Need to nail those behind diversion of aviation intervention fund

Perhaps by the time this piece is being read, the Senate Committee on Aviation, Power and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) would have grilled the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor and heads of other agencies including airlines to unravel how the N120 billion intervention fund released to the aviation sector in 2011 was spent.

This is coming after the Senate had earlier on Monday queried the CBN and the beneficiaries of the largesse on how the fund was used or misused.

The N120 billion was part of the N500 billion released by the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to Power and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises as intervention fund.

Initially, the actual amount released to the airlines was shrouded in secrecy with no one able to have a clearer picture of what transpired until a time when  the beneficiary airlines started crying blue murder that the so called intervention fund rather than relief them of the harsh economic predicament that confronted them then, that it only swell up the accounts of their banks who did not waste time in grabbing the fund to settle the outstanding debts of the airlines thus leaving them (airlines) with nothing.

However, from all indications soonest, while it was discovered that some of the domestic airlines who benefited from the fund could not directly make use of it in view of their huge financial indebtedness to their banks, the few who had direct access to the funds unfortunately diverted the funds to other personal businesses.

Few of the guilty airlines on getting the fund which was originally released to strengthen their airlines and make air transport more seamless for the traveling public, grabbed the public fund and diverted it to other enterprises which was contrary to the conditions on which the fund was released.

It will be recalled that the misuse of the fund led to the poor state of domestic airline business in the country up till this moment as the few genuine airlines still in business are now being hunt by the criminal activities of the airlines involved in the diversion of the funds.

For four years all efforts made by many key players across the sector to make the past government ask questions on how the intervention fund was spent by the affected airlines was rebuffed.

It is therefore cheering to hear of the move by the present National Assembly to help Nigerians ask the affected airlines to give account of how the people’s money entrusted in their care was used.

It is the wish of the majority of stakeholders in the sector and the generality of Nigerians that any airline found to have diverted the fund should be thoroughly dealt with without any sentiment.

Many of the airlines including the dead ones are guilty of this criminality which has been traced to their inability to remain in the business for ten years before they hurriedly pack up.

It is no longer news that some of the airline owners only use their airlines as cover up to carry out other questionable transactions outside the sector.

The need for the lawmakers to ensure those responsible for diversion of funds are brought to book becomes imperative as it will not serve as deterrent to others who may want to bolt away with public funds for the fun of it.

In bringing the affected airline owners to justice, the image of the genuine ones will have been repositioned before their financiers who because of the fraudulent attitudes of a few have lost confidence in transacting deals with them.

The Crucial Moment is therefore joining other Nigerians to support the lawmakers in bringing those involved in diverting the aviation intervention funds to other places to book.

Everybody is watching and waiting to see how this injustice and criminality will be addressed as it will go a long way in bringing sanity to airline business on the domestic scene and it will restore confidence between the genuine airlines, government, banks and other financiers both within and outside Nigeria.