N500bn intervention fund: Senate queries CBN, others over diversion •As aviation minister exonerates ministry, agencies

The Senate, on Monday, queried the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN) and other beneficiaries of the N120billion released to the Aviation sector out of N500billion intervention fund given to it by the Federal Government in 2011.

Other beneficiaries of the N500billion fund included Ministry of Power and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).

The Senate, during a probe exercise on the intervention by its Joint Committee on Aviation and Anti- Corruption, frowned on the way the N120billion allocated to the Aviation sector as bailout, out of the  N500billion intervention fund, was mismanaged through diversion.

However, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi,  informed the committee that  his ministry and agencies under it,  based on available records, were not aware of the fund.

Representative of the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele; a Director, Mudashiru Olaitan, explained how the money was used in view of financial-related problems still bedeviling the sector.

Olaitan, in his submission, stated that  out of the N120billion intervention fund injected into the sector, only N39.5 billion had been recovered while the remaining N81.2billion was yet to be recovered from the beneficiaries.

Presently, out of the 10 airlines that benefitted from the fund, according to Olaitan, some were either moribund or outrightly folded up.

Specifically, he mentioned Air Nigeria and Chanchangi Airlines as the already folded up ones.  while Arik, Dana, Aero, Kabo, Overland, First Nation, Odengene were the ones still in operation on the strength of the fund.

He disclosed that responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the fund by the beneficiaries was given to Bank of Industry (BoI), being the facilitator of the loans to them.

However, Mr John Nnorom, who served as  the Finance Director of  the defunct AirNigeria, said diversion of the fund to other ventures led to the collapse of the airline.

According to him, “the N34.5 billion drawn from the fund by the airline was diverted to other personal business by the owner of the airline, Jimoh Ibrahim.

“The very moment the N34.5 billion intervention fund was paid into the airline’s account with United Bank for Africa (UBA), 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,” he said.

The committees further said enquiries into the alleged diversion was frustrated with the absence of BoI Managing Director and other relevant stakeholders.

The committee, however, directed that the CBN Governor himself and heads of other agencies, including airlines, must appear in person before it today.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma, had earlier, in his address, said  it was a disturbing development for the committee to learn of allegations that monies injected into the aviation sector through the intervention fund, were not properly utilised for the purposes they were meant for.