Aviation Intervention Fund: EFCC May Go After Jimoh Ibrahim Over N35.5bn Loan
If feelers coming from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are anything to go by, the anti-graft agency may soon go after controversial businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, chief executive officer of owner of Global Fleet, who is also an investor in the media, over an intervention fund he got during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Huhuonline.com exclusively gathered, from multiple sources within the agency, that investigations are currently ongoing into how the N87.6 billion intervention fund for players in the aviation industry were actually spent by the beneficiaries.
Ibrahim, who was the chairman of Air Nigeria, the re-christened Virgin Nigeria, was the highest beneficiary, receiving N35.5 billion which was supposed to be monitored by the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as the Bank of Industry.
Other airlines which had benefited included Aero which N20 billion. Arik Air which got N15 billion, Kabo Air which got N6.66 billion and Chanchangi Airlines which got N3.4 billion.
Some of the least beneficiaries included Dana Air which could access N618 million, Caverton Helicopters which got N1.348 billion, Overland Airways which got N805 million and FirstNation Airways which got N271.7 million.
To ease the pressure of the fund on the airlines, the government had agreed on interest rates of between two and seven per cent, while the airlines had the grace to repay the loans between 10 and 15 years.
Shortly after accessing the huge cash, Ibrahim suddenly shut down Air Nigeria and fired about 50 staff for alleged disloyalty.
He had maintained shortly after taking the action in 2012, that the closure of business activities for Air Nigeria was just for a year for the airline to undergo “surgical operation” and bounce back. Since then, however, the airline has remained grounded.
“The situation is like swindling the government,” one of the sources at the EFCC, privy to the issue told our correspondent. “The man just shut down after making that huge amount and he had been feathering with those in authority since then.
“Those who were suppose to monitor also, did not do their jobs well. How can someone collect funds in the form of loans for a particular reason and instead of focusing on that reason that he gave, he goes ahead to divert the funds into other areas not related to the reasons he gave?
“He is not the only one that would definitely dance to the music. Others are in his shoes and would soon be made to face trial,” the source said.
Two other sources confirmed that Ibrahim was been closely monitored by men of the anti-graft agency.
It could be recalled that in an open letter to the public sometime ago, John Nnorom, a former Executive Director of Air Nigeria, accused Ibrahim of killing the airline “after using the airline to borrow massively from the banking Industry.”
Nnorom said: “for Bar Jimoh Ibrahim, to have committed all these crimes and still be walking around the land of Nigeria with Police escort, I do not want to believe that Jimoh is above the law of Nigeria. Jimoh ibrahim may fabricate lies, twist the facts and influence the press as a publisher but the truth will always prevail, no matter how long it takes.”
While calling on Federal Government to prosecute all aviation intervention fund thieves who diverted the Bank of Industry loans to other private businesses and collapsed the airline, Nnorom had added: “the Federal Government’s various intervention fund should not be treated as the sharing of the national cake. This cheap loan given between one to seven percent interest rate was not utilised for the purpose that it was created. For Bar Jimoh Ibrahim, it was a cheap loan, which he diverted into his other businesses and closed the airline. Federal Government should prosecute the criminals. This prosecution will stop Nigerians from fraudulent misapplication of Federal Government intervention funds into other ventures.”
He had accues Ibrahim of diverting N47.5 billion or $317 million, sacking all air Nigeria staff to frustrate investigations, losing nine aircraft to lessors and diverting N6 billion pension fund contributed by staff, forging tax certificate of expatriates and charged to court for tax evasion of N6 billion.
Nnorom alleged that
- Air Nigeria took a loan of N35.5 billion from the Federal Government Aviation industry intervention fund, guaranteed by United Bank for Africa, funded by Bank of Industry, and the money was diverted by Bar Jimoh Ibrahim into Nicon Investment Ltd;
- Air Nigeria took Afrixim loan of $40 million and it was diverted into the acquisition of Energy Bank of Ghana; and
- Air Nigeria sales proceeds of N6 billion were diverted to Nicon Investment Ltd, a family company 100 percent owned by Bar Jimoh Ibrahim.
Nnorom continued: “having diverted all these loans amounting to $317million or N47.5billion into his family company, Bar Jimoh Ibrahim announced suspension of Air Nigeria operations for the next twelve months when he is aware that the AOC of the Airline will expire within 60 days and today is the last day of Air Nigeria, the burial ceremony as the AOC expires today and the [company] shall be out of operational existence.
“This government must give us account of how one man can be allowed to pocket such huge sum of money by prosecuting Bar Jimoh Ibrahim under the Federal Government aviation intervention fund thieves law. Bar Jimoh Ibrahim must return these loans taken in the name of Air Nigeria amounting to N47.5Billion or $317million, Federal Government should recall back all sacked air Nigeria staff and ask Bar Jimoh Ibrahim to resign as the Chairman of the company. We plead for Federal Government intervention towards the recovery of our wealth stolen from Bar Jimoh Ibrahim.”
He alleged that Ibrahim used the money to acquire properties in Dubai, Energy Bank of Ghana, Energy Bank of Sao Tome, University of Sao Tome, Newswatch magazine, National Mirror Newspaper.
Some days ago while facing a committee of the National Assembly, Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, had also touched on how some big businessmen played on the country receiving intervention funds for their airlines and then dumping the airlines without informing necessary authorities about the development.
“The EFCC is prepared to retrieve every kobo stolen by any Nigerian especially at this critical time of the nation’s history,” one of the sources explained. “This is a reason for investigating Ibrahim and others like him,” he said.