Premium Times (Abuja)

16 February 2013

Nigeria: How Officials, Travel Agencies Robbed, Ran National Airways Aground (II)

The pillaging and misappropriation that characterised the Nigerian Airways was not limited to the alleged corruption of its former Managing Directors- Jani Ibrahim and Mohammed Joji; several top management staff of the company between 1985 and 1999 in one way or the other either embezzled, misappropriated or mismanaged its resources, Premium Times can authoritatively reveal.

In 1992, Nigerian Airways Director of Finance, Afam Nwagboso, with the approval of Mr. Joji, disregarded all vibrant banks and used a moribund bank (Continental Merchant Bank) as the collecting bank for all cash taking of the airline. Soon after, the bank capitulated and the airline lost N40 million already collected by the bank.

In 1993, the Area Marketing Manager of the airline, Ibrahim Bala, stole N354 million ($2,359,546.95) collected from the Jeddah station amount for excess baggage and luggage allowance.

Sometimes between January 1984 and December 1985, during the time of Bernard Banfa, a retired Air Commodore, as the managing director of the airways, the Minister of Aviation, Patrick Konshoni, a retired Air Admiral, sold an air worthy A310 aircraft for paltry sums against expert advice. The White Paper directed that Mr. Koshoni and Mr. Banfa be compelled to pay N65.29 billion ($435.25 million) being the cost of an A310 aircraft.

Mr. Konshoni could not be reached for comments.

We could not reach Mr. Banfa, now a senior member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), for comments as well; but Rotimi Fasakin, spokesperson for the party, rose to his defence:

"The only institution that can find someone guilty of any crime is a competent court of law," he said.

"Was Mr. Banfa convicted of any crime? There have been various White Papers and nothing has come out of them. You should ask the government why it did not prosecute those indicted. Mr. Banfa served this country meritoriously, to the best of my knowledge."

Read Part 1 of this investigation here.

Between 1988 and 1990 when Olu Bajowa was the boss of the airline, CES travels was "given the exclusive right to sell all tickets for NAL (Nigerian Airways Limited) in the UK and US even to the exclusion of NAL itself," the White Paper noted. During this period, CES Travels did not remit N945 million ($6.3 million) to the airline. The report recommended that Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, a two-time federal minister, Olu Bajowa, M. Abdulsalam, T. Mgbhor and U.S.H Maigida be made to pay the money to the airline's account.

Mr. Bajowa also deposited the N652.5 million ($4.35 million) for the purchase of two aircraft (MD-11 and ATR-42). The aircraft were not delivered and the deposit was never accounted for.

Mr. Bajowa did not respond to our request to comment emailed to him from his personal website.

A certain Mohammed Kari and other officials of the airways also pulled an insurance scam with the aid of some NICON officials and N21 billion ($13,935,956.20) was deposited in a phony company- Alexander Services Limited in the Channel Islands, the report stated.

From 1995 to 1997, a director, All-Well Brown," kept some crew of the airline in Miami for five months for no reasonable cause," the commission discovered. Their stay cost the airline N18.3 million ($122,000.00).

According to the White Paper, in 1994 Alexandra Howden, a London based insurance company with the aid of some officials of the airline, collected N367.5 million ($2.45 million) without rendering any service to the company.

Information on U.K. company directory, Company Check, shows that the company is dissolved. It filed its last account in 2002.

Between 1991 and 1996, A. Olafisoye, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bond limited, and other senior management officials stole millions of dollar from the airline. The report described Mr. Olafisoye as "all-in-all [who] manipulated the operators of the company at will." The report said his involvement with the company "led to the looting of funds and other fraudulent activities that brought the [airline] on its kneels."

Fidelty Bond has vacated its only known address at Elephant House, Alausa, Ikeja. Security men at the address said they last opened for business two years ago; their office has remained closed since then.

Other junior staff too

The corruption of top-ranked officials of the airline blinded them to the side thievery that was being perpetrated by non-management staff, contractors and travel agencies while property belonging to the airline were allowed to be occupied under uncertain terms or left to rot away.

The commission discovered that they indulged in unrestrained stealing and fraudulent conversion of property belonging to the airline.

In 1995, Mrs. Abimbola, C.O Awosika, Adetoye A.B. and K. Omoregbe all assigned to the TBS office of the airways collectively stole N27 million, the report states. Around the same time, staff and travel agencies in the Jos joined the free-for-all: D.A Adebiyi cornered (N86,179.00), Deen Travels (N629,834,00), Lagustr Travels (N214,854.00), Assab Travels (N8,493,796.00), H&B travels (N6,885,046.00), All Staff Travels (N3,027,354.00)and Classique Travels (N2,421,105.00).

Also in 1995, the Head of Insurance and Claims of the airline, A.S. Amalu, corroborated with other staff to steal N3.75 million ($250,000.00), the White Paper stated.

The next year, staff at the Kinshasha and Mgbengele stations in the Democratic Repulblic of Congo stole N123, 280.00. In Jos Dilli K.M. stole N3,258,284.00, in Ilorin Olobayo T.D stole N188,768.00, in Abeokuta Adeluola V.I. embezzled N182, 700.00, in Sokoto S.L. Atitebi stole N574,969.00, in Onitsha J. Osukponu moved N723,469.00, in Benin A.A Echu stole N1,115,269.00, the report showed. Those stationed at Lagos did not miss out in the thievery: Mr. Aro grabbed £203,484.00 (N50.87 million), Mr. Fakeye stole $108,429.00 (N16.26 million) Cosvir Travels didn't remit N8 million, All Sky Travels N234,546.00, Octilon Travels N645,515.00 QCA Travel N124,548.00, Qualitex Travels N582,433.00, Nokoy Travels N235,254.00, FLT Contract Travels N1,337,711.00, Aeroswift Travels N1,365,281.00, BOFAM Travels N232,322.00 and Onent Travel Agency N573,035.00.

Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to locate all the travel agencies involved were futile as many of them have since become extinct.

The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies at its Fadeyi, Lagos office asked for a list of all the indicted travel agencies. After receiving the list, the official at the agency identified Classique Travels and Qualitex Travels as its members, saying others no longer exist.

The official requested that PREMIUM TIMES route its questions to these two agencies through the association. Several weeks after the questions were sent, both the agencies and the association are yet to respond.

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