Nov. 8, 2013
The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has recommended the removal of Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah over extra-budgetary spending including the purchase of N255 million bulletproof cars, DailyTrust can report.
The 2013 budget approved N240 million for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the purchase of 27 vehicles, but Oduah raised it to N643 million for 54 vehicles including two bulletproof cars.
A copy of the report seen by our reporters yesterday indicted Oduah for ‘violating the law’ by approving expenditure above the ministerial threshold of N100 million.
Oduah was grilled last Thursday by the aviation committee over monetary approvals for the purchase of cars by the NCAA including two armoured cars allegedly for her use.
The minister is also to appear before the Senate committee on aviation today over the same matter.
The House committee report said having accepted that she actually approved the request for the purchase of 54 cars for the NCAA worth N643 million against the approved N240 million by the National Assembly, Oduah also violated the appropriation act.
The report described as ‘flimsy’ the excuse by Oduah that she asked the NCAA to “Kindly do the needful,” after she had given approval.
The report said the contract for the car purchase did not follow due process as ‘certificate of no objection’ from the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) was not obtained.
On the basis of the above arguments, the committee recommended that the minister be removed from office forthwith.
The report also indicted former acting Director General of the NCAA, Joyce Nkemakolom, for inflating the contract sum, observing that the initial request letter to the minister was for N564 million, but it was jerked up to N643 million when the loan for the car purchase was finally taken from First Bank.
The report further said there was no evidence that the contract was advertised in the media, thus accused the former NCAA acting DG of lying to the panel and Nigerians for saying it was publicised.
The report therefore recommended that appropriate sanctions be taken against Nkemakolom in accordance with civil service rules.
Also, the report faulted the N10 million waivers granted by finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala when there was no practical evidence to show that the beneficiary fulfilled all the requirements for waiver. It also questioned Okonjo-Iweala’s powers to approve such waiver.
Coscharis Motors which is the supplier of the armoured cars is also indicted by the report for not only lying to the committee but also misleading the National Security Adviser (NSA) into believing that the cars were supplied for the Lagos State government for Eko 2012 Sports Festival when there was no such arrangement with Lagos government.
It also accused Coscharis of conniving with NCAA officials to inflate the cost of the armoured cars, even though the whole transaction was done contrary to laid down laws.
She said the vehicles were provided for in the NCAA 2013 appropriation approved by the National Assembly and that they were not bought for her but for the operations of the NCAA.
Oduah had said: “After the purchase on a 3-year lease financing arrangement, the vehicles were never delivered to me. The vehicles were also not registered in my name. All I did was to approve the request of the agency doing the needful as evidenced by my minutes on the letter dated 15th April.”
On the due process, she said: “Let me reiterate that from the records available to me, it would appear that the NCAA followed the due process required. I have been made to understand that there exists no guidelines issued by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) on lease financing.”
The BPP had denied any knowledge of the transaction when it appeared before the committee about a fortnight ago.
The lawmakers had also insisted that they only approved N240 million for 25 operational vehicles for the NCAA in its 2013 budget.
NCAA had told the lawmakers that it bought the cars from Coscharis for its operations and inspection of perimeter fences in the 22 airports across the country based on lease financing agreement it entered with First Bank Plc which is financing the transaction.
However, First Bank told the committee that based on its agreement with NCAA, the bank was told that the cars were purchased for use by management staff. The bank added that it was an auto loan agreement it entered with NCAA and not lease financing.
Similarly, Deputy Controller General of Customs in charge of modernisation, research and economic relations, Manasa Daniel Jatau, told the committee that the said armoured cars were imported along with others last year in the name of Lagos State government for the 18th National Sports Festival.
He revealed that Coscharis Motors had obtained a duty exemption letter from the minister of finance instructing it to forego the supposed N10.133 million payable at the time.
Okonjo-Iweala also told the committee on Monday that the waiver exemption was for Lagos State government on 300 cars, but that there were no armoured bulletproof cars among them.
Coscharis Motors had through its managing director Josiah Samuel said the price of each of the two armoured cars was €418,000, adding that due process was followed in acquiring them. He said an approval letter for their importation was obtained from the NSA.
However, the NSA letter of approval obtained by our reporters showed that the amount quoted for the armoured cars was put at $223,653.48 for three units with their chassis numbers given as DW68047, DW68044 and DW68032, but one of those inspected by the lawmakers bore chassis number DW68011.