Former governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, says a policy on capitalisation put in place by former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, ruined the airline company that was owned by him and other Nigerians.
Wada also blamed businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, for the untimely death of the airline company.
Speaking in an interview, Wada, who lost his second term bid as Kogi’s governor in 2015, said EAS Airlines which lost one of its planes in a crash in 2002, was unable to raise the N2 billion capitalisation money stipulated by Femi-Kayode’s policy.
He said: “In 2002, one of our planes flying from Lagos to Kano and Jos crashed and some people died. The pilot was well experienced. Investigations indicated that it was a very hot day; hence the intensity of the heat impacted on the plane and perhaps led to engine failure, which can happen anytime.
“We lost the airplane. It was a trying moment for us. The government grounded all the airplanes in our fleet and they rotted away.
We subjected ourselves to thorough investigations and they did not find any negligence on the part of our company. Our records were clear. We had qualified pilots and our licenses were up-to-date, but the damage was done. For about seven months, we were out of operation. But we were determined to continue.
“We started negotiation and paid all the compensations according to the rule because our aircraft was insured in London.
“They sent their assessors and lawyers to help us on how to pay compensations. Everybody was paid. We decided to lease aircraft to start again.
” We kept our employees on 50 per cent salaries for about 8 months. After that, we leased a 737 and started our operations. Because of our reputation we were able to attract patronage. Within a year, we had two airplanes in operation.
“By 2007, Fani Kayode became the minister of aviation and made the rule that you must capitalise and have N2 billion in your bank for you to be allowed to operate an airline in the country.
“He said if you wanted to fly domestic, you must have N500million in the bank; West Africa, N1billion and international, N2 billion.
“We said we had enough operating funds to keep our operations going and did not need to have N2 billion in the bank, but he insisted that unless we had an evidence of N2 billion in our account, we would not operate. That was how Jimoh Ibrahim approached us and promised to inject money and buy new airplanes for us to expand the business. We negotiated with our lawyers and accountants and agreed.
“He said he would take 60 per cent of the company while we kept 40 per cent. That was how NICON Airways was formed. He said we should change our names to NICON Airways and we did so, but he never paid us the money he was supposed to pay us.
“We still tried to run the airline, hoping that he would fulfill his obligation, but he never injected money into the airline. That was how we were betrayed and we lost everything.”