28 October 2013

Nigeria: Armoured Cars - Jonathan Bars Oduah From BASA Signing Ceremony

Photo: Leadership

Embattled Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, will not be taking part in the historic signing of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, with Israel today, Vanguard investigation has confirmed.

Oduah, who had left Nigeria for Israel ahead of Jonathan, is facing a twin-prong probe from the Presidency and the House of Representatives over her role in the acquisition of two overpriced armoured car valued at N225 million.

Oduah is said to have gone to Israel with the hope that she could use the opportunity of the visit to explain her position on the controversial car deal to Mr. President and take part in sealing the air deal with the country.

Competent sources said that the President had not given the minister any opportunity to discuss the issue with him since his arrival in the Holy Land last Wednesday.

The source explained that the Nigerian leader decided to keep the minister out of the signing ceremony because he did not want his visit to be overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Oduah.

One source said last night that it was in a bid to keep the minister away from the limelight that she was not given any visibility since Jonathan arrived in the country.

Competent Presidency sources told Vanguard that President Goodluck Jonathan was uncomfortable with the public outrage arising from Oduahgate and would not want to be seen as condoning corruption with the embattled minister on his side.

One source said: "The President is mindful of the fact that he has to project Nigeria as a country, which does not condone any form of graft and will not bring a tainted official of his administration to Tel Aviv for a serious event as the BASA signing ceremony.

"Before leaving for the Holy Land, the President had made it clear that the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the two armoured cars for the minister must be thoroughly investigated and a detailed report made for him to assure Nigerians and the international community that he does not tolerate any form of financial impropriety."

The Oduahgate has split both the Presidency and members of the Federal Executive Council given the prime position of the minister in the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Both groups are divided on whether Jonathan should offload her from the administration or allow her to remain with the scandal triggered by the car deal imbroglio.

Sources said many ministers, who are apparently fed up with Oduah, are pushing for her removal from the cabinet, while those in her support think otherwise, blaming political enemies for her ordeal.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, has said it has no documents regarding the purchase of the two controversial armoured cars purpotedly bought for the use of the nation's aviation industry.

NCAA's position was contained in a three paragraph letter adressed to the Falana and Falana Chambers in response to the request by the law firm asking for detailed information about the purchase of the cars.

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