Beleaguered Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, who is under fire following the procurement of two bulletproof cars, valued at N255 million, for her use, has written to President Goodluck Jonathan to defend the transaction.
The minister, who is being probed over the car deal, in an October 21 letter to the president, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY Wednesday, said contrary to claims by her critics, there was a budgetary provision for the procurement of the two BMW 760 Li cars and the transaction followed due process.
However, her claim that the purchase of the cars was included in the 2013 budget of the ministry contradicted that of a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Hon. Matthew Omegara, who told his colleagues during Tuesday's plenary session where it was decided to probe the car deal that there was no budgetary provision for it.
Omegara had said while the purchase of the two cars was initially proposed in the 2013 Appropriation Bill, it was "clearly deleted" during the passage of the bill into law. But the minister in the letter, with reference number HMA/PRES/VOL.1/21 addressed to the president, narrated what informed the decision to buy the vehicles and how the procurement was carried out.
In the letter, which had no annexures to prove her claims that the procurement had budgetary approval and followed due process, Oduah said the transaction was informed by the need to buy operational vehicles for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in a bid to strengthen the agency to carry out its oversight responsibility of ensuring safety, security and strict compliance with aviation standards by operators.
"Towards the effective implementation of its statutory regulatory responsibilities therefore, it is imperative that the NCAA is fully equipped with highly specialised tools and facilities, including adequate operational vehicles to cover all 22 national airports and over 400 airstrips. "In keeping with standard practice, provision is therefore made annually for the replacement of obsolete, inadequate and unreliable monitoring equipment.
"In the 2013 budgetary appropriation, provision was made for the procurement of specialised equipment (including operational vehicles) to complement and in some cases, replace obsolete ones. "Furthermore, the fact that NCAA, as the regulator of the industry, often plays host to dignitaries from ICAO, IATA, US FAA, AFRAAA, AFCAC, BAGASO, CANSO, ACI, and a host of others, makes it necessary to have specialised operational vehicles," she said in the letter.
Oduah explained that the two controversial cars, which she described as "BMW security vehicles" were procured following the approval of her ministry to a request by NCAA in a letter dated April 15 to procure 56 operational vehicles through lease financing.
She added that the NCAA proposed to the ministry the option of lease financing to enable the agency make 36 monthly payments based on receipts from its internally generated revenue. She said: "Based on the ministry's approval, the NCAA invited Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from all banks in Nigeria for the financing of the said vehicles. EoIs were adopted because the procurement is two sided. First, the financier would have to be selected before the supplier is determined. This is in line with procurement best practices.
"On 24th May, 2013, the response received from the various banks to the Expressions of Interest request was opened publicly and minutes of the opening exercise was duly documented.
"During the EoI opening exercise, NCAA got commendation from one of the civil society organisations (CSOs) approved by BPP who were (sic) invited for the opening exercise.
"The evaluation of the Expression of Interests (sic) was held on 31st May, 2013, during which First Bank of Nigeria Plc (now Limited), Union Bank of Nigeria Plc and Stanbic IBTC Plc emerged most responsive. On the 10th of June, 2013, the above three banks were invited to submit financial proposals. Thereafter, First Bank emerged the highest rated responsive bidder.
"Between 20th and 25th June, 2013, invoices were received from various accredited motor vehicle dealers during which only Coscharis Motors Limited quoted for BMW security vehicles.
"On 28th June, 2013, NCAA Parastatal Tenders Board approved the selection of First Bank of Nigeria Limited for the lease financing as well as Metropolitan Motor Vehicles and Coscharis for the supply of the vehicles. All necessary approvals were duly sought and obtained accordingly.
"Between 8th July, 2013 and 12th August, 2013, various meetings were held with First Bank of Nigeria Limited, a contract agreement was signed and necessary documentation executed."
In apparent response to the gale of criticism that has followed the purchase of the exorbitant cars, the minister drew the president's attention to the fact that the procurement of the vehicles was duly provided for in the NCAA 2013 (IGR) budget and the fact that due process was followed in procuring the vehicles.