President Goodluck Jonathan and Stella Oduah
By SaharaReporters, New York
The disclosure came from a source familiar with the president’s efforts to tailor the committee's work towards a conclusion that minimizes the minister’s responsibility for the scandalous deal.
SaharaReporters broke the news that Ms. Oduah had pressured the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority to take out a loan from First Bank of Nigeria to buy the two overpriced cars. Apart from the outlandish cost of the cars, investigations by SaharaReporters as well as various committees of the National Assembly have raised serious doubt that the cars were ever delivered, even though the NCAA paid fully for them. In fact, SaharaReporters was told by two sources that Ms. Oduah received a kickback of N112 million on each of the two cars.
Our source said the Presidency was bent on teleguiding the committee investigating the armored car scandal to blame a few officials of the NCAA for allegedly “misguiding the minister.”
Our source said that Mr. Jonathan, contrary to the impression he gave in public, is hell bent on absolving the minister of any blame as well as retaining her as minister. He disclosed that the so-called presidential probe panel met two days ago and was urged by the Presidency to recommend the firing of a former NCAA director, Joyce Nkemakolam, but to absolve the minister of any blame for the scandalous purchase of the two BMW armored cars that cost the NCAA N255 million ($1.6 million).
Our source added that the president was intent on allowing Ms. Oduah to oversee the completion of a series of airport renovation projects across the country, even though some aviation insiders have questioned the costs of the projects as well as the bidding procedures used by the minister in awarding the contracts.
One sign that President was applying pressure in favor of Ms. Oduah emerged today as the Nigerian Senate shelved its earlier decision to have the minister appear before senators today to discuss recent air mishaps, the safety of the Nigerian airspace, and the BMW car purchase. In a move that stunned the public, Senate President David Mark approved a strange motion to rescind the decision to invite Ms. Oduah to appear before the Senate. Instead, she is now to appear only before the Senate’s aviation committee.
This about-face comes as the aviation committee had suddenly and inexplicably stopped its probe of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), another aviation agency under Ms. Oduah’s ministry. Investigations had revealed that FAAN also obtained a loan from First Bank of Nigeria to purchase two exorbitant, bullet-proof Lexus Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for the use of the minister. Senator Hope Uzodinma, who heads the aviation committee, is known to be extremely close to the minister, and may have decided to shelve all investigations into her role in the car buying scandal.
Last week, the Senate suddenly cancelled a scheduled appearance of Ms. Oduah, offering the excuse that the Senate President, David Mark, would love to personally attend the hearing. A day before, Mr. Mark was suddenly tipped by President Jonathan to travel to Abu Dhabi to cheer the Nigerian Golden Eaglets to victory at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
SaharaReporters had earlier reported that the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who had traveled with Mr. Jonathan on a much-touted religious visit to Israel, had been recruited to handle the “reaching out” to lawmakers to persuade them to drop the idea of probing Ms. Oduah. Our sources disclosed that both Ms. Oduah as well as the Presidency had provided bribe funds to enable Mr. Ekweremadu to neutralize lawmakers and scuttle any serious investigation.
In the end, it was only the aviation committee of the House of Representatives that conducted a public hearing. The committee’s report was submitted last week to the whole House, but was never released to the public. The plenary session of the House has so far failed to deliberate on the committee’s secret report.
The committee set up by President Jonathan was given two weeks to submit its final report. Although the committee’s deadline has long expired, its members have yet to submit a report. Colonel Sambo Dasuki (ret.), Mr. Jonathan’s National Security Adviser, is a member of the committee. He was also part of Mr. Jonathan's delegation to Israel.