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Why we purchased BMW 760 LI armoured cars for aviation minister – NCAA boss

By The Rainbow

The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu,  has debunked media reports on the circumstances surrounding the procurement of two BMW 760 LI armoured series cars by the agency.

Akinkotu who expressed dismay as to how the information got to public dormain said that the agency would work to unravel those behind the leakage..

Addressing a news conference in Abuja, Captain Akinkuotu says the cars are operational vehicles used in the varied operations of the NCAA including transporting the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah and aviation-related foreign dignitaries.

Captain Akinkuotu,  who announced that the purchase of the two cars worth two hundred and fifty-five million naira followed due process, added that the NCAA remains focused on enforcing standards and promoting safety in line with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCAA).

The Director-General spoke at a press conference  at the head office of the Federal Ministry of Aviation in Abuja on Friday,

He said, 'I am not saying that this particular information should not be put in the public domain. But how it was obtained is the concern. If somebody breaks into an office and makes copies of official documents, then the break-in has become criminal.

'So we are in the process of trying to find the source of this leakage and I am very concerned about it. Because this information may look trivial but there are other information that we have that are confidential and it is only fair for us to respect the confidentiality of information. I am not saying that they broke into our office, but they obtained the information illegally.'

Akinkuotu said he was stunned to see the documents in the open, stressing that the information were leaked illegally.

He said he was 'shell shocked that government information and particularly information from the civil aviation authority has gotten into public purview in an illegal manner. It is criminal! However, what has been done has been done, but I think when such information is gotten, you should have come to the agency to ask. We are not shy to take your questions.'

Akinkuotu stated that Snowden of the United States ran away after leaking confidential information, adding,  'He (Snowden) went on the run after putting such information in the public domain. The sources of the leak I don't know, but yesterday, I issued a circular to all staff on this issue. I will read a little part of the circular: 'Without prejudice to the nature and the purpose of this act, you should know that leakage and ultimate publication is a matter of great concern to the authority.'

NCAA had purchased two vehicles valued at a whopping $1.6m said to have been delivered to Oduah in August this year. The armoured  vehicles, BMW 760 Li, were bought from  Coscharis Motors Limited in Lagos.

An online news medium, SaharaReporters, had reported on Tuesday that the armoured vehicles were delivered to the minister in August.

The medium reported that documents in its possession showed that the transaction for the purchase of the two BMW cars started in June, but the request for the delivery of and payment for them was fast-tracked between August 13 and 15, 2013.

The transaction involved the NCAA, First Bank of Nigeria, and Coscharis Motors Limited, according to the report.

The two black BMW 760 Li HSS vehicles had chasis numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044, and were reportedly delivered to the NCAA on August 13, 2013. They were received by two store managers, F. Onoabhagbe and Y. A. Amzat, who is also the agency's head of transport.

Since the report, Nigerians have  expressed anger  over  the purchase with stakeholders calling on the nation's anti-corruption agencies to investigate the issue.

There were also reports that the vehicles' costs were grossly inflated and a waste of  the nation's scarce resources especially in a sector that is poorly funded and which had recorded a series of air crashes in recent times.

But the NCAA boss stated that the purchase of the vehicles followed stipulated  due  process, adding that the prices of the cars were high probably because it was bought from a company which had no competitors in Nigeria.

.The agency also said other factors might  have contributed  the high price, but maintained that the vehicles were purchased for operational purposes. Explaining what may have made the vehicles expensive in Nigeria, Akinkuotu said three factors should be considered.

He said, 'First, each car that you buy nowadays has a customised aspect to it and this may impact on the price. The other factor is what I call the environmental situation. Yesterday, a gentleman from Britain met me and said the fares in this country on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are high. And he wondered why the situation had continued, but he said it was because Nigerians could  afford it.

'So the other aspect in this particular context is what I will call the monopolistic situation on these cars. Coscharis, as far as I understand, is about the only guy that sells BMW of this nature in Nigeria. If he is the only one selling, then you must buy from him if you want the car and he can name the price. So those are factors that may have resulted. But mind you, I am not holding brief for this.'

He went on, 'I do not know how much the cars cost and I cannot relate or answer the question on the actual cost of these cars. But were they budgeted for? Yes.'

The DG said aviation was a global industry and the NCAA, the regulator of the industry in Nigeria very often played host to dignitaries from international civil aviation bodies.

He said it was internationally customary to convey the minister and these visiting foreign dignitaries in security vehicles whenever they are in Nigeria.

He said, 'It must be noted that during such visitations, the security of members of the delegation is the sole responsibility of the host country. The vehicles are therefore in the pool of the NCAA for these special assignments and are available at the NCAA office and can be shown to you.'