The minister of Aviation Mrs Stella Oduah said the two armoured cars purchased by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority NCAA were not for her afterall.
The minister who appeared the House of Representatives Committee investigating the controversial purchase of two bulletproof cars at the cost of N255 million described as false and malacious the allegations that she compelled NCAA to buy the cars for her.
Oduah argued the vehicles were not registered in her name. She faulted claims that the NCAA purchased vehicles worth N643m, saying that so far, the agency had only spent N52m in the procurement of operational and security vehicles, in a lease arrangement that was in line with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and spread across three years.
Oduah who appeared calm and unruffled during the defence said, by December 2013, the NCAA would have expended N100m on the deal instead of N116m, because of a discount it obtained from the bank.
“Let me state emphatically from the onset, that the allegation concerning the purchase of two numbers bulletproof cars for me by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is false in its entirety,” she declared.
Adding: “It is not true that the NCAA has spent such amount of money on purchase of vehicles. It is also not true that the NCAA has purchased two bulletproof BMW vehicles for the honourable minister of aviation.”
She further explained that the cars were bought through a lease financing arrangement with First Bank Plc. She said, “Another falsehood in the public domain relating to this lease financing arrangement is that the NCAA purchased two bulletproof vehicles for me as the honourable minister of aviation. This is totally false. The two numbers security safety BMW vehicles, which the NCAA acquired, are for security and safety, as appropriated by the NASS in the 2013 budget in item 6. The title documents, which are in the names of NCAA/First Bank Plc, as well as spare keys of all the vehicles purchased under the lease financing arrangements are currently with the First Bank of Nigeria, plc., as is the case with such arrangements and best practice.
“We reiterate that NCAA has not spent any money appropriated by the National Assembly. Indeed what they have spent so far on all the vehicles acquired through the lease financing arrangement with First Bank of Nigeria plc., is N52m. By so doing, they have saved the nation cost and the possible embarrassment that may arise if the events we have pointed out earlier were to occur.”
She also denied allegations that she violated the constitution in approving a contract worth N643m, which is beyond her N100m limit, the minister explained that although she did sign the document, she asked the NCAA to ensure that due process was followed before it was implemented.
“All I did was to approve the request of the agency, subject to the agency doing ‘the needful’, as evidenced by my minutes on the letter dated 15th April, 2013. On the procurement for the lease agreement for the acquisition of the vehicles, let me reiterate that from the records available to me, it would appear that the NCAA followed the due process required by law,” she told the panel.
She said the allegations were spearheaded by people who were in opposition to the ministry’s fight against “rot and corruption” in the sector. When asked by the committee if he did ‘the ‘needful’ by ensuring that due process was complied with, former acting Director General of NCAA, Mr Joyce Nkemakolam, who was asked by the present DG, Mr Femi Akinkuotu, to answer the question, said he assumed that the minister meant that due process should be followed “and that is what the procurement department did”.
Said he: “We were of the mindset that we had already gotten approval of the National Assembly and not gone outside the approval because of the leasing agreement, because the mindset was that we were still within the limit of the approval,” Nkemakolam explained.
He said the armoured cars are in the ministry’s fleet of cars, “and anyone can use them”.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Nkiruka Onyejiocha, assured that the committee’s report would be based on facts and evidence before it, as all the parties that made presentations would be treated fairly and justly.