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Stella Oduah in N18bn Aviation Scam

By The Nigerian Voice
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Documents have revealed how about $122million (N18.3bn) was withdrawn in

questionable circumstances from the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA)

account of the Aviation Ministry and yet the ministry of Aviation is

saddled with a debt burden of N100Billion
Documents exclusively obtained by ORDERPAPER.NG indicate that at least

$23million (N3.4bn) of these removals were made between 2012 and 2014 when

Mrs. Stella Oduah held sway as minister of Aviation.

The pattern of withdrawals fell short of due process and arouse suspicions

as the account statements from the banks failed to indicate to whom the

moneys were paid and/or for what purposes.
In each case, the transactions were all carried out on a particular day in

different ranches (as indicated in the documents attached.)

The BASA account is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and is

operated through third party commercial banks in some cases. It is spent

only on approval from the president for intervention purposes usually

requested by the minister of aviation.
Sources say to facilitate the suspicious transactions on the fund, Oduah

allegedly built a web and network of loyalists and appointed cronies as

heads of various parastatals of the Aviation Ministry who continued to do

her bidding even out of office.
These cronies, according to sources withdrew $9.2million in December 2014

and another $4.1million in June, 2015, one month after the President

Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was inaugurated.

When ORDERPAPER.NG contacted Mr. Osita Chidoka, Oduah’s successor as

minister, if he directed any withdrawal from the account, this is how he

replied: “Thanks for asking. I believe the ministry will have the details

of expenditure from all its accounts. I don’t have any details to provide.

Feel free to contact me if you require any clarifications.”

Did President Buhari approve any withdrawal from BASA account in June?

When ORDERPAPER.NG contacted Special Adviser to the President on Media and

Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina on this question, he referred our reporter to

the Ministry for details.
But former Permanent Secretary in charge of Aviation, Binta Bello said

funding for aviation projects halted once Oduah was removed as minister.

“Since she left, these intervention funds stopped,” she said at a meeting

with the senate committee on Aviation November 3, 2015.

However, findings by ORDERPAPER.NG showed that the BASA funds continued to

be accessed severally even when Oduah had left office.

Details of the June 2015 transactions on the BASA Account domiciled at the

London branch of First Bank revealed that six successive withdrawals

totalling $4,140,309.25 were made on June 29, 2015. A breakdown of the

withdrawals is as follows: $2,057,536.64; $88,866.18; $1,688,457.45;

$88,866.18; $108,291.40; and $108,291.40.
In December 2014, over $9m was removed from the BASA account through the

First Bank London branch on the 10th day of the month in tranches of five

successive withdrawals.
Attempts to get the Director-General of the NCAA, Mr. Muhtar Usman to

explain these withdrawals were futile as he did not respond to phone calls

and text messages sent to his phones.
The NCAA is the statutory signatory to the BASA account.

Like previous other questionable withdrawals, the account statement for

the month of June did not give details of who specifically collected the

monies nor stated the purpose for the withdrawals as it simply said

‘payment as per instruction’ in each case.

Findings by ORDERPAPER.NG indicated that under Oduah as minister, the BASA

fund was accessed severally even when contractors were being owed for

projects purportedly undertaken and for which the ministry continued to

pile debts.
Ms Bello had put the total debt by the ministry at N100billion shortly

before the new minister, Mr. Hadi Sirika assumed office.

In another suspicious transaction, a statement of the BASA account for the

month of February 2013 when Oduah was in office showed that some

$13.4million was collected same day on the 4th of February 2013 in

tranches of four withdrawals which failed to indicate the direct

beneficiary or purpose for which the payments were made as the remark on

each withdrawal simply read “Payment as Per Your Instruction.”

Beside using BASA funds supposedly for airports remodelling projects, the

Federal Executive Council approved N20bn worth of contracts for the

ministry under Oduah in 2013.
Although ORDERPAPER.NG could not confirm if full payments were made,

investigations so far indicate that the contracts may have simply been

conduit pipes for corruption since most of the projects were unexecuted

and yet the ministry remains indebted to the tune of N100billion.

It is in the light of these questionable deals that Mrs. Oduah may have

lobbied her way to be a member of the Senate Aviation Committee which

oversights the ministry and parastatals under it.
When contacted for clarifications Mrs, Oduah rained invectives on our

reporter over the phone, accusing him of blackmail and threatening to

“fight you social media people with the last drop of my blood.”

She said: “I will sue you. I have two online publishing that I fund.

Before when I was in government I took those rubbish, but this time I

won’t take this rubbish. Go ahead and publish. I am not afraid. It is

untrue and unfair. I have served this country. I don’t deserve this. I

will fight you to the finish. I will fight you with the last drop of my

blood.”
In all her tantrums, Mrs. Oduah failed to address the specific questions

for which she was contacted.
Recall that Oduah was sacked from office in February 2014 after the House

of Representatives and a presidential panel both indicted her in the

N225million BMW cars scandal which had attracted huge public opprobrium to

the Goodluck Jonathan administration. She won a seat into the senate in

the 2015 general election.
Mrs. Oduah’s response to a simple journalistic inquiry as dictated by the

ethics of the profession elicited threats to deal with the reporter

through extra-legal means.
For the sake of clarity, this is the text message our reporter sent to

her: “Hello Sen. Oduah, We are in possession of documents of how some

$122m was removed from the BASA Account in the CBN/First Bank

(100367-USD-CLBANK-16) during your tenure as minister. Also at least N20bn

contracts approved by FEC under your tenure failed or were phony projects

for which payments were allegedly made. Your reaction pls.”

We wish to state that ORDERPAPER.NG operates strictly within the tenets

and ethics of responsible journalism guided by objectivity, balance and

fair hearing. We would NEVER engage in deliberate falsehood or blackmail

as Mrs. Oduah alleged in her wild response. We state unequivocally that

none of our reporter has ever met, received nor solicited from Mrs. Oduah

as she hysterically suggested in her vitriolic monologue over the phone.

We challenge her to prove otherwise.
While we have no reservations should she choose to pursue her rights

within the limits of the law, we would however not be blackmailed from

doing our job; not even by threats to life. Our investigations into the

N20bn failed contracts and other suspicious deals under her watch as

minister continue and will publish our reports in due course.

Courtesy: Orderpaper.ng