A pilot with Gyro Air Limited, the airline involved in the airlift of N1.299billion for the Ekiti governorship election in 2014, has told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) how he flew a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, with the cash to Akure, Ondo State.
The pilot, Captain Ahmed Bashir Borodo, said the cash was wrapped with green military tarpaulin bags before it was loaded onto the chartered aircraft with tail number HS125-800 5N-BMT and operated by Gyro Air.
He said the bags were so heavy that it took three people to lift one at a time.
It was learnt that the pilot made these disclosures at the weekend when he was quizzed by EFCC detectives.
The session was part of the ongoing probe of Governor Ayodele Fayose, who allegedly received the N1.299billion slush funds from Obanikoro through his associate, Abiodun Agbele.
About N4.745billion was paid into Obanikoro’s company, Sylva Mcnamara, by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for the 2014 Ekiti governorship poll.
The slush funds had been traced by the anti-graft agency to the former junior minister, Fayose, three firms and a former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore.
In his statement on what he knew about the transfer of the cash, Borodo told the EFCC detectives that he only flew the plane in line with the directive of his airline’s management.
He said: “On the 17th June 2014, I was advised around 0700 hours by my Flight Operations Department that we would be operating a chartered flight to Akure from Lagos with estimated departure time of 0830 hours.
“The client was Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Defence at that time.
“I arrived at the airport at about 0730 hours to prepare for the flight along with my colleague, Captain Olubiyi Famuyiwa and cabin attendant Uyi Okoro. Minutes later, the minister’s aides came to the aircraft with some bullion vans. They started offloading the contents, which were big green tarpaulin bags. Military bags precisely.
“The ADC to the minister was dressed in Navy uniform. This is all I can state now”.
He added: “When we noticed that only about three people could carry the bags because of the weight, we told them that because of the weight, we could only take about eight to nine bags.
“The minister who had disembarked at that time from his vehicle pleaded with us but we said our aircraft was too small to carry all the bags. We loaded the bags. The minister, his ADC and a friend boarded the aircraft and we departed to Akure, Ondo State.
“When we arrived at Akure Airport, some soldiers came and there was a bullion van as well to carry the baggage. We departed empty to Lagos on the 17/06/14. On the 18th of June 2014, we were sent from Abuja to Akure to pick Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro and take him to Abuja. He boarded without any luggage with his ADC and we proceeded to Abuja to drop him”.
Also, the General Manager of the Airline, Mr. Jide West, has disclosed that about $25, 200 was paid for the two chartered flights from Lagos to Akure and Akure to Abuja.
Mr. West gave an insight into how the chartered flight service was procured at $25,200.
He said: “On the 15/16 of June 2014, Lt. Adewale O Eruka called me for a flight to Akure scheduled for 17th and 18th of June 2014 on the instruction of Musiliu Obanikoro. I contacted operation and the flight was carried out as detailed below: 17/6/14 – Lagos – Akure – Lagos
“I was informed that they carried the bags to Akure with some passengers as indicated in the manifest.
“On 18/6/14, the flight was Abuja – Akure – Abuja to pick up the passengers from Akure back to Abuja. The aircraft was empty from Abuja but brought the passengers as indicated in the manifest, back to Abuja.
“The flights were paid for; $25,200 was paid for both flights and this was arranged by Lt. Adewale. The crew on the flight on both occasions were: Capt. ‘Biyi Famuyiwa whose service has been terminated by Gyro Air Ltd; Ahmed Borodo the second pilot who accompanied me to EFCC today; and Uyi Okoro the cabin crew, who resigned her appointment from Gyro for further studies abroad. Resignation and termination letters attached.
“I also have a text on my phone dated 19/6/14 from Lt. Adewale detailing how payment will be made for the chartered service”.
As the EFCC intensifies its investigation of the Ekiti governor, indications emerged that some officials of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigeria Air Management Agency (NAMA) may appear before the commission to explain what they know about the airlift of the cash.