Culled from Sunday PUNCH
SOME civil society groups have said unless those found culpable in the N255m — armoured cars scandal rocking the Ministry of Aviation are investigated and prosecuted, they will take to the streets in mass protests.
The groups include the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, the Campaign for Democracy, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, the Joint Action Front, the Civil Liberties Organisation and the Committee for Democracy and Rights of the People.
In separate interviews with our correspondents on Friday, the groups said only a thorough investigation and prosecution of those indicted, including the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, would stop them from protesting.
The National Coordinator, CDRP, Mr. Amitolu Shittu, told one of our correspondents that civil society groups had met and had started mobilisation for a mass protest.
Shittu said with the way President Goodluck Jonathan handled previous cases of corruption and misappropriation of funds by public officials, he was not likely to punish Oduah, even if the probe panels indicted her.
He said, “From the look of things, it seems Jonathan is trying to exonerate her. But, we will not let that happen. There was a meeting in Osogbo by the civil society groups two days ago on this issue. We discussed, argued on it and we decided that we are fighting these people to a standstill. We are not keeping quiet on this.
“As part of the plan, there will be protest, but we want to come out unannounced. We are not afraid of arrest and detention. We will not announce the date of the protest because we don’t want hoodlums in government and those on the streets to take advantage of this.”
Shittu added that apart from demanding the sacking and prosecution of Oduah, the planned protest would be in solidarity with the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
“Mobilisation is ongoing. Some people are in schools making adequate preparations because we are in support of ASUU. It would be a combined protest, both to show support for ASUU and also protest against that woman (Oduah). It’s going to be a very strong protest,” he said.
Similarly, the Executive Chairman, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said, “We have written to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission; we submitted the letter on Wednesday and we gave them seven days. After that expiration, CACOL is taking its independent action.
“We are going to hit the roads to protest the issue.”
In her submission, the President, CD, Joe Okei-Odumakin, said impunity should not be encouraged. She described Oduah’s trip to Israel for pilgrimage in the heat of the crisis as an affront to Nigerians. She said it showed the aviation minister was not remorseful and not in tune with the masses.
Okei-Odumakin said although Oduah had the right to fair hearing, she, however, said the panel set up by President Jonathan was only for “administrative purposes.”
The CD President said the group would take to the streets, if the investigation panel was found wanting.
The Executive Director, SERAP, also said Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group was waiting for President Goodluck Jonathan’s action on Oduah’s response to the query issued to her.
He said the group was also waiting for the outcome of the probe by a presidential panel.
Mumuni said, “We’ll support whatever other civil rights organisations are ready to do in respect of the matter (scandal). We may take it a little bit further by filing a court action, once we are able to make up our mind on the substance of the case before the court.
“If no action is taken by the President, we may be compelled to go to court.”
Likewise, the Executive Director, CLO, Mr. Ibuchukwu Ezike, said the group would take necessary actions, if the Federal Government failed to punish all those indicted in the scam, including Oduah.
“The President has set up a committee to investigate the matter and the House has asked its committee to look into the matter. One thing we know is that Nigerians are not happy with this and we will not allow them to sweep it under the carpet.”