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Zenith Bank confirms Sirika’s daughter owns a company related to the N1.4 billion aviation contract.

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Zenith Bank confirms Sirika's daughter owns a company related to the N1.4 billion aviation contract.

Zenith Bank confirms Sirika’s daughter owns a company related to the N1.4 billion aviation contract.

A compliance officer from Zenith Bank Plc, Mishelia Arhyel, told the Federal Capital Territory High Court Abuja on Tuesday that former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika’s daughter, Fatima, and son-in-law, Jalal Hamma, owned Al-Buraq Global Investment Ltd, a company the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted in an aviation fraud suit.

Arhyel testified as EFCC’s second witness in the fraud-related charges instituted against Hadi Sirika and his daughter, Fatima, son-in-law, Jalal Hamma, and Al-Buraq Investment Ltd.

The defendants had been arraigned before Justice Sylvanus Oriji of the FCT High Court.

EFCC’s Case
The EFCC had indicted Hadi Sirika, in an alleged contract fraud involving his daughter and son-in-law as well as fraudulent practices associated with the Nigeria Air debacle.

Sirika was accused of allegedly using his position to unfairly benefit Tianaero Nigeria Limited and Al Buraq Global Investment Ltd; companies allegedly associated with his associate, daughter, and son-in-law.

He was said to have influenced the award of contracts for the Nigerian Air project and the Apron Extension at Katsina Airport to these companies.

The EFCC alleges that N1.4 billion was approved to Al-Buraq for the Apron Extension contract at Katsina Airport.

The defendants are accused of breach of trust and misuse of public office to the tune of over N2 billion naira in contravention of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and the Penal Code Act.

But they all pleaded not guilty to the charges paving the way for the commencement of trial.

What transpired in court
Led in evidence by EFCC lead counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Arhyel, said his role as a compliance officer involves receiving correspondence from law enforcement agencies on behalf of Zenith Bank and forwarding the same to appropriate authorities as well as responding to inquiries.

He confirmed that sometime in February 2023, the bank received a letter from EFCC making inquiries regarding accounts statements on Al-Buraq, Jalal Hama and Fatima.

The prosecution counsel then tendered the bank statements of the defendants and it was admitted by the court unopposed by the defense legal team.

Speaking to the documents, Arhyel told Justice Oriji that Al-Buraq was registered on June 17, 2021, and the directors are Hamal Jalal, Sirika Fatima Hadi and Shinade Saratu.

According to the witness, the ex-minister’s daughter and in-law have significant control over Al-Buraq.

“Sirika Fatima Hadi is the secretary of the company.

“Persons in significant control of the company are Hamal Jalal and Sirika Fatima Hadi.

“The signatories are Saratu Muhammad, Fatima Hadi Sirika, and Jalal Hamal,” the witness told the court corroborating EFCC’s allegations.

Earlier in the proceedings, Azubuike Okorie, a former Special Assistant to the ex-Aviation Minister, Projects(2022-2023) said it was the frustration posed by the Nigerian Air Force and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) that prevented the execution of the Kastina Airport extension contract.

Under cross-examination by the defense team led by Kanu Agabi (SAN), Okorie said the contract went through due process and had nothing to do with the competence and honesty of the contractor.

The witness claimed the relationship between Sirika, his family members and associates was not a factor considered in the contract awarded to Al-Buraq.

The court subsequently adjourned the trial to June 20, 2024.

Backstory
The EFCC had said its operatives arrested Abubakar Ahmad Sirika, the brother of Hadi Sirika, over an alleged contract fraud in the aviation ministry.

Abubakar was picked up by the anti-graft agency on Sunday, February 4, following an investigation in the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development.

During his tenure as minister, Sirika faced allegations including conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of public funds, contract inflation, criminal breach of trust, and money laundering totalling N8,069,176,864.

The commission had revealed that the funds in dispute related to four aviation contracts awarded by the former minister to a company called Engirios Nigeria Limited, which is owned by his younger brother.

The EFCC is empowered by law to track financial crimes.

Every accused person remains innocent until found guilty by a competent court.

Sirika served as aviation minister from 22 August 2019 to 29 May 2023.

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