Wednesday, November 6, 2013

BMW Scam: Oduah’s Lying Machine Still Roaring-PM News, Lagos

The last word is yet to be heard on the riveting BMW armoured car
scandal involving Nigeria's aviation minister, Princess Stella Oduah,
the National Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) and Coscharis Motors.
Later this week, the panel set up by President Goodluck Jonathan is
expected to submit its report, but the investigation by the House of
Representatives has gone much further, unearthing mind-blowing facts.
One of them was that the two BMW armoured cars sold to the NCAA by
Coscharis Motors were not on the list of 300 vehicles imported by
Coscharis for the use of Lagos State Government, as host of the 2012
National Sports Festival. The Finance Ministry gave duty waivers for
the 300 vehicles last year. This week, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
testified before the House panel that the waiver she gave did not
certainly cover the BMW cars.
Lagos State Government, embarrassed that its name was being mentioned
in the scandal, also issued a public statement explaining the
agreement it had with Coscharis Motors on vehicles to be supplied for
the 2012 Games.
The Government said it neither requested for, nor used bulletproof
vehicles BMW level 7 during the 18th National Sports Festival in the
State maintaining that it only requested for and got from Coscharis
regular saloon cars, four wheel drive vehicles and buses in its
capacity as official vehicle providers for the Sports festival.
A statement signed by the Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social
Development, Mr. Enitan Oshodi, said the State Government duly made a
request to President Goodluck Jonathan for waiver of destination
inspection charges and duty exemptions on 300 vehicles which were to
be used for the festival.
Giving a background to the provision of the vehicles for the Sports
Festival, the statement explained that following the offer of
sponsorship of and provision of vehicles for the Festival by Coscharis
Nigeria Limited, the State Government made a formal request to the
President for waiver of destination inspection charges and duty
exemptions on 300 vehicles as requested by the sponsors which was
According to the statement, which sought to set straight "information
making the rounds with regards to the vehicles requested from and
supplied by Coscharis Nigeria Limited for use at the immediate past
18th National Sports Festival hosted by the Lagos State from November
27 to December 9, 2012", the request was duly granted by the President
leading to the issuance of a Certificate of Waiver in respect of the
duty payable on the importation of the cars, by Coscharis Nigeria
"The Lagos State Government would therefore like to put it on record
that documents exist to show the vehicles which were supplied and used
during the 18th NSF. The vehicles requested from Coscharis who were
Sponsors of the 18th NSF were limited to regular saloon cars, four
wheel drive vehicles and buses to convey the 14,000 athletes and
10,000 officials who attended the games", the statement said.
TheNEWS magazine in the following report, chronicles the various lies
that have been popping up since Oduahgate broke Official responses to
the car purchase scandal have been characterised by a mix of lies,
half-truths and distortions manufactured to save the skin of Ms.
Stella Oduah, Minister of Aviation
Aviation Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah, made her eagerly awaited
appearance before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation
last Thursday, where she presented her defence to the allegations of
corruption and abuse of office that have trailed her since 15 October.
That day, news website, Sahara Reporters, published documents
revealing the purchase of two bullet-proof vehicles by the Nigerian
Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, for her use at the hefty sum of N255
million. The cost of the cars provoked a nuclear blast of public
outrage, leading to calls for her sack or resignation from the cabinet
and invited the attention of the House Aviation Committee, which
wanted Oduah to explain the transaction.
The transaction started in June, but the request for delivery of and
payment for the two cars was fast-tracked between 13 and 15 August. It
involved the NCAA, First Bank of Nigeria and Coscharis Motors Limited.
Documents revealed how Nkemakolam, acting NCAA Director-General at the
time, sent a letter to the Managing Director of Coscharis Motors,
asking the company to deliver to the NCAA two BMW 760 armoured
vehicles based on a proforma invoice dated 25 June, at the cost of
N127,575,000 ($796,846.21) each.
That yielded an aggregate of N255,150,000 (about $1.6 million). The
NCAA letter directed Coscharis to deliver the vehicles with sales
invoices, delivery notes and attestation documents.
Documents revealed that the payment for the vehicles was made into a
First Bank of Nigeria account (number 2018912995 with sort code:
0111152303), according to a letter signed by Godwin Umeaka, Coscharis
Group's financial controller.
The two vehicles were delivered to the NCAA on 13 August and were
received by two store managers, F. Onoabhagbe and Y.A. Amzat, the
agency's head of transport. Documents showed that on 15 August, NCAA's
Sola Ogunsakin certified completion of the transaction.
The scandal brought out the worst in Oduah and officials of her
ministry. To the invitation by the committee, the minister responded
via a letter informing it that she could not appear before it on 24
October because she had to travel to Israel to sign the Bilateral Air
Services Agreement, BASA, with the Jewish state. She left the country
two days before she was due for appearance. The agreement she used as
an excuse was eventually signed on behalf of Nigeria by Minister of
State (Foreign Affairs), Professor Viola Onwuliri, while Israel's
Deputy Foreign Minister, Zeer Elkin, signed for his country, despite
Oduah's presence in Israel.
The committee rescheduled her appearance for 29 October. Though BASA
was signed on 28 October, Oduah still claimed she could not be present
at the hearing because she would not be back in the country. She
pleaded that she be allowed to appear on 30 October. The committee
granted her request.
But when that day came, Oduah requested to be allowed to appear on 4
November. This drew a furious Onyejeocha, who warned the minister to
appear, unfailingly, on 31 October or risk sanctions.
"If she fails again, we take it that she does not want to appear. We
are saying this in the spirit of fair hearing. Thursday (31 October)
is sacrosanct and we will turn in our report whether she comes or
not," Onyejeocha said.
This time, the minister did not default. She opened her defence with a
profusion of apologies for her serial failure to appear earlier and
gratitude to the committee for rescheduling her appearance. Side by
side with her attempt at pleading innocence was a clever affectation
of a victim of a heinous plot. She denied any wrongdoing, dismissing
as inaccurate, even malicious, suggestions that she compelled the NCAA
to buy her bullet-proof cars and that money was paid for the
acquisition of the controversial cars. She also denied that the
vehicles came about as a result of extra-budgetary spending or that
they were bought in her name. To a large extent, she repeated what
officials of the ministry had told the committee and the public.
To the inconsistences in the official responses to the scandal, Oduah
said they were neither deliberate nor designed to conceal any
information about the transaction. Before the committee, Oduah
repeated the NCAA mantra, which was punctured by First Bank at the
hearing, that the cars were acquired via a lease agreement, with an
agreed repayment plan spanning 36 months.
By this agreement, she claimed, the agency would make a monthly
payment of N23,249,181.00 for the armoured cars and Toyota vehicles.
Broken down, monthly payment will come to a total sum of
N116,245,905.00 at the end of this year.
The admission by Joe Obi, spokesman to the minister, that the vehicles
were purchased for her security drew a qualified approval from Oduah.
According to her, Obi "was guided by his own perception of the duties
and challenges of my office and possibly, even the danger to the
person and office of the minister.
This is made evident by the fact that the statement focused on my
personal security and safety without recourse to procurement process
and policy file to which he had no access." Oduah described her aide's
response as "inaccurate and innocently misguided."
Oduah described the allegation that she pressured the NCAA to buy cars
as entirely false. She further insisted that the NCAA did not spend
any money that was not appropriated by the National Assembly.
This was, however, challenged by Jerry Manwe, a member of the
committee, who countered that the National Assembly rejected armoured
cars in the budget. Oduah responded with a one-liner. "NCAA will
answer that," she said. This contradicted her reply to Jonathan's
query of 23 October that the transaction was in the budget.
When asked why she exceeded her approval limit of N100million, as the
Bureau of Public Procurement had told the committee, Oduah said her
comment on the letter to NCAA– "Approved. Do the needful"–was not an
order, but an advice.
Ayo Aderigbigbe, who represented the BPP Director-General, at the
hearing, had disclosed that no ministry has powers to approve any
expenditure in excess of N100million.
"A ministerial tenders board can approve expenditure of N100million
and below, but if it is above N100million, it must go before the
Federal Executive Council," he explained. Aderibigbe also told the
committee that the NCAA never contacted by the BPP on the car
The NCAA Director-General, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, who was asked to
explain what the minister meant by "needful", avoided offering an
interpretation of the word and advised that the question be directed
at Nkemakolam, who was the acting Director-General at the time of
approval. Nkemakolam was slated by the committee for forwarding to
Oduah a memo for the approval of a procurement beyond his agency's
approved limit.
On the minister's claim that the cars were not for her, Manwe asked:
"Who is using them now?" "Anyone can use any of the cars in the pool,"
responded Akinkuotu on behalf of the minister.
"Are you saying a cleaner can use those type of cars?" asked Manwe.
"Anybody can use them, but those kinds of cars are for VIP movement,
including foreign dignitaries, the minister, and even you, honourable
member," answered Akinkuotu. Manwe retorted that the law does not
permit him to use such cars.
Onyejeocha later announced that all the parties had been given fair
hearing and promised that that justice will be done.
At the base of the pyramid of lies, half-truths and distortions built
by Oduah was the flimsy foundation erected by officials of the
Ministry of Aviation. The first brick was laid by Yakubu Dati,
spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, who
often speaks for Oduah in Lagos. On the day the story broke, he
dismissed it as a "politically- motivated" rumour that merited no
"I don't respond to rumours…[and] as we approach 2015, people are
bound to make up all sorts of stories," Dati told Premium Times,
another online newspaper. He added that Oduah had been rich and
successful before being appointed minister and has no need for
additional cars from the NCAA.
"This is a woman, who is successful and established. A woman that made
her mark in oil and gas, who owned trucks, barges, and so on. What is
two cars?" he asked.
He got an answer to his question the next day, when Obi, Oduah's
spokesperson, admitted that the cars were bought for the minister's
protection. "Yes, it is true that some security vehicles were procured
for the use of the office of the honourable minister in response to
the clear and imminent threat to her personal security and life,
following the bold steps she took to reposition the sector," Obi told
Obi suggested that the threats to the minister's security could be
traced to some entrenched interests in the aviation sector, which
Oduah dislodged by reviewing or terminating concession and lease
agreements they had with the ministry. These agreements, he claimed,
had to be so treated because Oduah found them to be at variance with
the interests of the government and people of Nigeria when she assumed
He added that the vehicles were institutional and not personal
acquisitions. "It should be noted that these vehicles are not personal
vehicles and were not procured in the name of the honourable minister.
They are utility vehicles and are for the office of the minister, and
if she leaves the office, she will not be taking the vehicles along
with her," he contended.
Obi's confirmation of the car purchase was conveniently ignored by Fan
Ndubuoke, NCAA spokesman, who claimed ignorance. "I am not aware of
anything like that," he said in an interview.
The difference between the narratives of Dati and Obi suggested to the
public that something was amiss and raised the decibel of calls for
Oduah's eviction from the cabinet. The ministry's response to the
red-eyed public rage was a press conference in Abuja on 18 October.
There, another version of events emerged. The NCAA Director-General,
who addressed the conference, said the cars were not purchased for the
minister, but for special assignments and to convey foreign
dignitaries whenever they visit the NCAA.
"First and foremost, we make haste to state that aviation is a global
industry and the NCAA, the regulator of the industry in Nigeria, very
often plays host to dignitaries from international civil aviation
bodies like ICAO, IATA, US Federal Aviation Administration, African
Airlines Association, African Civil Aviation Commission, Banjul Accord
Group, Civil Air Navigation Service Organisations, Airport Council
International, amongst several others.
Akinkuotu said it was not the first time the agency had procured
high-security vehicles for similar purposes and slated the mainstream
media for taking stories from online platforms, while stating that the
purchase was in order.
"In any case, all necessary procurement and due process was followed," he said.
Akinkuotu, however, side-stepped the issue of overpricing. While the
NCAA paid N128m per car, reports indicate that a similar car is
available for less than N50 million in Europe. This, naturally,
increased the intensity of public rage at the lush lifestyles of
public officials. Akinkuotu, NCAA Director-General, also vowed that
the authorities would launch an investigation into how the documents
got to Sahara Reporters and punish those responsible.
With contradictions buzzing back and forth, Femi Falana, a Senior
Advocate of Nigeria, using the Freedom of Information Act, demanded
that documents relating to the car purchase be handed over to his firm
within seven days. Falana also demanded evidence of previous purchase
of armoured vehicles,

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