Keyamo former colleagues allegedly querying him over Hadi Sirika probe
The dust raised when the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, announced that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was investigating the controversial Nigeria Air deal with Ethiopian Air, is reportedly taking another dimension going by reports indicating that former ministerial colleagues of Festus Keyamo in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari are unhappy with the Aviation Minister for probing his erstwhile colleague.
In a recent interview on Channels TV, Keyamo said, “first of all, I have said it before and I will still say it. It was not a deal (Nigeria Air deal) that was good for Nigeria in the long run. The whole composition and totality of that deal was merely Ethiopian Air flying the Nigerian flag. It was not a national carrier. Two things. A flag carrier is different from a national carrier.”
“So while we were being told that a national carrier was coming, it was not a national carrier, it was a foreign airline trying to fly the Nigerian flag. The EFCC is investigating that deal. There is a criminal investigation going on. I have called for the report”, the Minister revealed.
As a fallout to the interview, it was gathered that some former ministers who served alongside Keyamo in Buhari’s cabinet subsequently convened a virtual meeting and asked that Keyamo be called to order. All the former ministers in that set have a WhatsApp group, where they interact.
Festus Keyamo is the only returning Minister from Buhari’s cabinet between 2015 to 2023. According to a former minister in Buhari’s cabinet in the WhatsApp group who chose to maintain his anonymity, the group felt that Keyamo having been part of the Muhammadu Buhari administration should not be seen to be probing a former cabinet colleague.
The source said a fellow former minister posted in the WhatsApp group: “Keyamo, you owe us an explanation for this interview you granted to Channels TV.”
However, Festus Keyamo was said not to have responded to that.
The Nigeria Air deal was sealed by Hadi Sirika, Keyamo’s predecessor, on behalf of the Nigerian government and on May 26, 2023 (three days to the end of the Buhari administration), a plane purportedly belonging to Nigeria Air, landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in preparation for commencement of Nigeria Air operations.
Festus Keyamo was however, nominated by President Bola Tinubu to serve as Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development and on August 31, 2023, Keyamo announced the suspension of the Nigeria Air project. That was the beginning of a new chapter of controversy in the Nigeria Air saga.
EFCC then waded in to investigate some contracts awarded by the Aviation Ministry, which led to revelations that Abubakar Ahmad Sirika, the younger brother of the immediate past Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika allegedly got a number of contracts from the aviation ministry. About N3.2 billion was traced to Engirios Nigeria Limited, where Abubakar Sirika is listed as the company’s managing director and CEO, as well as sole signatory to the two accounts linked to the firm with two banks.
Meanwhile investigations into the Nigeria Air deal is still ongoing while the EFCC is apparently proceeding with investigations into other contracts awarded by the ministry of aviation and some agencies under the Ministry to uncover possible corruption.