Bitter former employee or whistle blower? The case of Air Nigeria’s John Nnorom

by Tolu Orekoya

Nigerian online media came alight, a day after the Dana Air crash of June 3, 2012 with what appeared to be a whistle blower’s story. The man in spotlight was Mr. John Nnorom, a former executive of Air Nigeria and he was putting his former employer on the spot.

Nnorom damning statement accused the chairman of the organization, Jimoh Ibrahim of starving the airline’s fleet maintenance by diverting funds away to his other businesses. He mentioned a N35.5 billion loan of which he alleged that Ibrahim collected to finance Air Nigeria but ended up diverting to NICON Investment Ltd., a non-finance company popularly called ‘Wonder Bank’. He also alleges that earlier this year engineers went on strike after being forced to allow “unserviceable aircrafts” to fly.

Responding to Nnorom’s allegations, Air Nigeria released this statement:

The management of Air Nigeria wishes to draw the attention of the general public to the false and negative stories being spread by one of its ex-Finance Directors, John Nnorom, who is currently facing criminal charges of stealing and conversion. Mr. Nnorom is an illiterate in the maintenance of aircraft as he only worked in the finance department of the airline before he was dismissed. Mr. Nnorom after his dismissal was declared wanted by the police until his subsequent arrest and the recovery of the sum of $100,000 from him. The Nigeria Police authority has since charged him for stealing and criminal conversion while the court has admitted him to bail as his criminal trial continues.

The general public is advised to disregard any such negative stories and false information by Nnorom (either in the print, electronic or online media). Air Nigeria has been flying the air space for the last 10 years with first class record of safety, without any accidents or even emergency landings. This record remains the integrity of our existence which cannot be compromised. The airline is also a proud member of the IATA and the oldest member in West Africa and one of the oldest in Africa.

ThisDay reported a strike by the engineers of the Air Nigeria on November 15 2011. The article said, “… National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) president Isaac Balaami alleged that the airline’s management forced the company’s head of maintenance to approve the operation of “unserviceable aircrafts” for the air lift of passengers.”

So, this is a story with two sides. On one, we have an ex-employee of Air Nigeria; on the other, we have the airline. Both are slinging mud at each other.

If Nnorom’s allegations are true – the NCAA may need to step in and do a thorough check of the airline. If the allegations against Nnorom are true, it draws questions to what may be his motives for blowing a whistle against the airline at this time. Nnorom may be found guilty of the charges against him, but that doesn’t mean he was lying about his safety concerns and maintenance standards of the airline. Criminals may tell the truth, and honest men can lie. He may have just taken advantage of the climate created by the Dana Air crash – all eyes are on the aviation industry right now – to capture the attention of the relevant authorities to the situation at Air Nigeria.

Maybe the NLC/Senate push for assessment of the industry will bring forward the facts of this situation.

Till then, we wait.

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