Sirika’s ‘Air Nigeria’ Fairy Tale And The Limits Of Deceit

Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s contumacious outgoing minister of aviation has closed his chapter in the exiting Buhari administration with a final parting gift to Nigerians through a stage-managed ‘unveiling’ of an aircraft which he branded ‘AIR NIGERIA.

Indeed, Sirika has raised the bar in the routine cycle of deceits by public office holders against unsuspecting Nigerians. Instead of telling Nigerians the truth that AIR NIGERIA will not fly before May 29th, Sirika went off-board to arrange an Ethiopian Airiines aircraft for a one-off show to stamp his earlier ‘promise’ that Air Nigeria will fly during Buhari’s tenure as President.

Remember, Sirika is in the good books of Ethiopian Airlines having given them 49% of shares in the purpoted ‘Air Nigeria’ deal and a lot of concessions into the Nigerian aviation market including additional frequencies including a new entry point into Kaduna. Nonetheless, ET is too experienced in aviation to commit its resources into the so-called ‘Air Nigeria’ deal, knowing full well that the deal could be upturned by the incoming Tinubu administration.

One good turn deserves another so all that Sirika needed to do as part of his deceit plan is to ask ET for a one-off favour to fly into Abuja with a branded empty ‘AIR NIGERIA’ aircraft. Sirika allegedly hired the aircraft for a one-off flight to deceive Nigerians into believing that he (Sirika) has delivered on his promise to start Air Nigeria before he leaves office. Remember, Sirika and his boss President Buhari will be ‘office-expired’ in less than 48 hours today.

Now the whole charade has been exposed. For one, there is nothing like AIR NIGERIA on the ground. If not for a purported equity arrangement and a ‘Director – General’ one Captain Dapo Olumide who was named last year as ‘DG’ of Air Nigeria just to fill the gaps, there is no organisational structure to run the affairs of the airline so who will manage the affairs of the purpoted airline? No aircraft, no infrastructure, no flight schedule, no IATA clearance. Realistically nothing on the ground. As a matter of fact, the so-called ‘Air Nigeria’ deal has long been suspended by an order of the federal high court sitting in Lagos.

The aircraft Sirika branded ‘Air Nigeria’ is an old Boeing 737-800 which belongs to Ethiopian Airlines. There were no records or prior agreement to show that Sirika, his purpoted ‘Air Nigeria’ or any agency in Nigeria has acquired or leased the aircraft. It was easy for Sirika to pay for a one-off round-trip and branding costs to ET to affix an ‘AIR NIGERIA’ symbol on the aircraft and touch down Abuja on 26th May 2023 for a last minute show before he leaves office. The aircraft has since flew back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where it truely belongs.

Trust Nigerians. They will expose it even if they cannot stop it.

Eagle-eyed researchers found out that Sirika was lying about the purpoted Air Nigeria aircraft.

Findings revealed that:

1. The aircraft is over 10 years old and belongs to Ethiopian Airlines

2. The registration number is ET-APL (Papa Lima in Aviation parlance). Serial No. 40965/4075

3. It’s first flight was an Ethiopian Airliner before it became Malawian Airline on 16th February 2014 and then reacquired by Ethiopia in 2015.

4. It has been operating as ET since 2015.

Several questions arise from 1-4 above:

A. Has the aircraft now been acquired by the so-called ‘Air Nigeria?

B. If the answer to A above is yes, under what arrangement has the aircraft been acquired by ‘Air Nigeria?

C. If the aircraft has been acquired through a lease arrangement, what is the equity balance for the lease?

D. Are the crew flying the aircraft ET crew or ‘Air Nigeria’ crew or a mix of the two? This question is important to ascertain who actually is in charge of the so-called ‘Air Nigeria’ flight

Certainly, the circumstances under which the ET aircraft flew into Abuja branded ‘Air Nigeria’ in controversial circumstances smacks of an attempt to deceive Nigerians into believing that Sirika has fulfilled his ‘promise’ to float Air Nigeria before Buhari leaves office on 29th May 2023 when actually, he has not.


As a matter of fact, the ET aircraft branded ‘Air Nigeria’ and its sojourn into the Abuja international airport amounts to contempt of court by Sirika. Recall that in April this year, the federal high court sitting in Lagos ruled for the maintenance of the status quo ante bellum until the determination of the suit instituted by the airline operators of Nigeria (AON) challenging the plans by Sirika to float Air Nigeria and grant 49% shares to Ethiopian Airlines.

This makes it illegal for Sirika to facilitate the branding of ‘Air Nigeria’ or to take any action on the ‘Air Nigeria’ matter.

The AON challenged the move by Sirika on ‘Air Nigeria’ because according to the strong and reliable AON union, the whole arrangement is enmeshed in corruption and personal aggrandisement.

For allegedly deceiving Nigerians with a branded ‘Air Nigeria’ flight, the AON has called for Sirika to be charged to court for contempt.


Hadi Sirika is no stranger to controversies. All through his 8 year reign as Nigeria’s aviation minister, he has been in and out of numerous controversies. Some of these controversies that readily come to mind are as follows:

1. In 2018, Sirika is alleged to have spent $600,000 just to design the logo of Air Nigeria. This is equivalent to N200 million.

2. During the botched launching of ‘Air Nigeria’ in 2018, Sirika was alleged to have paid N2.64 billion as ‘consultancy services’ on the ‘Air Nigeria’ project.

3. Sirika gave out the Abuja, Lagos and Kano airports under a controversial concession arrangement where it is alleged that the federal government was heavily shortchanged to the tune of billions of US Dollars.

4. In 2019, Sirika was alleged to have embarked on mass employment in his ministry without recourse to due process and adherence to other extant recuiment laws of the land.

5. In December 2022 at a fund raiser in Katsina for the APC Guber campaign, Sirika openly boasted that ‘I swear by God the Almighty we have the money to win any election and I am repeating that’

This brash, boastful and braggy statement is viewed by many observers as the high point of political arrogance.

6. For the 8 years he held sway as Nigeria’s aviation minister, Sirika is alleged to have blatantly refused to appoint and swear in any board for all the agencies under his ministry. This action is against extant Labour laws of Nigeria that stipulate that boards should be appointed for all agencies of government for checks and balances.

Sirika’s refusal to appoint boards for the agencies under his ministry precludes the required prevention of encroachment to effectively run the federal ministry of aviation.

The refusal to swear in boards for the parastatals under his ministry also makes Sirika the sole determining authority on all aviation matters in Nigeria. This is the high point of abuse of office. Can you question Sirika? NO because he belongs to Buhari’s inner family cabinet.


Monies accrued to the B.A.S.A fund is alleged to be over $100 million and Sirika is alleged to be the sole signatory to this account.

The account is where cash running into billions of U.S dollars belonging to Nigeria are paid into by foreign airlines.

As a former technical adviser to the federal ministry of aviation on B.A.S.A, I know that this account is huge. The proceeds from this account can potentially build a FULLY EQUIPPED HEALTH DISPENSARY in each of the 8,809 wards in Nigeria. Sirika said the B.A.S.A fund has been used to ‘upgrade aviation infrastructure’ in the country.

Your guess is as good as mine.

These B.A.S.A monies are proceeds from commercial joint venture agreements between Nigeria and other countries which enables Nigeria make huge cash without flying or selling any flight tickets. Yes Nigeria makes money on aviation in US Dollars everyday through B.A.S.A in line with the so-called 5 freedoms of the air.

The B.A.S.A is between two countries and it works this way:

The aviation market between both countries is assessed and the frequencies (No. of flights) are shared between both countries. Since Nigeria has no airline or aircraft to fly, it ‘sells’ its frequencies to the other country on the arrangement that the other country’s carrier will pay to Nigeria for e.g $120 for every passenger on these flights. That’s how Nigeria makes so much money without lifting any passenger.


There is the need for the incoming Tinubu administration to probe the shady ‘Air Nigeria’ project which is alleged to have gulped N85.4 billion of tax payers cash in this era of scarce resources.

Nigerians are at odds with how the so-called ‘Air Nigeria’ project keeps gulping billions of their money since 2018 without commensurate results. No passenger flight has ever been operated by ‘Air Nigeria’ yet so much money has been sunk into the phantom project.

A probe and forensic audit is the only way to unravel the mystery called ‘Air Nigeria.

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