EFCC arrests Sirika, slams Emefiele with fresh charges

Immediate-past Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika has been arrested.

He is due to face charges alongside his brother, Abubakar, following an investigation into alleged N8.06 billion fraud during his tenure.

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ola Olukoyede announced this yesterday.

He also insisted that former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello was not above the law and would be prosecuted over allegations of financial misconduct.

Also yesterday, the EFCC slammed a new four-count charge on former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele.

The fresh charges border on his approval of printing of N684,590,000 at the rate of N18.96 billion.

He is due to be charged before an FCT High Court on Tuesday.

Emefiele is simultaneously standing trial before two other judges on different charges in Abuja and Lagos.

Olukoyede during an interaction with reporters in Abuja yesterday also spoke on the investigation into allegations against suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Dr. Betta Edu.

According to Olukoyede, some top officials of the Ministry of Aviation are also under investigation in connection with alleged fraud.

The agency is probing allegations of conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, contract inflation, criminal breach of trust and money laundering in the ministry.

About N8,069,176,864.00 worth of contracts were allegedly found to have been either inflated or unexecuted.

One of these is the alleged non-execution of the construction of N1, 345,586,500 Terminal Building in Katsina  Airport.

Sirika, a former senator, hails from the state.

It was learnt that about N3,212,258,930.18 has been traced to Engirios Nigerian Limited, owned by Abubakar Sirika, a level-16 officer in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

According to a top source in the EFCC, Sirika was arrested and taken to the Abuja Command of the commission for interrogation.

The source said: “In the last seven hours, the ex-Minister has been undergoing questioning on what he knew about the contracts worth N8,069,176,864.00.

“His brother has made some statements on oath and we need to clarify from the ex-minister.

“We have also retrieved all necessary documents which the former minister would have to respond to on the affected contracts and the procurement process.

“If things go as planned, this commission will arraign them next week.”

Olukoyede said: “Yes, we are investigating the ex-Mminister. When the time comes, we will brief you on our findings.

“About the specific question on Hadi Sirika, yes, we are investigating the Ministry of Aviation, not only Hadi Sirika.

“We are investigating many of these heads of agencies who worked in that ministry, particularly in the last few years.

“The investigation is ongoing and when we are through we will let you see the report. It is not just about Hadi Sirika. I told you that there is nothing personal.

“It is not about Hadi Sirika; it is about the system, processes, and national interest.

“So don’t let us single out somebody as if EFCC is running after Hadi Sirika, no. It is a system. If you had asked me whether we are investigating issues concerning the Ministry of Aviation, I would tell you straight away that yes, we are investigating it.

“When the time comes for us to release the report you will see the details of our report, but now it is premature for me to tell you what we have discovered.

“We are making progress in that regard and we are not going to stop.

“Whatever we discovered at the end of the day we are ready to go to court and you can go to town with the material.”

But a document sighted by our correspondent confirmed that investigation showed that four big contracts were awarded to a company, Engirios Nigerian Limited, allegedly traced to the ex-Minister’s brother.

The contracts were awarded to the younger brother’s firm when Sirika was in charge of the ministry.

According to the EFCC, the investigation confirmed that Abubakar is listed as the company’s MD/CEO.

He is also said to be the sole signatory to the company’s two accounts.

The four contracts awarded to the company of the brother are as follows:

• Construction of the Terminal Building in Katsina  Airport (N1,345,586,500.00);

• Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre in Katsina Airport (N3, 811,497,685.00);

• Procurement and installation of elevators, air conditioners and power generator house in Aviation House, Abuja (N615,195,275.000);

• Procurement of Magnus Aircraft and simulator for Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria (N2, 296,897, 404.00).

A top source said: “Investigators further discovered that upon the receipt of the payment, Abubakar allegedly transferred it to different companies and individuals. There is no trace of work done on any of the contract items to date.

“These developments led to the arrest and questioning of Abubakar by the EFCC.”

It was learnt that the contracts and the timelines were between August 2022 and May 2023.

Some details, obtained by The Nation from some sources and a document, read in part: “It is suspected that the ex-Minister, Hadi Sirika, awarded the contracts to his brother Abubakar, knowing that the latter is a civil servant and a deputy director on Level 16 in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, where he has been working since 2000 till date.

“The first of the controversial contracts awarded to Engirios Nigeria Limited was on August 18, 2022, for the construction of a terminal building in Katsina Airport, at the cost of N1,345,586,500.00.

“The second was awarded on November 3, 2022, for the establishment of a Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre in Katsina Airport at N3, 811,497,685.

“The third contract was on February 3, 2023, for the procurement and installation of elevators, air conditioners and power generator’s house in Aviation House, Abuja, at the cost of N615,195,275.000.

“The fourth was awarded on May 5, 2023, for the procurement of Magnus Aircraft and simulator for Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria at the cost of N2, 296,897, 404.00.”

There were indications that the EFCC was looking into what was termed alleged “Nigeria Air fraud.”

There was controversy about how much was released for Nigeria Air.

While some critics alleged that N85 billion was expended on Nigeria Air, Sirika claimed that N5 billion was approved but N3 billion was released.

He said his administration did not spend the N3 billion before he left office.

Sirika said: “In 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, all of the monies voted and budgeted for the national carrier was N5billion.

“But all that was released is in the neighbourhood of about N3billion, not N85billion and all of the N3billion had not been expended as of the time I left office.

“What was done with the money was nothing but transaction advisory services, the AOC process, salaries, consultancy services and the offices in Abuja.

“No contract was given by Hadi Sirika or the administration at the time.

“These are the things that the money was used for.”

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