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Nigerians should leave me alone, I didn’t commit any fraud – Sirika



“Government did not pay any money for Ethiopian Airlines to bring in the aircraft. It is the airline’s marketing strategy as a partner. No penny was paid to Ethiopian airlines. There is no iota of truth in reports indicating that federal government paid money to bring in the aircraft,” were part of the words with which former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, brushed off allegations of underhand dealings in the unveiling of Nigeria Air, Nigeria’s proposed national carrier.

Breaking his silence on Sunday, the former Minister, who had come under intense attacks, since the incident, with Nigerians calling for his arrest by President Bola Tinubu, dismissed all the allegations levied against him and the organisation.

But he did not stop there, but actually revealed that contrary to him committing any fraud, it was actually persons in the National Assembly, who had accused him of soiling his hands that were the culprits, particularly accusing the Nnoli Nnaji, Chairman of the Committee on Aviation, of asking for five per cent equity of the new airline through the back door.

Sirika, a guest on Arise TV/Thisdaylive programme, revealed how after the bidding process, Nnaji called him on the phone and asked that he and his people be given the shares, said that he declined, explaining to the lawmaker that since bidding had been concluded he should access the needed shares from the shareholders.

Both the House and Senate committees had upbraided the former Minister over the process employed by him and his team, describing it as total fraud, while demanding that Tinubu, should order the arrest of all those involved.

But in a major push-back on Sunday, to the call, which other Nigerians have joined in demanding, especially after the arrest of Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by the Department of State Services (DSS), Sirika, hinted that the data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Compilation of Budgetary Allocations alleging that N85 billion was spent on the national carrier in eight years, was not true.

His words: “Between 2016 to 2023, all the money that was approved was five billion naira and only three billion naira was released and not all has been spent. The money spent so far was spent on transaction advisory, salaries, office in Abuja, consultancy and Air Operating Certificate (AOC) processes.

He explained that Nigeria Air is 95 percent private sector driven with 49 percent shares owned by Ethiopian Airlines, 15 percent owned by SAHCO, 31 percent owned by others and just five percent owned by the federal government

He said Ethiopian Airlines will be investing 49 percent of 200 million dollars into the project as the main investor.

Speaking on the launch of the airline, the former minister said Ethiopian Airlines did not want to wait to be issued an AOC before they do the unveiling, adding that Ethiopian airlines decided to carry out the unveil of the airline as part of their marketing strategy.

He said he did not know why SAHCO, one of the investors wasn’t invited for the unveil, adding that just as others were he invited to witness the unveil, he Sirika was also invited by the owners of the airline.

“The Unveiling of Nigeria Air was done by the owners of the airline and not the federal government. The owners led by Ethiopian Airlines will be ready to fly when the AOC is ready. The unveiling of Nigeria Air was just to showcase the brand,” Sirika said.

He said Ethiopian Airlines are permitted by law to operate into Nigeria as scheduled flight, chartered flight or cargo flight.

The former minister said Ethiopian Airlines chose to operate Nigeria Air as charted flight and government did not pay any money for them to bring in the flight or brand the aircraft.

“Ethiopian Airlines took back the aircraft after the unveil since the AOC is not ready. Ethiopian Airlines are masters at the game. They will not keep an aircraft on ground to be accumulating debts. So, when the AOC is ready, the airline would be ready to fly,” Sirika explained.

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Imo massacre: Armoured vehicles procured for police used to rig elections – LP



Labour Party, palpably in anguish at the slaughter of eight soldiers in Imo State on Tuesday by some rampaging gunmen, has raised questions over the whereabouts of the nine Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) Athan Achonu, it claimed its governorship candidate for the November 11 election, repaired and donated to the authorities in the state.

The party, all but called out the leadership of the Imo State Police Command, to whom they claimed the equipment were handed over, alleging that the last time they APCs were seen was during the last general elections, where they were used by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party in power in the state to snatch ballot boxes for candidates in the national and state assemblies.

The claim, was made when Nick Opara-Ndudu  and Nnaemeka Onyeka Obiareri , chieftains of the party appeared as guests on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise Television to sell the candidacy of Achonu, whom they said would never have allowed the type of insecurity in the state to endure under his watch.

Both men, who said that Achonu, whose highest political office so far, was his short stint in the Senate, where he served via the 2015 election before he was removed through the courts, remained the only solution not to the insecurity, in the state and even the South East,  but the one to rescue the people from years of underdevelopment from poor leadership.

Obiareri, spokesman of the LP in the state, argued that if the APCs had been in place, Tuesday’s incident in which the military men were killed alongside some policemen and officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), would probably not have happened, said a check on the social media would reveal how they were used by party men of the APC for rigging the 2023 general elections.

He said: “The military men that were killed if they had armoured vehicles patrolling, they wouldn’t have been shot by those criminals. Athan Achonu, go and confirm from Innoson, paid hundreds of millions of naira to Innoson, Innoson is still alive, you people can still go and interview him, to repair nine armoured vehicles for the police. Five were supposed to be in Okigwe zone. Till today, we don’t know where those nine armoured cars are.

“If you go to Youtube, you’ll see Youtube record of members of the House of Assembly in Imo State using those APCs to carry ballot boxes. It’s there on Youtube, you can search it out. What Athan Achonu will do is very simple. Every local government area will have one humvy vehicle for the police. Police stations had been totally burnt in Imo State and Athan repaired most of those police stations.

“Then, there will be community vigilante. We’ll train those 50 youths per community – train them, equip them and arm them. They should guard their communities. When you have over 50,000 hectres of land, reclaimed from the bandits, and you have youths who are not only just farming, but who are trained to protect their communities, they’ll do the job.

“Then, we have to set up a security trust fund. Ndi-Imo are not scared. As at today, there are some communities in Imo State, where bandits – unknown gunmen, are ransacking and collecting levies from the communities. Basically, Athan Achonu will provide training, recruitment for people donated by the communities. Communities know those who are the terrible ones in their midst. And I tell you, in six months, they will flush them out.”

Opara-Ndudu, who dismissed the claim by the state governor, Hope Uzodimma that the carnage and other killings in the state were politically-motivated, blamed the governor for misplacing his priorities and failing to provide jobs for the teeming youth population in the state, questioning why nobody had been arrested and prosecuted fully in the courts if the insecurity in the state was all about politics.

Hear him: “The security problem has to do with objective conditions in the state. The young people are frustrated. The government is not making any investments in the areas that are required. We’re busy pursuing projects that are designs in deception. Look at the roads that are being done in Imo State, you know for you to deal with the problem of poverty and other economic challenges, you have to deal with the problem of infrastructure.

“In Imo State, the government has dedicated all of its time and half of its time to reconstructing federal roads without any attention – little or no attention paid to the rural areas. If you go to length and breadth of Imo State – Ngor Okpala, Ezinifte Mbaise, even in the governor’s local government – everywhere in Imo State, you find that the rural areas are looking desolate and abandoned.”

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Police find body of missing female student dumped in the bush, vow to get killers



Operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), command, have vowed to fish out the killers of a university student, Blessing Karami, whose body was said to have been picked up from the bush days after she was declared missing on September 11.

The FCT police, which released the painful news on Thursday, said in a statement by its spokesman, Josephine Adeh that the remains were found in the woods in the Karimu area of the city.

The police spokesman acknowledged that her disappearance was reported to the police authorities last,  Thursday, September 14 added that 26-year-old Blessing, a student of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), was declared missing after leaving her place of work in Garki, Abuja.

She said in the statement: “The body of Blessing Karami Moses, a 26-year-old woman who had been missing since September 11, 2023, was tragically discovered in a wooded area in Karimo. Her disappearance was reported to the authorities on September 14, 2023,” the statement read.

She said Commissioner of Police, FCT, Haruna Garba, had directed that command should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, adding: “While we are working closely with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to facilitate the respectful retrieval of the decomposed remains acknowledging the sensitive nature of this task, we will continue to provide updates to the public as our investigation progresses.”

Adeh, a Superintendent of Police (SP), also commiserated with Blessing’s family and loved ones over the incident.

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Ogun cult massacre: DSS raid home, pick up PDP lawmaker, five others



Damilare Bello Mohammed, a serving member of the Ogun State House of Assembly (OGHA), is currently telling operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) his side of the story, after he was picked up over his alleged involvement in the rival secret cult clashes that occurred in Sagamu town.

Mohammed, recently elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Sagamu State Constituency 1, was picked up on Wednesday by the agency over the incident in which at least eight persons were killed last weekend during the violent clash in the town, alongside five other suspected cultists allegedly involved in the cult violence.

The five other suspects; Debbo Animashaun, Bamidele Saheed, Ismaila Onitire, Adewale Otesanya and Tobi Owoade, were arrested by the DSS operatives during a sting operation after a tip-off at the early hours of Thursday within the residence of the lawmaker.

Lekan Adeniran, spokesman to Dapo Abiodun, the Ogun State governor, announced the development in a statement on Wednesday, saying the secret police tracked the six suspected cultists to the official residence of the lawmaker.

Accusing the lawmaker of providing shelter to the cultists, Adeniran, said in the statement, that the suspects were presently undergoing interrogation in DSS custody after many dangerous weapons, including guns, were recovered from them.

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