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Nigeria Aviation Ministry justifies purchase of N225 million vehicles for Minister Oduah

By The Citizen
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The minister's spokesperson said the vehicles are 'protection from external threats.' After initial efforts by aviation officials to dismiss as mere rumours the purchase of multi million naira vehicles for Stella Oduah, Nigeria's Aviation Minister, the ministry, Wednesday, confirmed the purchase. Stella Oduah Joe Obi, Special Assistant on Media to the Minister, said that the two armoured BMW cars were to protect his boss from 'imminent threats.' 'Yes, it is true that some security vehicles were procured for the use of the office of the honourable minister in response to the clear and imminent threat to her personal security and life following the bold steps she took to reposition the sector,' Mr. Obi told the Punch newspaper, on Wednesday. 'When she came on board as the minister, she inherited a lot of baggage in terms of concession and lease agreements in the sector, which were clearly not in the interest of the government and people of Nigeria,' Mr. Obi continued. 'And so, she took bold steps and some of these agreements were reviewed and some were terminated, and these moves disturbed some entrenched interests in the sector, and within this period, she began to receive imminent threats to her life; therefore, the need for the vehicles,' he added. The aviation ministry has come under close scrutiny following the recent spate of air mishaps in which over 150 lives have been lost. Mrs. Oduah, herself, has also been the subject of severe public criticism after she described the air accidents - two major disasters have occurred since she became minister - as 'an act of God.' In its investigation, the New York based online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, Tuesday, reported that Mrs. Oduah compelled the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, an agency under her supervision, in a presumed case of corruption, conflict of interest, and abuse of office, to procure the cars for her with public funds. SaharaReporters had supported its report with documents of the procurement, adding that it discovered that Mrs. Oduah, a close associate of President Goodluck Jonathan, is enmeshed in a pattern of questionable expenditures in the aviation ministry. The newspaper also showed that the transaction for the purchase of the two BMW vehicles began last June. But the request for delivery of and payment for the two vehicles was, however, fast-tracked between August 13 and 15. The transaction involved the NCAA, First Bank of Nigeria, and Coscharis Motors Limited. In a letter dated August 13, 2013, J.D Nkemakolam, the former Acting Managing Director of the NCAA, sent a letter to the Managing Director of Coscharis Motors asking the company to deliver two BMW 760 armoured vehicles to the agency based on a pro-forma invoice dated June 25, 2013 at the cost of N127, 575,000 ($796,846.21) each. The total amount for the two black BMW Li HSS vehicles, with chassis numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044 respectively, was N255,150,000, or $1,593,687.31. The NCAA's letter further directed Coscharis Motors to deliver the vehicles with sales invoices, delivery notes, and attestation documents. The payment for the vehicles, according to SaharaReporters, was made into a First Bank of Nigeria account (number 2018912995 with sort code: 0111152303), according to a letter signed by Godwin Umeaka, Coscharis' group financial controller. The two cars were delivered to the NCAA on August 13, 2013, where it was received by two store managers, F. Onoabhagbe and Y.A. Amzat (who is also the agency's head of transport). On August 15, 2013, Sola Ogunsakin of the NCAA signed off to certify completion of the transaction. Aviation spokesman, Yakubu Dati, had earlier dismissed the newspaper's report as 'rumours' suggesting that it was politically motivated. 'This is a woman (Mrs. Oduah) who is successful and established. A woman that made her mark in oil and gas, who owned trucks, barges, and so on. What is two cars?' Mr. Dati had told PREMIUM TIMES, late Tuesday. But in his response 24 hours later, Mr. Obi maintained that the vehicles were not Mrs. Oduah's personal properties as they were not procured in her name. 'They are utility vehicles and are for the office of the minister, and if she leaves the office, she will not be taking the vehicles along with her,' Mr. Obi said.