Those who are saying I should be removed are wasting their time, it is just beer parlour talk; this minister is here today, tomorrow and day after—Stella Oduah, Sunday 26 January, 2014.
That was a boastful former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah at a recent “Aviation Masterplan Workers’ Buy in” programme held at the Grand Ballroom of Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lekki.
The 3-day event had in attendance top management staff of the main parastatals in the ministry as well as a few others drawn mainly from her committee of friends carried over from the infamous “Neighbour-to-Neighbour” campaign group. Remember; the faceless group at the fore front of the campaign for Jonathan presidency the first time?
Some of those in attendance even quoted her to have added; “yes, I may not have gone to school, but I have native intelligence.” Hmmmm!
The sack last week of arguably one of the most powerful members of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government came as a huge surprise to not just a few Nigerians. The way and manner Madam Stella was conducting herself and the affairs of the Ministry of Aviation with near total impunity without even a mere rebuke from the presidency in spite of public outcry, gave little room to doubt that nothing, absolutely nothing, could touch her as long as Jonathan remains Nigeria’s president.
Unlike that Ghanaian former female cabinet Minister that boasted that her mission in government was to make a few millions of dollars, a comment she was later to regret as she was promptly fired by the Ghanaian president, (for even harbouring the thought) Stella Oduah had reportedly said and done worse than that and nothing happened to her until last week.
If truly she “may not have gone to school but have native intelligence”, little wonder then that she could not comprehend the enormity of the assignment given to her by the president, hence she ran the Ministry of Aviation based on how far her native intelligence could take her. Like a market woman put in charge of a hi-tech industry, Madam Stella did not know her right from left and presided over Nigeria’s aviation industry in the typical Oyingbo market woman style.
Before I am crucified for saying this, let me make it clear that I am not a novice in aviation and count myself as one of those Nigerian journalists well informed about aviation matters worldwide, especially the Nigerian aviation industry, having spend over a decade actively covering aviation as a correspondent and still involved in the industry somehow.
We’ve never had it so bad in the industry in Nigeria. Forget about the so called airport remodeling projects of Stella Oduah, those are just cosmetics, which only a market woman awash with cash and obsessed with ‘show off’, the ‘Sisi Eko’ mentality would readily indulge in. The tendency, when you have so much cash and not accountable to anybody, to build houses all over the place and acquire properties, without any thought of how to adequately equip and maintain them to make them continually functional. That in summary is the mentality behind the airport remodeling projects as far as I am concerned.
Of what use is a ‘beautiful’ terminal building where the conveniences are not working or in constant good order; where uninterrupted power cannot be guaranteed; where pilfering goes on unabated? By the way an airport is not just the terminal building, it is more than that. What is the state of the navigational equipments at these remodeled airports? If the terminal building is the most beautiful and most modern in the world but the airfield is 19th century technology, you have done nothing but build a modern palace equipped with pit latrine.
Well, the jury is still out on Stella’s airports.
What is most disturbing is the financial management style of Madam Stella and the source or sources of the funds used for her airport projects in particular. It is alleged that not less than N150 million is taken by the Ministry of Aviation under Madam Stella’s watch, every month from the account of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), one of the agencies under the ministry. This is a serious allegation that requires urgent investigation by all the anti graft agencies of the Federal Government to confirm or disprove.
Nothing is proven yet and Madam Stella is not guilty, cannot be guilty until proven guilty. It is a good thing that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says the matter of the N225 million bullet proof limousine scandal involving NCAA and linking the former Minister is still being investigated.
You remember the BMW cars, two of them, allegedly bought by the NCAA for the exclusive use of Madam Oduah? Why the former Minister made spirited efforts to distance herself from the scandal insisting she directed the parastatal in question to do the needful, the House of Representatives found out that her hands were not clean in the matter while a presidential panel equally indicted her.
That President Goodluck Jonathan found the courage to kick Madam Stella out, or forced her to resign is commendable, even though belated. But having gone this far, the president must take the next step and ensure that she is investigated by the relevant agencies of government and prosecuted for whatever offence she might have committed while in government, especially financial crimes as being alleged.
It might not be a bad idea to conduct a forensic examination of the financial dealings and records of the Ministry of Aviation and its parastatals under Madam Stella Oduah, just to put the records straight. Apart from the NCAA, the accounts of the other parastatals were equally raided by the Ministry under her watch, such that most, if not all were left with nothing other than enough to pay salaries. Even training allowances for staff on mandatory local and/or international training programmes, especially at NCAA could not be met became money had been sent to Abuja.
Trusting the EFCC to do a thorough job here is a bit risky. As the Senate has ordered in the case of the alleged missing money in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), forensic experts should be called in to look into Madam Stella’s book. A lot could be revealed. For instance there is this allegation that the former minister had squandered the funds realized under the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) Nigeria has with so many foreign countries. Some have said part of the money for her airport projects came from the BASA fund which under the law she had no power to spend. But some have equally alleged that the former Minister used her closeness to the President to cunningly get Dr Jonathan to sign a blank cheque for to spend BASA money. These are just allegations.
As Madam Stella is kicked out of office, she would be remembered not so much by her accomplishments/achievements, (if any, think there is a few) but by the politics of her action (the Rivers State aircraft issue), the arrogance of power she exhibited and the native intelligence that reflected in all her actions. But above all, she would be remembered as a round peg in a square hole. GOOD RIDDANCE Madam and over to you President Jonathan, let the needful be done in her case.