House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has asked private airlines to explain how they expended N4 billion they collected from the Federal Government as COVID-19 intervention funds or refund the money to the government treasury.

The committee, chaired by Bamidele Salam (Osun-PDP), handed down the directive at an investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government and others, who benefited from the funds.

The committee resolved that “all private airlines that received COVID-19 relief funds designated to support the aviation sector to refund the allocated funds to Federal Government treasury, if they fail to give justifiable evidence of how the money was judiciously spent within a week.”

The committee lamented that despite appearing before it, some of the airlines and industry stakeholders, including Aero Contractors, Azman, Newrest, and representatives from the Federal Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, failed to provide satisfactory explanations regarding the allocation and expenditure of the funds.

The committee emphasised the need for accountability and transparency in the utilisation of public funds.

In its reaction, Azman Airlines, represented by its Marketing Manager, Odum Chizoba Uju, admitted receiving N367,935,779.95, purportedly allocated for various operational expenses, including aircraft maintenance, spare parts, fueling, Forex purchasing, and insurance premium paid, while the Station Manager of Aero Contractor, Mr Abdulmalik Musa, said the company received N217,345,542.05 from the Federal Government for the COVID-19 intervention fund.
The representative of Aero Contractor Airline explained that the fund was used for airport handling and facility payment, fueling payment, Onboard catering payment, pilot training payments and lease rental payments.

But in reaction to submissions on how they utilised thefunds, a member of the committee and former pilot with Nigeria Airforce, Ojuawo Adeniyi, from Ekiti State faulted the submissions, saying the services claimed by the operators were applicable only during the regular operations of airlines.

Following the development, a motion was moved by a member, Akiba Bassey, that the amount involved should be refunded to the Federation account should they fail to give justifiable evidence before the committee on the expenditure, which was unanimously supported by members.

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