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House of Reps Issues Ultimatum to Airlines: Provide Evidence of N4 Billion COVID-19 Funds or Face Refund Demand

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The House of Representatives has issued a stern ultimatum, demanding that private airline operators provide substantiated evidence of their N4 billion expenditure from the Federal Government’s COVID-19 intervention funds within a week or refund the money to the government treasury.

Mr. Bamidele Salam, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts Committee (PAC), declared this directive during the ongoing investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds by various government entities.

In a decisive resolution, the Committee mandated that private airlines, beneficiaries of COVID-19 relief funds earmarked for the aviation sector, must refund the allocated funds to the federal government treasury if they fail to present justifiable evidence of the judicious utilization of the funds within the stipulated week.

Expressing concern, the Committee noted the lack of satisfactory explanations from several airlines, industry stakeholders, and representatives from the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development regarding fund allocation and expenditure.

Emphasizing the principles of accountability and transparency in public fund utilization, the committee underscored the need for responsible handling of COVID-19 relief funds.

Azman Airlines, represented by Marketing Manager Odum Chizoba Uju, acknowledged receiving over three hundred and sixty million Naira, allocated for operational expenses such as aircraft maintenance, spare parts, fueling, and insurance premiums.

Similarly, Aero Contractor, represented by Station Manager Mr. Abdulmalik Musa, disclosed receiving over two hundred and fifteen million Naira for COVID-19 intervention fund, which was utilized for airport handling and facility payment, fueling, pilot training, and lease rental payments.

However, the Committee faced a sharp reaction from Mr. Ojuawo Adeniyi, a committee member and former pilot with the Nigeria Airforce, who criticized the operators’ submissions.

Adeniyi argued that the claimed services were applicable only during regular airline operations.

Responding to this discrepancy, member Akiba Bassey moved a motion, unanimously supported by members, stating that the involved amount should be refunded to the Federal account if justifiable evidence is not provided before the Committee on the expenditures.

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