BREAKING NEWS: EFCC freezes N3bn traced to Sirika’s brother’s account

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) quizzed Abubakar Ahmad Sirika over an alleged N8.06 billion contract fraud in the Federal Ministry of Aviation.

Abubakar is the brother of immediate-past Minister Hadi Sirika, believed to have awarded the contracts to his sibling.

Abubakar’s arrest on Sunday was part of the ongoing probe into alleged fraudulent practices in the Ministry of Aviation during the tenure of the ex-minister.

The EFCC is probing allegations of conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, contract inflation, criminal breach of trust, and money laundering.

Of the contract sum, about N3, 212,258,930.18 has been traced to Engirios Nigeria Limited, owned by Abubakar, who is a Level-16 officer and a deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

It was learned that four big contracts were awarded to Abubakar’s Engirios Nigeria Limited when his brother was in charge of the ministry.

According to EFCC investigators, Abubakar Sirika is listed as the company’s Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Besides, it was found out that he is the sole signatory to the two accounts linked to the firm with two banks.

The four contracts the ex-minister awarded to his brother are:

• Construction of the Terminal Building in Katsina Airport (N1,345,586,500.00);

• Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre in Katsina Airport (N3, 811,497,685.00);

• Procurement and installation of elevators, air conditioners and power generator house in Aviation House, Abuja (N615,195,275.000);

• Procurement of Magnus aircraft and simulators for the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria (N2, 296,897, 404.00).

A top official of the anti-graft agency said: “In connection with the ongoing probe of the Ministry of Aviation during Hadi Sirika’s tenure, EFCC’s crack team was able to uncover four contracts worth about N8,069,176,864.00, which were not executed.

“The sum was for four aviation contracts from the former minister to Engirios Nigeria Limited, owned by his sibling.

“While profiling the contracts, there was a payment of N3,212,258,930.18 out of the total contract sum to Engirios Nigeria Limited, which is owned by the younger brother of the ex-Minister of Aviation.

“Apart from being listed as the company’s MD/CEO, Abubakar is the sole signatory to the company’s two accounts.

“Investigators further discovered that upon receipt of the payment, Abubakar allegedly transferred it to different companies and individuals.

“There is no trace of work done on any of the contract items to date. These developments led to the arrest and detention of Abubakar on Sunday by the EFCC.

“He was grilled for several hours yesterday. He is providing the commission with additional useful information on the financial activities of the Aviation Ministry under the supervision of his elder brother.”

It was learned that the contract awards and timelines were between August 2022 and May 2023.

A document obtained by The Nation reads in part: “It is suspected that the ex-Minister, Hadi Sirika awarded the contracts to his brother Abubakar, knowing that he is a senior civil servant, working since 2000.

“The first of the controversial contracts awarded to Engirios Nigeria Limited was on August 18, 2022, for the construction of the Terminal Building in Katsina Airport.

“The second was awarded on November 3, 2022, for the establishment of the Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre in Katsina Airport.

“The third contract was on February 3, 2023, for the procurement and installation of elevators, air conditioners, and a power generator’s house in Aviation House, Abuja.

“The fourth was awarded on May 5, 2023, approximately 24 days after the end of the Buhari Administration’s tenure, for the procurement of Magnus Aircraft and a simulator for the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.”

It was gathered that the four contracts formed the first segment of the ongoing probe of Sirika’s tenure.

There were indications that the EFCC was looking into the Nigeria Air controversy.

There was also controversy about how much was released for the Nigeria Air project.

While some critics alleged that N85 billion was expended on it, Sirika claimed that N5 billion was approved but N3 billion was released.

He said his administration did not spend the N3 billion before he left office.

Sirika said: “In 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, all of the monies voted and budgeted for the national carrier were N5 billion.

“But all that was released is in the neighbourhood of about N3 billion, not N85 billion, and all of the N3 billion had not been expended as of the time I left office.

“What was done with the money was nothing but transaction advisory services, the AOC process, salaries, consultancy services, and the offices in Abuja.

“No contract was given by Hadi Sirika or the administration at the time. These are the things that the money was used for.”