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Bulletproof cars: Oduah, NCAA breached Public Procurement Act, says BPP

By The Citizen

The Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) yesterday, at an investigative hearing, said that the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) breached the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of the N255m armoured bulletproof BMW cars and 52 other operational vehicles for the minister and the agency.

A deputy Director at the BPP, Mr. Ayo Adedigbe, stated this on behalf of the Director General, Mr. Emeka Eze, at the probe hearing held by the House of Representatives' Committee on Aviation, on the purchase of the cars.

Adedigbe said contrary to section 15 and other relevant sections of the Act establishing the contract-vetting Bureau, the Due Process Office and civil society organisations were not involved with the procurement process of the cars.

'No request letter was sent to BPP for the purchase of the vehicles,' Adedigbe told the committee.

He said, besides flouting Due Process, the contracts for the procurement of the two armoured cars and 52 others should have been handled and approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC.

He noted that any contract worth more than N100m was beyond the approval limit of the NCAA, and must go to FEC for approval.

'A circular issued on March 11, 2009 and signed by the then Head of Service, Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, directs that such a contract should have been approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, under section 19(2) of the Public Procurement Act.

'In the BPP Act, there is a list of CSOs (civil society organisations) compiled by the BPP as competent observers with expertise in the services being provided or the calibre of goods being purchased,' he added.

Former acting Director General of NCAA, Mr. Joyce Nkemakolam, who was the accounting officer from April 14 to August 14, 2013 when the contract for the purchase of the vehicles was entered into with First Bank of Nigeria, Coscharis Motors and NCAA, told the Committee on oath that the agreement was signed for the purchase of the two BMW cars at the rate of N127m each and 52 other operational vehicles were also procured at a total cost of N623m.

He, however, insisted that the purchases did not breach the 2013 budget.

According to him, the procedure for the purchase also followed due process.

In his submission, which was not admitted because it was not signed, Nkemakolam said: 'To ferry international visitors, it became necessary to buy the vehicles.'

He told the committee that the deal between Coscharis and FBN was that the two BMW armoured cars bought at N255m would be paid in instalments.

He said it was agreed that NCAA would pay N23.249.181m each month to Coscharis for the two cars through FBN, until the payment would be exhausted.

He, however, denied that the payment would be drawn from the finances of the ministry.

Nkemakolam, who is still a director at NCAA, however, insisted that 'The approval for the purchase is predicated on the Due Process certification that was done.'

He said the NCAA, besides the two vehicles for the minister, also made orders for other vehicles.

'On August 13, 2013, NCAA contacted Metropolitan Motors and other car companies to supply 17 vehicles for N78m at the rate of N4.5m each, Toyota Hilux cars for N81m at the rate of N5.428m each, 14 Toyota Prado Jeeps at the rate of N14m and N12m each and a Toyota Land Cruiser GX for N15m, rising to a total of N387.938m,' he said.

Members of the House Committee led by Hon. NkeirukaOnyejeocha (PDP Abia), who strongly disagreed that the exercise was captured by the 2013 budget, took turns to lambast the NCAA and the ministry for breaching the Appropriation Act, section 80(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and the BPP Act.

A member of the Committee, Hon. Nasir Ali Ahmed (APC-Kano), who was miffed by the presentation of the NCAA, told Nkemakolam that he was lying under oath before Nigerians.

'Your records clearly show that you have committed unappropriated public funds of over N600m to the purchase of the cars according to the documents signed by you and you are openly denying this under oath,' he said.

He warned the NCAA director not to take the Committee for granted or it might be forced to issue sanctions against him.

In his opening speech, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. AminuWaziriTambuwal, warned that the House would not tolerate a violation of the constitution, the Appropriation Act, 2013 and relevant laws in respect of the purchase of the cars.

The Speaker, who was represented at the investigative hearing by the Deputy Leader of the House, Hon. Leo OkuwehOgor (PDP Delta), described the transaction as unfortunate, as he tasked the Committee to see to the root of it.

Earlier, the Committee had driven out of the conference Hall 0.28, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, who came to represent the Minister, Ms. Oduah.

The Permanent Secretary, Mr. George Ossy, said he could take questions on the car purchase contract in the absence of the minister whom he said was away in Israel on official assignment, but he was rebuffed and driven out of the hearing hall.

The lawmakers, who have a Tuesday (next week) deadline to conclude their assignment of unravelling the circumstance that led to the alleged inflated purchase of the vehicles, insisted that the minister must appear on Monday or Tuesday to answer questions as to why she approved the purchase of the cars in breach of the law.

The lawmakers, who grilled the NCAA management team lamented that Nkemakolam demonstrated serious disregard to the National Assembly by neglecting its legislations.

The committee was not satisfied with the presentation and responses of the officials of NCAA.

Subsequently, the committee mandated them to come back on October 29 with bank statements from their operational accounts with the First Bank, Sterling Bank, UBA, FCMB, Zenith Bank and CBN.

The lawmakers also insisted that the minister of aviation must conclude or abandon her official engagement in Israel and appear before the committee next Tuesday as a matter of compulsion.

Already, President Goodluck Jonathan had on Wednesday set up a threeman administrative panel of inquiry to investigate the purchase of N255m armoured BMW cars by the NCAA for the minister.

The President had earlier on Tuesday queried the minister. Similarly, the Senate and the House of Representatives have ordered probe into the scandal.

Former Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isa Bello Sali, heads the three-man panel while the National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel SamboDasuki (rtd) and Air Vice Marshal Dick Iruenaberi are members of the panel.

The panel is to submit its report within two weeks while the secretariat of the panel will be provided by the office of the NSA.