Nigeria’s former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, has filed a lawsuit against the Economic and Financial crime commission (EFCC) to forestall the agency’s further investigation into her questionable procurement of two bullet-proof BMW cars at $800,000 a piece during her tenure in office. The lawsuit also seeks to stop the anti-corruption agency from possibly arresting her over the shady deal, first exposed by SaharaReporters.
In the lawsuit filed before Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Ms. Oduah joined the Attorney General of the Federation, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, and the Inspector General of Police as co-respondents.
The case, filed by Ajibola Oluyede, is based on an affidavit by Humphrey Enechukwu, the Director of Finance and Accounts at Sea Petroleum and Gas Company, on behalf of Ms. Oduah.
In the lawsuit, the former Aviation minister claimed that, during her tenure, her ministry resorted to approaching embassies to provide armored vehicles to carry their nationals who visited Nigeria as part of the investigation teams of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) inspection teams.
The affidavits stated that the 2013 budget appropriated funds to enable the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to buy two security vehicles, adding that the aviation agency then bought two armored BMW cars at the cost of N160 million via an equipment lease structured loan obtained from First Bank of Nigeria. The lawsuit stated that the vehicles were in the bank’s name until the loans were fully repaid over a period of three years.
SaharaReporters first broke the scandal of the armored cars after obtaining documents that showed each of the two cars cost $800,000. Car dealers in Europe and the US told our correspondent that the most expensive armored BMW would still cost significantly less than $300,000. “If somebody paid $800,000 for one, they overpaid by more than $500,000,” the owner of a BMW dealership in New York said.
Our investigation also disclosed that Coscharis Motors, which sold the two BMW cars to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, might not have supplied the cars at all. NCAA officials signed documents of receipt of the two cars without seeing the physical cars, our investigation revealed. During a series of legislative hearings in the National Assembly, Coscharis Motors and the NCAA could not provide the BMW cars matching the vehicle identification numbers indicated in the transfer documents signed by NCAA officials.
Ms. Oduah’s lawsuit stated that she has had two successors as ministers, adding that, despite alleged intensive scrutiny by law enforcement agencies, no evidence has been dug up that she committed any crimes during her tenure.
However, Mr. Enechukwu’s affidavit alleged that certain nebulous and faceless organizations had sponsored spurious petitions to the House of Representative and law enforcement agencies accusing her of all manner of crimes as minister. The affidavit asserted that one of the false allegations was that the armored vehicles were bought for her personal use.
According to the affidavit, the House of Representatives set up a committee headed by former Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, which sat four times to investigate the purchase of the two cars. It accused the legislative committee of disregarding the facts and proceeding to malign her by concluding that there was no provision for armored vehicles in Nigerian law for a minister.
The committee also determined that the said two cars must have been illegally imported into the country. According to the committee, documents that were meant to indicate import duty waiver could not be substantiated either by Customs officials or the Ministry of Finance. Mr. Tambuwal’s committee also found that due process was not followed in the entire transaction both by the Ministry of Aviation and NCAA.
The committee, which submitted its report while Ms. Oduah was still a minister, recommended that former President Goodluck Jonathan should fire her for violating appropriation guidelines by exceeding her approval limit of N100 million. The committee concluded that she authorized the purchase of 54 vehicles valued at N643 million.
Ms. Oduah, who is now a senator from Anambra State, sought Justice Yunusa’s intervention to ensure the protection of her fundamental right. Her lawsuit accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of seeking to repress her.
Her lawsuit urged the court to prohibit the respondents from inviting, arresting, or prosecuting her in respect to any allegation of corruption during her ministerial tenure.
Justice Yunusa adjourned the case till October 2, 2015 for hearing. He also ordered that all the court process should be served on the respondents. He further directed the respondents to stay all action in the matter pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.