faith with what the judicial commission described as Mr Ibrahim’s authoritarian approach to leadership, he went into a Wet Lease agreement with Al-Mahfooz Aviation, a Gambian chartered airline, that was to last for a year, but the venture collapsed because Mr. Ibrahim did not consult Nigeria Airways technical department. The failure of the agreement cost the airline N247.28 million.
In all, a whopping N3.63 billion disappeared as a result of corruption and the highhandedness of Mr. Ibrahim while he was managing director of the airline, the report stated.
3. Bernard Banfa, Patrick Koshoni
During his time as managing director of the Nigeria Airways, the judicial commission revealed that Bernard Banfa, a retired air commodore, colluded with Patrick Koshoni, a retired admiral and minister of aviation at the time, to sell airworthy A310 aircraft at giveaway prices against the advice of experts. The commission recommended that the duo should refund N158.73 billion ($435.25 million) being the cost of an A310 aircraft.
There is no evidence that both men repaid the money as directed by the commission. Despite his indictment by the commission, in 2016, President Buhari appointed Mr Banfa, who was a member of the President’s defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)that later merged with other parties to form the ruling APC, into the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
4. Afam Nwagboso
Afam Nwagboso, who was the director of finance of the Nigeria Airways in 1992, with the approval of Mr Joji, designated a moribund bank (Continental Merchant Bank) as the collecting bank for all cash taking of the airline. Soon after the designation, the bank failed, and the airline lost N40 million already collected by it.
5. Olu Bajowa, Alabo Graham-Douglas
The managing director of Nigeria Airways between 1988 and 1990, Olu Bajowa, a retired major general, gave CES Travels the exclusive right to sell tickets for the airline in the United Kingdom and the United States. During the period, CES Travels failed to remit N2.29 billion ($6.3 million) worth of tickets it sold on behalf of the airline.
The Commission recommended that Mr. Bajowa, Alabo Graham Douglas, a prominent Ijaw politician and member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State, M. Abdulsalam, T. Mgbhor and U.S.H Maigida, should refund the money to the airline’s account.
6. Mohammed Kari
The judicial commission also wrote in its white paper that in 1993, a former managing director and chief executive of Nicon Insurance, Mohammed Kari, colluded with other officials of Nicon Insurance and Nigeria Airways to divert N50.82 billion ($13,935,956) to a phony company – Alexander Services Limited in the Channel Island, an offshore tax haven.
In July 2015, President Buhari, in one of his first appointments made after being sworn in as president, named Kari the commissioner for Insurance and chief executive of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM).
For days, Kari failed to respond to questions about his indictment sent to by PREMIUM TIMES through the spokesperson of NAICOM, Razaq Salami.
7. Ibrahim Bala
Bala Ibrahim was an area marketing manager of the airline. In 1993, he stole N860.50 million ($2,359,546.95) collected from the Jeddah station for excess baggage and luggage allowance, the commission revealed.
8. All-Well Brown
For two years, between 1995 to 1997, All-Well Brown, a director, “kept some crew of the airline in Miami for five months for no reasonable cause,” the commission discovered. Their stay cost the airline N44.49 million ($122,000.00).
9. Alexandra Howden
Some officials of the airways connived with a defunct UK insurance company, Alexandra Howden, and transferred N893.49 million ($2.45 million) to its account without rendering any service to the airline.
10. A. Olafisoye
According to the report, Mr. Olafisoye, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bond Limited, and other senior management officials stole millions of dollars from the airline. The report described Mr. Olafisoye as the “all-in-all [who] manipulated the operators of the company at will.” The report said his involvement with the company “led to the looting of funds and other fraudulent activities that brought the [airline] on its kneels.”