MW 760 armoured vehicles: Controversy trails aviation minister’s cars purchase

National Mirror

 Oct 18, 2013 |

. Cash-strapped agencies buy over 800 vehicles in June . Minister’s armoured vehicles bought on credit . NCAA personnel embark on training with own money . NUATE, CACOL insist on probe

More facts emerged yesterday on the controversial two BMW 760 armoured cars recently procured for the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA.

National Mirror gathered that the two cars, procured at N255, 150,000 for the minister by the agency were on credit.

A source close to the Ministry of Aviation told our correspondent that First Bank of Nigeria Plc stood as a guarantor for the agency with Coscharis Motors Limited. More so, the document with the ref. number NCAA/DG/PROC/07/8/ COSCHARIS and dated August 13, 2013 and made available to our correspondent was signed for the NCAA Director-General, by the former acting director,Mr. Joyce Nkemakolam. The incumbent directorgeneral resumed in July.

Apart from the two armoured vehicles, NCAA and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, about four months ago purchased almost 800 different brands of vehicles, including Hilux Pick-Up for their top personnel and even the minister.

It was gathered that FAAN in the first phase procured over 250 vehicles for managers ranging from assistant general managers, deputy general managers, general managers and directors. 2013 Toyota Corolla cars were purchased for assistant general managers, deputy general managers and general managers while Land Cruiser Prado were purchased for directors in the agency.

In the second phase, same brands of vehicles in their hundreds were also purchased by FAAN for its personnel. Ditto for NCAA, which procured same brands of vehicles for its staff on credit, courtesy First Bank Nigeria Plc. However, union leaders in the country’s aviation industry have called on appropriate security agencies to investigate Oduah and her actions in the sector since she came onboard in July 2011. Besides, National Mirror gathered that since the agency procured the vehicles, it had not been able to meet its statutory obligations to most of its staff.

The agency is currently cash-strapped as it is unable to carry out trainings of its technical staff both in the country and abroad, but the director-general insisted NCAA was not broke.

Some of the agency’s personnel currently training in Manchester, United Kingdom, embarked on the training with their own funds while our correspondent also reliably gathered that even the current Director- General, NCAA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, presently spends his personal funds for most of the travels he does.

The letter to Coscharis Motors Limited reads in part: “Sequel to your perfoma invoices dated June 25, 2013, you are hereby required to deliver the 2No BMW760 armoured vehicles online with your invoices to Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Ikeja effect from tomorrow at a cost of N127, 575,000 each amounting to a total sum of N255,150,000.

“Please note that each of the vehicles should be delivered with appropriate spare keys as well as the following document bearing First Bank of Nigeria Plc/Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority: Sales invoices, Delivery notes and Attestation document.”

The two black BMW 760 Li Hss vehicles had chasis numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044. Besides, another document purportedly signed by a group known as The Patriots by one Rose Ibekaku and made available to our correspondent called for the immediate sack of the minister after accusing her of corruption, incompetence and negligence of duties.

Ibekaku in the letter to the Presidency accused Oduah of collecting N158 mmonthly from the accounts of aviation agencies like the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, NCAA, FAAN and other agencies under her.

Ibekaku in the petition alleged that the deductions had successfully crippled the operations of the agencies concerned to the extent that paying staff entitlements have recently become a herculean task. Oduah was also alleged to have a stake in Price Waters Coopers, PWC, which audited various aspects of four agencies at N250m each.

However, the Secretary General of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, Comrade Abdulkareem Motajo, said that what is happening in the sector now is not novel to the unions.

According to him, NUATE had severally in the past written petitions to the Presidency, National Assembly and other agencies without any action taken by the government.

He insisted that Oduah should not be removed, but should be probed by the security agencies in the country, alleging that the industry has been ran aground by the minister.

He said: “What is happening is part of what we have been saying in recent time. What is going on today is unprecedented. A lot of things are happening.

Somebody was talking about the diversion of N19.5bn intervention fund and somehow today, the security agencies are looking into that and the money has been traced to somewhere.

“But who is investigating the particular one that is happening now? Nobody. My union has written a petition to the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation over some of the ills happening in the sector till date and not even an acknowledgement was given and if this thing continues like this, you can be rest assured that the sector is not safe and the industry is going to be looted continuously like this.

“As we speak, none of the six parastatals have been able to send their staff for training and others.

They owe months of such allowances and leave allowances have not been paid to staff. They are just going from hand to mouth to pay salaries. The minister is taking over N150m per month from each of the Chief Executive Officers and on what grounds we don’t understand.

“Was the money used to buy the vehicles part of the budget? Did they take Federal Executive Council approval? We don’t know about this. Not eventhe National Assembly can question her.

She was appointed and not elected by the people of Nigeria, but she has become more powerful than the elected. “I just told somebody this morning, if care is not taken, we cannot last the next six months in this industry.

The industry will collapse and it will affect the lives of many people including the travelling public. “The record has it that FAAN alone bought over 200 cars recently and we know some of these cars were given to general managers and directors, but the fact is that how many directors and managers do they have in the agency?

We know those who were given in the industry and the rest were given to those that are unknown to the industry.

The same thing applies to other agencies. The chief executives have been caged and they can’t do anything.”

Contacted, the spokesman for NCAA, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, said he had nothing to say on the controversial issue. Speaking on phone with our correspondent, Ndubuoke said: “Excuse me, if you were in my position, I don’t think you will be commenting on this issue today. What else will I say? I can’t say anything that is contradictory to what the ministry has said.

I don’t think it’s fair to start reacting to what the ministry has already said.” Also, the Coordinating General Manager, Corporate Communications for Aviation Parastatals, Mr.Yakubu Dati declined to comment on the issue. When contacted on phone, he simply replied, “But, Joe Obi has already commented.”

When contacted, the spokesman for Oduah, Mr. Joe Obi, refused to pick his call. A text message sent to his mobile number was not responded to. But, Obi had on Thursday confirmed the purchase of the vehicles to the minister by the NCAA, saying that it was necessary for her safety.

Obi said that when the minister came on board with her reforms, which included reversing some concessions and agreements that were not in the interest of the people and government of Nigeria, “a lot of entrenched interests felt that they had been dislocated from the sector.

“The minister began to receive series of threats to her life, but because of the general lack of security in the land, she did not want to raise an alarm, but kept it quiet and then decided to protect herself. So those vehicles were purchased in response to the general state of security in the land and the personal threats to her life because of the giant steps she has taken to reposition the sector.”

He alleged that the minister had been trailed several times and that there were clear and present dangers to her life which were averted or neutralised. Meanwhile, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, has called on the anti- graft agencies to investigate Oduah over the purchase of the two bulletproof vehicles and prosecute anyone found to have abused his office.

CACOL in a statement made available to National Mirror yesterday by its Executive Chairman, Comrade Debo Adeniran, stated that the purchase of bulletproof cars has shown clearly that the frequent air accidents are products of corruption and incompetence in Nigeria’s aviation sector.

Adeniran said: “The chicken has now come home to roost. It is no longer surprising that the Minister could ascribe her incompetence to God.

When she asked the NCAA to get her bulletproof cars worth $1.6m (N255m) because of threats to her life, where did she expect them to get the money? She expected them to compromise standard of course! “It is now clear that the frequent air accidents are products of corruption and incompetence in our aviation sector.

This is the NCAA that does not have enough funds to upgrade its equipment, send its employees for critical training and hire enough qualified hands.

“The truth remains that if NCAA is doing a proper job and not collecting bribes to satisfy the ostentatious lifestyle of Ms. Stella Oduah, they would have been able to avert some of these accidents. With proper safety regulations in place, the frequency of air crashes can be drastically reduced.

An agency that cannot upgrade the skill of the staff and lack modern equipment to work with cannot ensure safety in our airspace.”

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