3 April 2014

Nigeria: N255 Million Bullet-Proof Cars - EFCC Grills Oduah for Five Hours

Photo: Vanguard
Stella cars

Abuja — In a move seen as a sign of her further rejection by the Presidency, sacked Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, was yesterday summoned for interrogation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over her role in the purchase of two armoured BMW cars.

Vanguard gathered that the embattled former minister, who was touted as one of the closest to the President, looked forlorn, as she turned in herself to EFCC operatives for questioning in relation to the controversial bullet‑proof vehicles.

Oduah, who arrived the EFCC office in Wuse 2, Abuja around 10.30 am, was not allowed to go by her interrogators until 3 p.m.

It was gathered that the former minister was questioned extensively on what she knew about the acquisition of the cars, which generated a lot of adverse publicity for the beleaguered industry and the nation until she was dropped last February.

A competent source in the commission confirmed to Vanguard that Oduah cooperated with the team that questioned her and made useful statements that might help in prosecuting her.

Granted provisional bail

Although she was granted what a source described as "provisional bail," Oduah had been asked to return to the operatives on a future date.

In essence, Oduah may be walking a tight rope in the investigations since the investigative team set up by the President in the wake of the scandal and the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which probed the scam, had since passed a damning verdict on her.

EFCC is said to have assembled a gamut of relevant documents relating to the car purchase with which its operatives used and confronted Oduah with, making it difficult for her to advance any reasonable defence.

A competent source in the commission said:

"It is true that our operatives took on the former Aviation minister for five hours and she made some useful statements following which she was granted a provisional bail.

"She is being expected to face more interrogation soon."

Oduah was alleged to have compelled the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to pay Coscharis Motors, an auto dealer, approximately $1.6 million for two BMW bullet‑proof cars.

An online medium, which broke the story, said its investigations showed that the highest cost for each such car in US and UK was $267,000.

The transaction involved the NCAA, FirstBank of Nigeria and Coscharis Motors Limited.

The two black BMW Li HSS vehicles have chassis numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044, and were reportedly delivered to the NCAA on August 31, 2013.

They were received by two store managers: F. Onoabhagbe and Y. A. Amzat, who is also the agency's head of transport.

On December 20, 2013, the House of Representatives agreed that Oduah breached the 2013 Appropriation Act.

It, therefore, asked Jonathan to review her appointment for approving expenditure of over N643 million for the NCAA to procure 54 vehicles this year.

A major recommendation of the committee, which was adopted, reads: "The House urges the President to review the continued engagement of the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, for having contravened the Appropriation Act, 2013 and the approved, revised thresholds by exceeding the Ministry of Aviation's approval limit of N100 million by the purchase of 54 vehicles valued at N643 million."

The House further directed the ministry and the NCAA to terminate all the transactions relating to the bulletproof cars because they "were neither provided for in the Appropriation Act, 2013, nor was due process followed in their procurement."

Apparently bowing to pressure, President Jonathan, on February 12, 2014 shoved Oduah aside along with three other ministers, who are yet to be replaced.

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