New Telegraph

Reps Give Private Airlines One-Week Ultimatum To Refund N4bn COVID-19 Funds

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives at the weekend gave a 7-day ultimatum to all private airlines operating in the country to render justifiable evidence before it on how they expended the N4 billion they collected from the federal government as COVID-19 intervention funds or refund the money to the government treasury.

The Chairman of the committee, Hon. Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun) issued the ultimatum at the resumed investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 intervention funds by the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government and others who benefited from the funds.

He said ” All private airlines that received COVID-19 relief funds designated to support the aviation sector to refund the allocated funds to the federal government treasury, if they fail to give justifiable evidence of how the money was judiciously spent within a week”

The chairman lamented that despite appearing before it, several of the airlines and industry stakeholders, including Aero Contractors, Azman, Newrest, and representatives from the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, failed to provide satisfactory explanations regarding the allocation and expenditure of the funds.

But while appearing before the committee, Azman Airlines represented by its Marketing Manager, Mr Odum Chizoba Uju admitted receiving N367,935,779.95, purportedly allocated for various operational expenses including aircraft maintenance; spare parts, fueling, Forex purchasing, and insurance premium paid.

In his presentation before the committee, the Station Manager of Aero Contractors, Mr. Abdulmalik Musa said the company received N217,345,542.05 from the federal government for the COVID-19 intervention fund.

The representative of the Aero Contractors explained that the fund was used for Airport handling and facility payment, fueling payment, Onboard catering payment, pilot training payments, and lease rental payments.

A member of the committee, who is a former pilot with the Nigeria Airforce, Hon. Ojuawo Adeniyi (APC, Ekiti) faulted the submissions, saying that the services claimed by the operators were applicable only during the regular operations of airlines.

Consequently, another lawmaker, Hon. Akiba Bassey moved that all airlines should refund the money to the Federation Account if they could not give a detailed account of how they utilised the funds. The motion was duly endorsed by the members of the committee.

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