Jimoh Ibrahim honored the invitation of the Senate Committee on Aviation on Wednesday.
The Senate Committee is investigating a massive diversion of N500 billion which was a bailout to the aviation sector from the central Bank.
One of the alleged beneficiaries of the bailout which was provided through banks was Jimoh Ibrahim.
In startling circumstances, the businessman has denied receiving any loan from the bailout fund.
Ibrahim was at that time the CEO of the now defunct Air Nigeria and the bank claims he received a facility of N35.5 bn from UBA
At the hearing, the Group General Counsel for United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Samuel Adikamkwu said that the company applied and obtained the loan through UBA.
A former Director of finance at Air Nigeria, John Nnorom, told the committee that company serviced the loan with N228m monthly for nine months before the airline went belly up.
Nnorom said, “The very moment the N35.5bn intervention fund was paid into the airline’s account through the United Bank for Africa, it disappeared into one of the private accounts of the owner without any amount from the fund injected into the airline, paving the way for its eventual collapse.
“The Aviation Intervention Fund was taken by Air Nigeria. In my capacity as the executive director of finance, I needed documents to pay and I did due diligence and I discovered that Air Nigeria actually took the loan.”
He added, “Jimoh Ibrahim said he did not take a loan. He said he acquired Air Nigeria and paid the money 100 per cent and that he was given a clean bill by UBA. But you cannot finance a loan if it is not bad after some time.
“The question is how that loan entered the account of Air Nigeria again. It is the intervention fund that was transferred back to UBA, which the bank is now servicing even after the airline was no longer in existence. I paid the loan, about N228m, for about nine months.”
On his part, Jimoh Ibrahim said he although he obtained a loan, it was in no way related to Air Nigeria and that he did not access the Intervention fund.
He said, “Government did not give me any loan and I did not collect any loan from the Bank of Industry or any other agency of government. What has the government to do with me?
“When we bought Air Nigeria, I did not see any intervention fund, no cash was paid to me or credited to Air Nigeria from the fund. When we came in, Air Nigeria had about $250m with two aircraft parked at the terminal that nobody was using.
“Mr. Richard Branson walked out of the airline. It was in a state of coma and the company was winding up before I was called upon. We decided to use our group of companies to grow the national carrier.
“At the group level, we provided a bridging loan facility to make sure that the indebtedness issue was resolved. The intervention fund had been in existence before we took over.”
Ibrahim added, “At the stage of buying the transaction with UBA, they told us very clearly that if the intervention fund re-occurred, they would be able to access it. As far as we were concerned, we provided the bridge loan facility. If UBA accessed the intervention fund, that’s their own.
“Air Nigeria did not apply to the Central Bank of Nigeria directly to collect the intervention fund. The debt in existence before we bought the airline was what the intervention fund was used for. We had presented documents before the Senate last year that we had no business whatsoever with the intervention fund.”
The UBA representative, Samuel, said, “In 2010, Air Nigeria made an application to us to apply for N41.1bn from the BoI because that was what they were owing us; but in the end, we ended up getting N35.5bn, which we used in refinancing part of what was outstanding at that time.
“No one can buy a company with assets and liabilities and now claim that he had paid the loan. The letter was issued for a purpose to enable him assess loans from local and external sources. Air Nigeria remains indebted to UBA. There was no time when Air Nigeria was not indebted to UBA.”
The Senate has cleared Jimoh Ibrahim of any wrongdoing and it appears the blame lies squarely in UBA’s court.