Bursted: Acting NCAA DG, Najomo acquires N250m SUV, three months after appointment

A few months after taking over as the interim director-general of the NCAA (Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority), Capt. Chris Najomo finds himself embroiled in allegations of flagrant misconduct in office, financial irresponsibility, and breaches of government procurement laws.

According to Daily Nigerian, the top aviation regulator had proposed to spend N3,000,000,000 on purchase of vehicles; N4,317,070,233 on “international transport”; N3,310,009,756 on “local transport and travels for training” and; N8,342,547,767 on “travels and transport”.

But soon after his appointment as acting DG on December 13, 2023, Mr Najomo went on spending spree, purchasing a 2022 Toyota Landcruiser (70th Anniversary Edition) worth over N250m, which was not even captured in the budget.

An insider told this newspaper that there is no appropriation approval by the National Assembly in NCAA budget for the purchase of this particular vehicle.

More investigations also revealed that the SUV was procured without the statutory approvals of the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Federal Executive Council.

“The NCAA took delivery of the vehicle towards the end of February this year. The vehicle has full option specifications. The DG has been using it with the DG’s official custom number plate “01”.

“The DG’s extra-budgetary expenditure is a gross violation of government procurement and financial regulations, which stipulates 5-year jail term without option of fine.

“A government policy provides that no motor vehicle, no matter how inconsequential the price, shall be purchased by MDAs without the approval of the Federal Executive Council,” the source added.

More revelation by Daily Nigerian showed that the acting director general also approved foreign trainings for 109 staff at a cost of over N1 billion within the week he assumed duty as acting DG.

It was gathered that staff are yet to embark on the trip months after the payment.

“This mismanagement is in addition to several actions by the acting DG that has raised eyebrows within the industry, which include non-compliance with government directives to open new TSA accounts for deduction of 50% income and attempt to circumvent the directives by attempting to convert $13 million to naira without equivalent naira expenses,” said the source.

The source noted that the infractions have led to the freezing of the authority’s TSA account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

“This red a red flag that led to a subsequent freezing of the authority’s TSA accounts with CBN. Also, the acting DG approved foreign training for over 100 staff at a cost of over N1 billion within the week he assumed office as the DG. It is observed that the staff are from the Directorate of Air Transport Regulation, the erstwhile Directorate he was heading. The foreign training is yet to commence several months after approval.

“In estacode alone, the DG approved the payment of 129,000 dollars, while over N350m approved for air tickets. Don’t even talk about the cost of the training and other expenses,” the source added.

But when contacted to respond to the allegations, Vivien Okeyia of the Public Affairs Department of the NCAA denied the allegations, saying the figures quoted for the purchase of the DG’s vehicle were inconcorrect.

“First, there is the need to purchase the vehicles because the acting DG and other directors don’t have official vehicles. The former director general left with vehicles,” she said.

Although insiders had confirmed that the acting DG had been using the vehicle for over one month, Ms Okeyia said the vehicle had not been purchased yet.

She added that it is one of the several other vehicles to be purchased for the top management officials of the NCAA.

“On the issue of N1 billion for staff training, I can tell you authoritatively that there is still some training even from the 2023 budget that are yet to be done, which I can attest to. I think they should have carried out a proper investigation before bringing this up,” Ms Okeyia said.

She also denied claims of non-compliance with the Treasury Single Account, TSA, and non-remittance of statutory deductions to the CBN.

“I don’t even know where that is coming from. But it is not true. Just recently, the aviation union workers threatened to downtool over the 50 % remittance of aviation IGR to the government. So that already cancels the argument and tells you that the DG is not withholding anything,” she said.

The NCAA spokesperson, however, didn’t comment on the alleged freezing of the agency’s account by the CBN over attempts to convert $13 million into naira.

In his reaction to allegations of retaining the official vehicle of the director-general, the suspended DG, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said he is still the substantive director-general of the NCAA.

“Let me correct you that I was not sacked as DG of NCAA. I was only suspended to pave the way for investigation. By law, I’m still the director-general. The official vehicles have been in my use for some years, and I am entitled to offer of first refusal at the vehicle’s salvage value at the end of my tenure,” he said.

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