Nov. 29, 2013
PROTESTERS disrupted a Nigerian awards ceremony in central London last night expressing anger at the awarding of an honour to aviation minister Stella Oduah by the Global Peace Movement (GPM).
At a glitzy ceremony at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London, the GPM conferred awards on Ms Oduah, the Kaduna State governor Mukhtar Yero and Nnamdi Udoh, the managing director of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency. Halfway through the ceremony though, protests broke out as several protesters felt it was inappropriate to be honouring Ms Oduah.
Apart from the fact that Ms Oduah is under investigation over the purchase two bullet-proof BMW’s valued at $1.6m, protesters said she should also be held culpable for the recent spate of air crashes in Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan is under pressure to sack Ms Oduah over the car purchases, which were said to have been bought surreptitiously and she is due to face the Senate to answer questions about air safety.
Marian Awolowo of the campaign group Nigerian Global Awakening, one of the protesters who disrupted the ceremony, said: “The management of the aviation industry should be questioned because we have had a spate of air crashes recently and the minister is under investigation for fraud. With thousands of people still grieving, it is not the right time to be giving Stella Oduah a peace award and I told Mike Uyi to postpone it.
“It is very insensitive and an abuse to all the victims and their families of the Dana Air crash to be giving Ms Oduah a peace award of all things. We Nigerians are not that wicked, do not worship money that much and are not that low.”
Governor Yero was there in person to receive his award from the GPM president Michael Uyi but Ms Oduah and Mr Udoh sent representatives. Victor Oche Elias, Ms Oduah’s special adviser put up a spirited defence in support of his boss, saying she was not responsible for the accidents as they were mainly down to pilot error and added that the cars were bought for the safety of visiting dignitaries.
Mr Elias added: “I am a trained aviator myself and I can tell you that 70% of air accidents are down to pilot error. In the case of the Dana Air accident, the pilot knew there was a fault and should have returned to Abuja but continued flying on to Lagos because he wanted to catch a flight to India for a wedding.
“As per the cars, they are not for the minister’s personal use. Recently, the head of the International Civil Aviation Organisation visited Nigeria and refused to step out of the plane until a bullet proof car was provided for him.”
After a series of heated exchanges, the protesters were later removed on the instructions of the GPM president Mr Uyi and the awards ceremony continued. Mr Uyi said he was not bothered with the protests as the GPM investigates whoever it gives awards to properly and is always certain that they are deserving of such honours.
He added: “We are never perturbed because we always carry out a full investigation into a person before conferring an award upon them. The GPM is known to take risks in carrying out it assessments and we even went to Iraq to inspect their presidential palaces when it was claimed there were weapons of mass destruction there.”
Accepting his award, Governor Yero said he believed it was a vindication of what his administration is trying to achieve in Kaduna State by restoring peace and making it an investment destination. According to governor, his government is also trying to empower local people through youth and women’s programmes whereby they are given capital to start commercial operations.
Governor Yero added: “Kaduna is now an investment-friendly state in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, power, mining, solid minerals, housing and transportation. One of the things we have done is guarantee the safety of such investment and made the state a conducive environment for investors.”
According to the governor, he is also in London to discuss a £500m investment programme in the state agricultural sector by a British investor. He added that the state is making some progress because it is currently enjoying peace among the disparate religious and ethnic groups that make up its populace.