ABUJA-MINISTER of Aviation,Princess Stella Oduah Thursday told members of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation that the alleged purchase of N255million BMW armoured cars were not bought for her personal use.
Oduah who astonished stakeholders with this disclosure at the investigative hearing on the issue in her 12 page presentation said:
“As you all are aware, what necessitated this public hearing were the events that followed a false and malicious online publication that I had compelled the NCAA to purchase for me 2 nos BMW bullet proof cars at the cost of $1.6million. ”
“Let me state emphatically that from the onset that the allegation concerning the purchase of the 2 nos bullet proof cars for me by the NCAA is false in its entirety. ”
After reading her presentation, Rep Zakari Lafia Mohammed asked her whether it is a loan or lease that her agency obtained from FBN, she said it is the same. She said the money NCAA would pay would still be below the N240million at the end of the year.
On whether she acted within the ambit of the law in giving approval beyond N100 million , she said she approved the money and asked the NCAA to do the needfull.
What is the needfull?
The Committee and the minister disagreed on what do the needfull meant.
She had claimed that in her approval she said kindly do the needfull.
Rep Mohammed took on her that saying the needfull means a go ahead to implement.
Responding, Oduah said”no you are wrong on that the needfull does not mean full approval. ”
The NCAA DG Folu Akinkuotu was asked whether he did the needfull, he said he was not In-charge at NCAA when the order was given for the purchase.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry, George Ossi was tackled for misleading the minister by not appropriately advising her.
The committee said the permanent secretary ought to have asked the NCAA to do the right thing.
The PS claimed that due diligence ought to have been done by the agency before applying for the approval.
He claimed that he was not available at the time everything happened .
The DG said he would have followed the procurement Act if he were the one the directive was given to do the needfull.
He said the acting DG Joyce Daniel Nkemakolam ought to explain why he did not do that.
Nkemakolam said we interpreted the directive to mean to go through it in line with the procurement Act. He said they did the due diligence but they had a mindset that they were within the budget limit.
But he was asked why he didn’t do due diligence to ensure that it was in tandem with the procurement law, he said he thought since the agency had got the approval of the National Assembly there was no need for such diligence.
He was asked why he initiated a memo to approve 54 vehicles when what the National assembly approved was 25 vehicles.
He was reminded that what was approved was N240million and not N643million.
NCAA was asked whether the board sought approval of the president to approve the car loan. Nkemakolam said he was working on the mindset that they were still within the approved limit.
He said that what NCAA discussed with First bank was a lease. He was asked the date the board of NCAA approved the loan facility.
The DG was asked how many trainings did he organise for NCAA staff , he said he relied on experts.
He said that his mindset has always being that they did not exceed the amount approved.
He was asked whether the NCAA board approved the money.
He said the NCAA has interim board. He said that he was working on account that it was a lease not loan.
The drama continued with Rep Manwe asking the former DG of NCAA to disclose who uses the controversial bullet proof cars since the Minister bluntly confessed that they were not bought for her use.
“Who is using the vehicles now since the Minister said they were not purchased for her?” he asked.
To the DG, that was one question that got him jolted. Minutes passed before he could provide an answer. And when he finally found his voice, he said “Anybody can use the vehicles when they are in the pool. They are operational vehicles.”
But the Lawmaker wouldn’t give up. He continued with a rider to the question.
“Do you mean that a messenger or cleaner in the agency can use the cars?” He asked.
At this juncture, the hearing room became deadened in silence with the DG losing his voice for the second time.
And when again, he found it, he answered this way: “those categories of vehicles are for VIPs which include the Minister, including you, the Honorable.”
Just then a blast of laughter erupted in the hall which to some extent provided some comic relief to everyone in the hall.
But Rep Manwe wouldn’t stop. He asked again, “can we have the log book of the movement of the car?
With a subdued babbling voice which came in separate minutes, the DG answered ” I am not a transport officer. I don’t know whether they are still keeping those log books.”
When it now became obvious that the DG was exhaustive of all the answers he had, the Lawmakers mandated the agency to bring the man who received the vehicles at the point of delivery by Coscharis Motors.
With that, the hearing came to a close.
In her closing remark, the chairperson, Onyejeocha assured Nigerians that justice would be done to the report of the hearing.
“Fact speak for itself. We have tried to listen to people: Coscharis, the Minister, NCAA, First Bank , BPP and Customs, and we have their submissions with us. We will consider what we have whether it is in line with the extant laws and financial regulations.
We assure everyone and all Nigerian that we will do justice to this hearing,” Onyejeocha said.
Speaking with some Journalists shortly after the hearing, the Minister, Oduah expressed gratitude to the National Assembly for giving her an opportunity to present her own side of the story.