There was a mild drama at the investigative public hearing on the alleged mismanagement of N120bn Aviation Intervention Fund, organised by the Senate Committee on Aviation on Wednesday when the former Chairman of the defunct Air Nigeria, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, denied collecting N35.5bn from the Bank of Industry.
But members of the committee and other stakeholders watched with dismay as the Group General Counsel of the United Bank for Africa, Mr . Samuel Adikamkwu corroborated the position of a former Executive Director of Finance of Air Nigeria, Mr. John Nnorom, and insisted that Ibrahim actually applied and obtained the loan through the UBA.
Ibrahim’ s former employee, Nnorom, had told the committee that he did due diligence on the loan and secured necessary documentation while in the employment of Air Nigeria before he decided to be servicing the loan with N228m monthly for nine months before the airline collapsed.
He insisted that the alleged diversion of the fund to other ventures led to the collapse of the Airline.
He said, “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, to pay the the loan, I needed document to pay and I did due diligence and I discovered that Air Nigeria actually took the loan.
“Jimoh Ibrahim said he did not take a loan. He said he acquired Air Nigeria and pay the money 100 percent and he was given a clean bill by the UBA. But you cannot finance a loan if it is not bad after some time.
“The question is how that loan entered the account of Air Nigeria again. It is the intervention fund that was transfered back to UBA which the bank is now servicing even after the airline was no longer in existence. I paid the loan, about N228m per month for about nine months.”
But Ibrahim argued that the BOI did not give him any loan, but that it was the UBA which actually applied and obtained the loan which had nothing to do with Air Nigeria because the money which was used to resuscitate the defunct airline, was sourced from his conglomerate.
He said, “Government did not give me loan and I did not collect any loan from the Bank of Industry or any other agency of government. What has government to do with me?
However, Samuel, the UBA representative, presented documents before 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 that N35.5bn was approved.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma, queried the management of the UBA for writing a letter, granting a bill clean of health to Air Nigeria when indeed, the airline was still indebted to it.