Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah
Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the N255m bulletproof cars purchased for the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
In a resolution in Abuja, the lawmakers, who just reconvened after the Sallah break, gave their Committee on Aviation one week to conduct the probe.
The lawmakers were angry as they debated the controversial car purchase, which came under matters of urgent public importance.
The Minority Whip, Sampson Osagie, an All Progressives Congress member from Edo State, sponsored the motion.
Leading the debate at the session presided over by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, Osagie observed that the action of the minister and the NCAA had raised doubts over the “sincerity of the Federal Government to fight corruption.”
He noted that the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission spelt out the entitlements of all public officers, which Oduah was already enjoying as a minister.
Osagie added that the investigation should address the following:
• Whether it is correct that the purchase (of the cars) was made or not ;
• Whether the purchase was authorised by any appropriation law or not;
• Whether the NCAA has been complying with Fiscal Responsibility Act on Internally-Generated Revenue or not;
• Whether the minister is entitled to such vehicles under any law in Nigeria or not;
• Whether (if the answer to question two above is in the negative), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and all anti- graft agencies are not bound to investigate and prosecute all those involved or not.
• Whether (if question two above is correct), the President can continue to retain the services of the minister and all those involved in the matter or not.
Osagie told the House that the rest of the world would laugh at Nigeria as a country whose universities had been shut for months owing to funding issues, yet its minister could afford the luxury of two BMW bulletproof cars worth N255m.
Supporting Osagie’s motion, a Peoples Democratic Party member from Benue State, Hassan Saleh, recalled that the NCAA had already admitted purchasing the cars.
He said, “There is no doubt that the cars were bought. The Director-General of the NCAA confirmed it.
“The question now is whether the cars are the priority of this country and the NCAA or not.
“This is the same agency that is unable to pay some of its workers basic allowances.”
Also, Emma Jime, another PDP lawmaker from Benue State, said he tried to establish a connection between the purchase of “the armoured cars” and the duties of the Ministry of Aviation but could not.
“The investigation is necessary; it is timely. We cannot watch our resources misused at the detriment of national security,” an angry Jime advised.
A member of the Committee on Aviation, Mr. Matthew Omegara, informed the House that the committee sighted the proposal to buy the cars in the 2013 budget of the NCAA, but rejected it.
He expressed shock that the agency went ahead to indulge in extra-budgetary expenditure by spending money that was not approved by the National Assembly.
Omegara said, “I am a member of the committee on Aviation.
“I can confirm that we deleted this issue of cars from the budget of the NCAA.
“It was clearly deleted from the agency’s budget .”
However, as more members fumed over the development, Tambuwal intervened to douse tension.
He called for caution, advising his colleagues not to rush into conclusions until the investigation had been conducted.
The speaker said, “This is an investigation; we have to be careful to avoid being judgmental.
“Let the committee go ahead and conduct the investigation.”
The House also passed another resolution seeking to investigate why Qatar Air was denied the right to land in Kano and Abuja airports.
The sponsor of the motion, Mr. Ali Madaki, had alleged that the Ministry of Aviation gave the airline the option of landing in Enugu and not Kano or Abuja.
He claimed that this was a deliberate move to stifle commercial activities in the northern states.
Both matters were referred to the House Committee on Aviation.
In the Senate, the Chairman of its Committee on Aviation, Hope Uzodinma, explained that the embattled Oduah and heads of agencies under her supervision, did not appear before the Senate on Tuesday because his committee had yet to invite her.
Uzodinma told journalists after Tuesday’s plenary that the Senate had just approved the votes and proceedings of its sitting on October 8, where members unanimously agreed to summon Oduah over the crisis in the aviation industry.
He said, “With the approval of the votes and proceedings of the last Senate session today (Tuesday), containing the summoning of the minister, our committee will now meet within this week to fix the exact date, to invite the minister and other relevant aviation chiefs for questioning on the troubled sector.”
On why the Senate was allegedly foot-dragging on the bulletproof cars scandal, the senator said, “As the chairman of the Senate committee on aviation, I have read a lot on the issue in the media and I believe other members of the committee are also up to date on it.
“However, we cannot jump into the fray like that based on media information alone without properly checking our records for facts and figures on whether the alleged vehicles bought were appropriated for, or not by the agencies that purchased them.”