The Challenger 850 is the quintessential aircraft for our demanding times, with the most expansive cabin in the converted airliner business jet category. Its flat floor and stand-up cabin height makes it easy to move about. The cabin’s generous width helps create the ideal environment for a full range of special mission requirement. It is manned by two expatriate pilots, four cabin crew members. The jet was acquired in 2012 and it was reported that due to its nature and travelling schedule of the amiable minister, she spent N130 million on maintenance and travelling charges monthly. Thus, she has spent over N4 billion.
Mrs. Dieziani Alison-Madueke is being accused to wasting billions from public purse to maintain a private aircraft. A group, Concerned Aviation Professionals (CAP) in a petition to President Goodluck Jonathan against the minister who they described as celebrated but most controversial in the history of Nigeria, said she had committed up to N3.120 billion in maintaining the jet devoted to family businesses alone.
CAP requested Jonathan to immediately probe the ownership, maintenance and usage of the Challenger 850 jet marked OE-ILA which was domiciled at one of the private hangars in a Nigerian airport in the last two years.
About 15 months ago, there were similar reports in the media linking a minister to a private jet impounded by the French government carrying a business associa
te of top public officers on suspicion that the jet, a Bombardier Global Express XRS- belonged to the public officer.
The jet was discovered to have been purchased by the Bank of Utah Trustee in June 2012, through the same process that was also used in purchasing private jets for the governors of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States.
The petition signed by Abdul Malik Masaya and John Obande Anihiru, a copy of which was made available to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said CAP had impeachable records which confirmed that the super minister has been frittering away Nigerian resources in maintaining the Challengers 850 aircraft at one of the private hangars in the Nigerian airports in the last two years.
“The incontrovertible evidence we have is that the Minister has been committing 500,000 Euros (N130 million) monthly to maintaining the aircraft in the last two years. Thus, in two years, the minister had committed N3.120
billion to keeping the jet which is for personal use and that of the minister’s family alone,” and thus demanded a thorough probe of this allegation should start from the FAAN, NCAA and NAMA. The agencies have records of all the trips the Challenger 850 jet made on the payroll of one of the nation’s top revenue earning agencies.
That’s aside the charges incurred by several unscheduled travelling to several countries along with some family members which have reportedly accumulated up to N2 billion. Thus, the acquisition, maintenance and travelling charges all summed up to about N10 billion.
Consequently, she is facing House of Representatives probe for spending N3.120 billion on air charter services.
The Public Accounts Committee of the House, on Thursday, March 20, 2014, set up a committee to examine whether Mrs. Alison-Madueke, one of the most controversial members of President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet, has spent N10 billion of state funds in the last two years to charter, operate and maintain a jet for her personal use.
The lawmaker who tabled the motion for approval, Samuel Adejare, representing Lagos State, said the allegation was based on “reliable evidence” indicating that Mrs. Alison-Madueke had committed about 500,000 Euros (N130 million) monthly to maintain the aircraft, solely for her personal needs and those of her immediate family.
Mr. Adejare said preliminary investigations proved that the financing for the Challenger 850 aircraft was drawn from government funds. He said the expenditure would be only a tip of the iceberg as several other billions of naira may have been frittered on flying the jet all over the world obviously for the leisure of the minister and her immediate family.
“This colossal waste is currently estimated at N10 billion which include the payment of allowances to the crew for the trips, hangar parking and rent based on the lease agreement.
“If government could be bankrolling this waste in the face of ever dwindling public resources, it amounts to a misplacement of priority, impudence and breach of public trust, an action that offends the Fiscal Responsibility Act and all other Laws on fiscal discipline in Nigeria.” Mr. Adejare said.
If confirmed by the House, the spending will only fall amongst some of the government’s most outlandish expenditure, for a nation with an overwhelming unemployment rate, and dwindling revenues.
It would, however, be hardly surprising for a minister indicted of mal-administration by several reports. Mrs. Alison-Madueke is currently at the centre of an allegation of a missing $20 billion oil proceeds raised by suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi. President Jonathan has brushed aside several calls for Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s removal.
The motion in the House of Representatives was approved with an overwhelming voice vote.
The sole opposition to the resolution, Friday Itulah, who represents Edo State, was disallowed by the speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who explained that the House does not permit debates on such motions until after an investigation has been carried out.
The committee on public finance is to investigate the allegation and present its findings to the House in two weeks.
– FEMI OYEWALE