Embattled Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, on Thursday defended the purchase of two bulletproof BMW cars at the cost of $1.6 million (N255 million), insisting that the Frist Bank Plc. provided the financing for them.
The Minister also insisted that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) acted within the provisions of the law in securing the bank’s financing for the controversial cars.
Appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, the minister said the cars were not bought for her.
Her words: “The title documents which are in the names of NCAA/First Bank Plc. as well as spare keys of all the vehicles purchased under the lease financing arrangement are currently with First Bank of Nigeria Plc. as is the case with such arrangement and best practice.
However, her testimony runs contrary to that of the Bureau of Public Procurement, which has said that NCAA failed to follow due process in the purchase of the cars.
“The two numbers security and safety BMW vehicles, which the NCAA acquired are for security and safety as appropriated by the National Assembly in the 2013 budget in item six,” she said.
News of the purchase of the bulletproof has been generating condemnation, forcing President Goodluck Jonathan to raise a three-man panel to investigate the matter.
“Honourable members, another falsehood in the public domain relating to this lease financing arrangement are that the NCAA purchased two bulletproof vehicles for me as the Honourable Minister of Aviation. This is totally false,” the minister explained.
“We reiterate that the NCAA purchased two numbers security vehicles for the operations of NCAA in line with monies approved for the NCAA under the appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly.
“Honourable chairman, as we are all aware, what necessitated this public hearing were the events that followed as false and malicious online publication that I had compelled the NCAA to purchase for me two BMW bulletproof cars at the cost of 1.6 million dollars.
“Let me state, emphatically from the onset that the allegation concerning the purchase of two numbers bulletproof cars for me by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority is false in its entirety.
“Sadly, other than the conjecture, the publication has not supported this inflammatory statement with any rational basis.
“As a matter of fact, their justification and confirmation which they brandish, is nothing but erroneous responses of my aides,” the minister said.
She said that the claim was an orchestrated attempt to discredit her and her team in the good work she had done to transform the aviation sector.
On whether NCAA spent monies not proved by the Appropriation Act of 2013, Oduah explained that NCAA, conscious of its enforcement roles, always obeyed rules and regulations of government.
“Honourable chairman, NCCA, as a result of the daily interaction with the law in its regulatory and enforcement roles, is at all times and in all matters conscious of its obligations of complying with the law and all extant rules and regulations of government,” the minister said.
“The NCAA is therefore conscious of its obligations relating in particular to appropriation and will never spend monies that have not been appropriated by the National Assembly,” she said.
The minister also said: “It is in this regard, therefore, that NCAA, within the framework of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, approved by the National Assembly as a planning tool, planned its budget.
“This is with regard to acquisition of operational and other security and safety vehicles for the next three years,’’ Oduah said.
She said NCAA was “in a manner compliant with Section 80 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Oduah said, “the section prohibits the spending of monies from any fund of the federation except as appropriated by the National Assembly.”
She, however, apologised to the committee, for her inability to appear before it initially, adding that her action was not intended to disrespect the committee but necessitated by her official engagement in Israel.
When the legislators reminded the minister that her approval limit as provided by the law, was N100 million but that she approved over N500 million for the purchase of vehicles by NCAA in violation of the law.
She denied violating the law in any way, noting that her actions were within the provisions of the law.
In his presentation, the former Acting Director-General of NCAA, Mr. Joyce Nkemakolam, who supervised the purchase of the cars, said that he did not violate the Appropriation Act 2013.
Members of the committee had accused Nkemakolam of violating the 2013 Appropriation Act.
The committee noted that whereas N240 million was provided for NCAA to buy 25 operational vehicles, the agency bought 54 vehicles at a total cost of N643 million.
But Nkemakolam insisted that it was a lease agreement that the NCAA entered into with First Bank to buy the vehicles.
In her remark, the Chairman of the committee, Nkiruka Onyejiocha, said that the committee had given fair hearing to all the invited agencies and persons.
She gave an assurance that the committee would “do justice to the report of the investigation.”