AMCON, Dana, Afrijet rumble over $30 million AFREXIM failed aircraft deal

A $30 million African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM) loan granted to Afrijet Airline for the failed acquisition of four airplanes and setting up of a world-class airline have become a subject of litigation between the airline, Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and Dana Airline.

Consequently, the Nigerian Police have invited the Managing Director of Dana, Mr. Hathiramani Jacky Ramesh for questioning.

The letter from the Nigeria Police dated March 1, 2021, sighted by Aviation Metric and signed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ogundeji Ayodele stated that on arrival, they are to report to the undersigned on March 10, 2021 at 10.000hrs through Superintendent of Police, Beatrice Agbator who will take them before him.


Police invitation letter

Hathiramani Jacky 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 and 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 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 judgment of court dated June 23rd, 2020”.

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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 investigation is AMCON’s letter to Dana Airlines dated February 20th 2020 with reference number: Ref:AMC/ABJ/MAA/20/1137/JJA/43404; Dana Airline’s letter to AMCON dated 0ctober 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.


Invitation letter

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.

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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 when 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 judgment”

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 knows what the lease agreement stipulated except the airline and Dana which had become a top secret.

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He said it was learnt that AMCON demanded $2500 per block hour on the aircraft from Dana which the airline felt was outrageous considering that the airline did not operate the airplane almost throughout last year occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic 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.


Police invitation letter to Dana Airline

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 our correspondent on the matter as he was said to be on a short leave.
Wole Shadare