Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Aviation, fraudulently withdrew $5,950 from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for a conference she did not attend, a source has revealed to SaharaReporters.
A source close to the Ministry of Transport told our correspondent over the weekend that Mrs. Onyejeocha was given the sum after she applied for sponsorship from the ministry to attend the just-concluded International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) conference held in Montreal, Canada.
After the receipt of her application, the ministry immediately forwarded her name to the NCAA, one of the agencies within the ministry, for sponsorship.
The source told SaharaReporters that upon the receipt of the directive from the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, for the sponsorship of Mrs. Onyejeocha, the Director-General of the NCAA, Usman Muhtar, immediately swung into action and approved the sum for her, but, like in the past, Mrs. Onyejeocha pocketed the sum and refused to attend the 14-day conference.
Mrs. Onyejeocha was sponsored for the trip because of her position as the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Aviation.
The NCAA usually pays a $425 daily allowance, excluding flight tickets, to its directors whenever they are attending assignments outside the country and it is the same allowance that is paid to National Assembly members on the sponsorship list of the agency.
The total amount of money paid to Mrs. Onyejeocha therefore amounted to $5,950 for the 14-day conference.
With the current black market rate in which a U.S. dollar is exchanged at N480, the total amount of money given to Mrs. Onyejeocha for the conference in naira was N2,856,000.
While others on the agency's sponsorship list attended the conference, Mrs. Onyejeocha withdrew the money and remained in Abuja throughout the entirety of the conference.
ICAO had held its 39th Session Assembly from 27 September - 7 October 2016 in Montreal, Canada while its election took place days after the conference with a Nigerian, Dr. Bernard Aliu, re-elected as the ICAO President in Council by the delegates.
Mr. Sirika, along with the agencies' helmsmen, numerous directors in parastatals and ministries, union leaders and other top management staff in the agencies had attended the 14-day conference and stayed in Canada till the end of the conference.
Another source said that it was not the first time Mrs. Onyejeocha or any other House Committee on Aviation member was sponsored for such trips by aviation agencies, withdrew funds and yet refused to attend such conferences.
For instance, the ministry source alleged that one of the committee members, Victor Nwokolo, was similarly sponsored for such a program abroad recently, but refused to attend.
“The management of NCAA usually approves $425 to all its directors attending any assignment outside the country, which excludes air tickets. It is the same allowance that the management regularly approves for any National Assembly member that they are sponsoring for such trips," a source disclosed to SaharaReporters.
“Onyejeocha applied to the ministry for sponsorship and her name was sent to the NCAA to sponsor her for the conference. In fact, the allowance was sent to her bank account with the hope that she would attend the conference, but throughout the duration of the conference, Onyejeocha did not turn up. We concluded the conference without her while others stayed back," the ministry source added.
It would be recalled that Mrs. Onyejeocha and her fellow House Committee on Aviation had last Wednesday, while at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, begged the aviation ministry's leaders to include the committee in their in-house training.
A member of the committee, Garba Mohammed Golobo from Bauchi State, had made the appeal to Usman Muhtar on behalf of other committee members. He had argued that their inclusion in the training would enable them to better understand the details of the industry.
A colleague of his in the committee, Victor Nwokolo, corroborated Mr. Golobo, saying that at least two members of the committee should be selected in the first phase for training by the agency.
At the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mrs. Onyejeocha also implored the management of the agency to incorporate some of its members into the training in order to further improve their knowledge of the industry.
“I think it is necessary for some of the committee’s members to be part of the NAMA’s training so that we can get the terminologies in the industry. There are some things you are saying now that we can’t understand," she said.