Bulletproof car scandal: Airline operators, others demand investigation
Some stakeholders in the aviation industry and civil society groups have called on the nation's anti-corruption agencies to investigate the purchase of two bulletproof vehicles for the Minister of Aviation, Mrs Stella Oduah.
The vehicles valued at a whopping $1.6m(about N225m) were said to have been delivered to Oduah in August by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
But the aviation industry stakeholders and the groups, in separate interviews with our correspondents on Thursday, said their calls for a probe were necessary in order to identify and prosecute those behind the controversial deal.
The aviation stakeholders are the Airline Operators of Nigerian and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria.
AON, through its Assistant General Secretary, Mr. Muhammed Tukur, described the purchase of the bulletproof cars as unfortunate, saying it showed the high level of corruption in Nigeria .
It said, 'This shows how bad things have gone in this country; that the minister has admitted to receiving the cars from the NCAA reveals that they do not care for the people of this country.
'We can see that all these people and parastatals use their offices to siphon funds for anything they want. We think there is no other option but for her (Oduah) to resign her appointment as the aviation minister.
'Also, we call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to thoroughly investigate the issue, because, some of us had foresight of these things, and we know that there are more coming up soon.'
The ATSSSAN said the 'necessary government agencies' should not hesitate to prosecute anyone found to have played a role in the purchase of the bulletproof cars.
'We have government agencies that can look into such issues as this such as the EFCC. So, these agencies should look into the matter, and if they find out that it is indeed true, they should take the appropriate action,' its National President, Mr. Ben Okewu, told one of our correspondents.
Also, WACI, through its Executive Director, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, argued that the procurement of the bulletproof vehicles showed the level of culture of impunity in the country.
It therefore called on the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies to conduct a holistic investigation into the issue with a view to prosecuting those found culpable in the Aviation ministry and the NCAA.
It said, 'If it is true that the NCAA bought the said bulletproof cars for that amount, because it is not the prerogative of the NCAA to do so, it shows the impunity in the society.
'Impunity is on the rise in this country; people do whatever they like.
'There should be a painstaking investigation of the NCAA and the ministry and anybody found culpable should be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others. The EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies should ensure that the matter is investigated thoroughly.'
On its part, CACOL noted that Oduah, in order to satisfy her ostentatious lifestyle, had by accepting the cars compromised the safety of Nigerians.
Its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, said, ' When the minister asked NCAA to buy her bulletproof cars worth $1.6m because of alleged threats to her life. Where did she expect them to get the money?
'She expected them to compromise standard of course. It is now clear that the frequent air accidents are products of corruption and incompetence in our aviation sector.'
It called on the anti-graft agencies to 'investigate the matter and prosecute anyone found to have abused their office.'
Also, a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Uche Onyeagucha, said the amount involved in the purchase of the cars for Oduah was beyond the approval limit of the minister and the NCAA.
This, according to him, calls for finding out if a request for the purchase of the vehicles was forwarded to the Federal Executive Council or not.
Onyeagucha said the number of past and present political office holders in the country using bulletproof cars was outrageous.
He urged Nigerian leaders to learn from the Mexico experience where most of the people using bulletproof cars had been killed.
The PUNCH learnt in Abuja that the NCAA also spent millions of naira on 13 Prado jeeps and 21 Corolla cars for its directors and general managers.
One of our correspondents gathered that the jeeps were bought for the directors and the corolla cars for the general managers.
A senior official of the agency who pleaded for anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press on the issue, admitted that the purchase of the cars and jeeps was an anomaly.
He however said it was a practice that was not confined to the aviation ministry alone.
The source said, 'I think that during the course of the purchase of the cars that the management decided to also get the bulletproof cars for the minister. However, some of the cars have not been given to their owners. They are still parked at the car lots.'
One of our correspondents gathered that some members of staff who felt they might be left out of the car bonanza leaked to the press, the information which was originally designed to be a petition to the EFCC.
When contacted, the spokesperson for the NCAA, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, confirmed that he was aware of the purchase of some cars by the authority.
He, however, declined comments when asked to name the beneficiaries and whether the agency was under any obligation to buy vehicles for the minister despite the fact that the ministry had its own budget.
The 2013 Budget of Aviation ministry revealed that there was no provision for the purchase of cars. About N4.2bn was budgeted for the maintenance of motor vehicles, transport and equipment; N1.2bn for the purchase of trucks and N100m was for staff buses (PUNCH)