Stella Oduah in N18bn Aviation Scam
Documents have revealed how about $122million (N18.3bn) was withdrawn in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
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
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
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.