Police invite airline’s MD, directors for questioning
A $30 million African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM) loan granted to Afrijet Airline for the failed acquisition of four airplanes has be-come a subject of litigation between the airline, Assets Management Corporation (AMCON) and Dana Airline. Consequently, the Nigerian Police Force has invited the Managing Director of Dana, Mr. Hathiramani Jacky Ramesh, for questioning. A letter, dated March 1, 2021 and signed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ogundeji Ayodele, sighted by New Telegraph, stated that he is to appear at the Force Criminal Investigation Department Annex on March 10.
He was asked to come along with the following directors of the airline, Hathiramani Guatam Ramesh, Ramesh Naraindas Hathiramani, Sabita Hathiramani, Prof. Elias Gbolahan Olubukola, Atekoja Adedolapo Ayodeji and Talabi Sulaiman Owolabi to report “for an interview with the Assistant Inspector- General of Police, Force Criminal Investigation Department Annex, Alagbon Close, Ikoyi, Lagos, in connection with a case under investigation.” The investigation, according to the Police, is compelled by urgent law enforcement as provided for in Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The Police, in the letter, also addressed to AMCON’s managing director, said it was investigating a case of ‘fraud, conversion and embezzlement in which the name of AMCON featured prominently as a key party to the matter under investigation in order to enforce the consented judgement of court dated June 23, 2020.”
The AMCON MD was directed to furnish the Police with the documents such as aircraft lease agreement between AMCON and Dana Airlines Limited in respect of Afrijet’s McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft with registration number 5NBKI effective October 2016. Also to be furnished to the Police for their investigation is AMCON’s letter to Dana Airlines dated February 20, with reference number: Ref: AMC/ABJ/ MAA/20/1137/JJA/43404; Dana Airline’s letter to AMCON dated October 30, 2019 proposing re-negotiation of the aircraft lease agreement in respect of Afrijet’s MD-83 aircraft. Others are paid invoices in respect of the aircraft lease agreement from October 2016 till date.
Messrs Faruk Hakiru, Head, Special Asset Enforcement, and Joshua Ikioda, Group Head, Enforcement, are requested to appear before the Police AIG to shed light on the matter. A former top official of Afrijet Airlines, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that some years back, Afrijet Airlines had requested $200 million from AFREXIM Bank to set up the airline and make it one of the best in West Africa and Africa. The bank, it was learnt, decided to grant the firm $30 million loan to buy four aircraft, but the airline decided to buy two MD-83 airplanes.
Bank PHB was said to be a guarantor of the loan to Afrijet before the collapse of the bank and at a time the debt had not been repaid. According to the source, “AMCON bought over the debt and had to take over the airplane to recover the fund or cut their losses. AMCON sold the other aircraft which was in Arizona, United States. They equally took over the assets of Afrijet, including their building in Ikeja, Lagos.
“AMCON went to court and Afrijet had to go to court. AMCON later leased the aircraft to Dana for five years and they were paying lease rental to AMCON. Five years later, AMCON and Afrijet had to settle out of court to which the court accepted and it became a judgement.” The source further stated that AMCON prevailed on Dana Airline to renew the lease agreement and pay all outstanding debts on the lease, lamenting that nobody knew what the lease agreement stipulated except the airline and Dana, which has become like a top secret.
He said it was learnt that AMCON demanded $2,500 per block hour on the air-craft from Dana, which the airline felt it was outrageous considering that the airline did not operate the airplane almost throughout last year due to COVID-19, which led to shutdown of airline operations. Block hour is the time from the moment the aircraft door closes at departure of a revenue flight until the moment the aircraft door opens at the arrival gate following its landing.
Block hours are the industry- standard measure of aircraft utilisation. To worsen the situation, the aircraft is said to be grounded as it could not be taken out for mandatory C-check. It was also learnt that the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the Director- General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, had variously intervened in the matter before Afrijet went to court to seek redress. When contacted, Head, Corporate Communications Department of AMCON, Mr. Jude Nwauzor, said he would get back to New Telegraph on the matter as he was said to be on a short leave.