Nigeria Airways Ltd and Justice Nwazota’s Commission of Inquiry

By

Captain Mohammed Joji

Former MD/CE Nigeria Airways Limited

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On page 20 of the 6th February, 2013 edition of Daily Sun Newspaper, an article titled, Looting of Nigeria Airways (2) was published. On page 15 of the 19th-25th February, 2013 edition of   Desert Herald Newspaper, there’s a story captioned, After stealing billions, grounding Nigeria Airways, indicted officials still share loots. The story apparently is culled from Premium Times, a Nigerian online news portal which admitted in the report that it is actually a new online news outfit. Probably that is why it is risking a lot with its reputation. Both publications relied largely on the purportedly released white paper of Obiora Nwazota Commission of Inquiry in 2004. Why they are writing their articles and reports in 2013 is a question only they can answer.

It is shocking however, to say the least, to find oneself being quoted in a newspaper report from an interview its correspondents claim to have had with me on a telephone, with least emphasis on the major crux of the arguments. Moreover, about a subject matter on which about five governments’ constituted bodies sat independently and within the period of about eight years.  Needless to say that I have had course to appear in each of these panels, commissions of inquiries and committees to give my end of the accounts. It is on record today that I am the only Nigerian who appeared in five different and independent panels of which Nwazota’s Commission’s white paper is said to be extant and leaked to journalists even though not gazetted (what the reporters should have emphasized).

It is true that in my over forty years of endeavours in aviation industry around the world, I have had a brief stint with the Nigerian Airways, first as an executive Board Director between 1989-1991 and as a Managing Director/ Chief Executive, between 1992-1994.  Prior to that I was based in the United Kingdom where I reached the peak of my career working for Western Airways, England (1973-74) and British Airways (1974-86) before I became the Chief Executive of my own Skypower Express Airways Ltd (1986-date). It is unfortunate, but I have to state here that my work ethics and work values, before and after I joined Nigeria Airways Limited, were never shaped by what is usually perceived to shape the character of Nigerian public servants. Corruption!

I was an MD/CE in Nigerian Airways when Prince Tony Momoh was its Board Chairman. Justice Obiara Nwazotu’s Commission listened to submission from both the two of us of which Justice Nwazotu remarked as reported by The Guardian Newspaper of December 15, 2000: “None of the former managing directors commanded as much facts and depth of knowledge about the airline as Captain Joji”. The Daily Times of 19 December, 2000 in its report of the commission’s activities added: “he (Justice Obiora Nwazota) pleaded with him (Captain Joji) to prepare a paper for the Commission’s consideration based on its terms of reference and on the way forward for the troubled airline since he was well versed about Nigeria Airways and global trends in Aviation Management”.  As far as I am concerned my appearance in that panel, at the risk of sounding immodest, proved much a meaningful contribution to the nation in its effort at addressing the multitude of problems bedevilling the industry for which a distinguished service award evident from the admission of the chairman of the commission should be given to me.

It is important to clarify here that whitepapers by Commissions are meant for the government to obtain a basis for calling on a person indicted to explain himself. A commission is an organ of the executive because it is usually set up by the President. It is not a court. Its findings are not therefore final or conclusive. It is upon recommendations that a government can take a person to court or a person challenge the findings of a commission in court.

It is not to our knowledge that a whitepaper of Nwazota’s Commission of inquiry is released by any means legitimate. We are only aware that something that looks like it was leaked to journalists in 2004 and during the much celebrated Common Wealth Heads of Government’s Meeting (CHOGM). Whatever the press published then did not represent a whitepaper but only reflected all accusations made during the commissions’ sittings as findings.  I had since given a four newspaper pages detailed response to each item reflected in those publications on The Guardian Newspaper,  January, 26, 2004 edition. The motives behind the publishing of the leaked document and its timing may not be immediately deciphered but it had a general effect on my humble self having been in 1994 bestowed the honour of the Freeman of the City of London, being the 43rd year of the reign of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at the Futries Hall of the Lord Mayors for services rendered to aviation industry.

Why people wish to replicate the content of that so-called whitepaper in the name of Special Report in newspapers is unknown now that CHOGM is not holding in Nigeria at this material time and some names are not required to be soiled in the mud. Upon all these I will always declare my praise to all mighty Allah for his endless bounties on me and the opportunities He created for me to have served my family, my country and the world at large that merited abundant praise and awards both locally and internationally.

It is nineteen years today since after I left Nigerian Airways and thirteen years since after Nwazota’s Commission finished its sitting and I have been moving around conducting my day to day activities in relative peace. Those who want to keep their jobs by reliving a dead conspiracy each time they hear something positive from government quarters coming close to my person thereby generating some sort of restlessness on my part should know that we will all leave behind children that we will want them live in peace either.

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Artice title: Nigeria Airways Limited and Justice Nwazota’s Commission of Inquiry