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Oduah: More facts emerge on bulletproof cars purchase

By The Citizen
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The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Abdullahi Dikko, yesterday said that the two BMW 760 series armoured cars allegedly purchased by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the personal use of the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah were imported into Nigeria under the pretext of using them for the 18th Lagos National Sports Festival tagged Eco-2012.

The Comptroller-General of the NCS, who was represented by the Deputy Comptroller of the NCS, Mr. Manasseh Jatau, before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation investigating the vehicle purchases in the aviation industry, testified that the NCS granted an import duty waiver for the cars, alongside 298 other vehicles  for the sports festival based on the directive of the Presidency.

Jatau said that the duty waiver of N10.1 million approval via the Ministry of Finance had an end user certificate No.0000001672 in the name of Lagos State government dated 6/6/2013 and issued by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

He also disclosed that the end user certificate for the armoured cars in the name of Coscharis Motors Limited remained tenable as at the time the cars were imported into the country.

The Customs chief said though the NCS was not under obligation to ascertain the final destination of the armoured cars, the cars which were eventually traced to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA) were not transferable to any other outfit other than the Lagos State government based on the provision of the law.

Referring the lawmakers to several documents at his disposal, including the import exemption certificate Ref. BO/R.10260/s.3/VIIIB/73 of November 20, 2012 issued by the Ministry of Finance to the Lagos State government through Messrs Coscharis Motor Limited for the sports festival, he noted: 'The Nigeria Customs Service is not a magician; we wouldn't have known that after the clearance of the armoured cars at the port, the beneficiary decided to do something else with them afterwards.'

The Group Managing Director of First Bank Plc, Mr. Bisi Onasanya, disclosed that the FBN granted a term loan of N643, 088.250 million to the NCAA to finance the purchase of 54 vehicles for the management staff of NCAA on grade level 15 and above.

An official of the bank, Mr. Seyi Ojefoso, who represented Onasanya, disclosed that the facility was for a period of 36 months without moratorium, adding that FBN paid Coscharis N255 million for the armoured cars based on the agreement reached with NCAA.

Ojefoso who stated that the FBN was not part of the transaction by Coscharis, Metropolitan Motors, the NCAA and the Ministry of Aviation on the actual amount approved for the procurement of the armoured cars disclosed that the bank was still in possession of the spare keys, pending when the debt was eventually settled by the NCAA.

Stating that the NCAA had already provided N116.3 million based on an instalmental repayment arrangement for the loan, Ojefoso disclosed that part of the deal entailed that the FBN could exercise right over title of the cars in the event of default in the repayment of the loan.

In an emotion-laden submission to the committee yesterday, the President, Coscharis Group, Mr. Cosmos Maduka, alleged political undertone in the entire vehicle fraud saga involving his company.

'The subject under discussion is politically motivated. We followed all due process to bring the vehicles into the country. First Bank provided the financial involvement and we appeared before the officials of the State Security Service (SSS) and the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) for an interview and I want to inform this committee that every requirement by law was followed by us in the entire process of procurement for the vehicles.'

Maduka's appeal to make a power point presentation on how his auto company arrived at the cost price of the two BMW Level B7 Series armoured cars procured on behalf of the NCAA was declined by the committee as members who took turns to speak faulted the price offered by Coscharis to facilitate the procurement of the bulletproof vehicles.

'Give us time to show how we arrived at the cost. The Nigerian Embassy can be contacted to get the price. We obtained a fair price from BMW, and what we did was not unethical and we delivered these cars in Lagos', he said.

The lawmakers specifically accused the management of Coscharis of inflating the cost of the vehicles even when the company enjoyed duty waiver from the Federal Government.

'You did not pay tax to Nigerians; you purchased the vehicles for the use of the Lagos State sports festival and later sold them to NCAA. I put it to you that you have used your company to rip off Nigerians through NCAA', a member of the committee, Jerry Manwe, retorted.

When challenged on the discrepancies in the chassis numbers of one of the delivered armoured cars DW 68032 and DW 68044 by members of the committee who had gone to take a look at the cars in the Aviation Ministry, the Group Managing Director, Coscharis, Josiah Samuel, who accompanied Maduka, expressed surprise at the development.

Samuel could not offer a convincing explanation to the lawmaker who cited the chassis number of one of the cars inspected as DW 68011 as well as the mysterious revelation that the car in question had already covered 3,000 km mileage.

But Maduka interjected, saying that what happened to the mileage after the delivery of the BMW cars was strictly the business of the owners.

The FAAN's MD, Mr. George Uriesi, confirmed to the Senate committee that the limousines were bought for N60 million each but did not have details of the cost of the Prados.

The Senate Committee on Aviation said yesterday that while some of the 202 vehicles were bought for directors of the agency, two were for Oduah and two also were for the FAAN's managing director.

According to the committee, the vehicles are in the custody of a bank the FAAN's boss refused to disclose its name. But he insisted that the banks funded the purchase of the two Lexus Limousines and two Toyota Prados.

Uriesi informed the committee that while Oduah approved the purchase, somebody whose name he failed to mention signed on his (Uriesi) behalf.

At a public hearing convened to address the crisis in the aviation sector, the Committee Chairman, Hope Uzondinma, tacitly confirmed the illegal armoured vehicles purchase.

His words: 'Investigation is still ongoing and it will not be fair for me to pre-empt it.  FAAN did confirm that among the operational vehicles they purchased, four of them are armoured vehicles, two for the MD and two for the minister.'

Uzodinma continued:'And we told them to go back and put everything in writing and make a comprehensive statements on all vehicles purchased, that they bought a total number of 202 vehicles for different operations. So, until they come back on Monday, we cannot rush into conclusion. The MD of FAAN said they did a funding arrangement with a commercial bank.'

The lawmaker promised that the committee would be very thorough in its investigation of extra-budgetary spending by the aviation parastatal.

'This investigation will be a very deep one so that at the end of the day, we do a holistic approach and look at how the sector will be repositioned so that all anomalies will be corrected…,' he said.- National Mirror.