“I Didn’t Request For Armoured Vehicles, I Only Approved Their Purchase”- Stella Oduah Tells Reps!

The embattled Minister for Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah defended herself before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation which has been investigating the purchase of two bullet proof BMW vehicles which were allegedly purchased on the orders of the Honourable Minister at a whooping sum of N 255 million.
Though she was billed to appear before the committee on Wednesday, the Minister could not attend the sitting due to a trip she undertook to Israel.
Princess Oduah arrived at the venue of the sitting around 11. 40 am on Thursday, almost 2 hours behind schedule.
The hearing opened at noon with a speech from the Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Nkirukua Onyejeocha who stated that the delay experienced in the commencement was because the venue that was originally slated to be used on Wednesday had been taken over for another hearing on land racketeering. She assured that the committee would be fair in the discharge of its duties. “The committee is out to get to the bottom of the matter. This committee is not on witch hunting”, she said.
Apparently in order to calm those who might be apprehensive of a heated session, Hon Onyejeocha asked those concerned to “feel free and relax”.
The Minister took some time to apologize for her absence at previous hearings, stating that it was not out of disrespect. The Minister went on to thank the committee for the opportunity to state her own side of the story. “For the past week, I have been bashed in the media, many have also risen to my defence”, she said.
The Minister also told the hearing that her spokesperson’s admission of the alleged purchase, while right on concerns for her safety, was “inaccurate”.
In her defence, Princess Oduah described online publications that she compelled the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to purchase cars for her as “false and malicious” allegations. She described the allegation as being “false in its entirety”.
According to the Minister, the online allegations were not substantiated but were based on the “erroneous” comment of her aide.
While denying that she ordered the NCAA to purchase the vehicle, she said “it is not true; it cannot be true that NCAA bought bullet proof vehicles for the Honourable Minister of Aviation. My understanding is that what NCAA has done is to plan for its vehicle needs for the next three years under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.”
Speaking further, Princess Oduah said the NCAA has real needs for new operational vehicles. She also told the committee that the bullet-proof cars were not meant for her but for foreign dignitaries.
“NCAA acted within the ambit of law. Nothing in the stated documents mentioned my name. I did not request for any vehicles. All I did was to approve the purchase, subject to the agency doing the needful. NCAA followed due process as required by law. The Federal ministry of aviation under my watch has always ensured we act in a prudent manner and under the ambit of the law.”
Speaking on finances, the Minister said the “First Bank facility to NCAA to the tune of N643 million is mere understanding not an obligation”. She also disclosed that “Nigeria’s airspace is now rated among the safest in the world”.
Princess Oduah also shifted the blame for the allegations to detractors as she said the issues being raised about the car purchase were meant to discredit her team and give the impression that her efforts at reforming the aviation sector are not succeeding.
While claiming that the NCAA has neither gone beyond its limit nor violated any law, the Minister told the hearing that NCAA has not spent any money that was not appropriated by the National Assembly. She claimed that the agency has even saved the nation a cost and further embarrassment that may occur in future.
When it was however put to her by Hon Jerry Manwe that the National Assembly rejected armoured cars in the budget which she is defending, Princess Oduah simply replied that “NCAA will answer that.”
A question was also raised by Hon Zakari Mohammed on why she exceeded her approval limit. The Minister responded that her comment on the letter to NCAA was not final but advisory to NCAA to follow the law. She had written on the letter, “Approved. Do the needful”. In the opinion of the Minister, the phrase “do the needful” could mean anything.
When the NCAA was called to explain the “needful” as implied in the letter, the Director General of the Agency pointed out that the question would best be answered by the former DG who was in charge when the letter was approved. The Reps also chided the former DG for sending a memo to the Minister for the approval of a purchase that was beyond his agency’s approved limit.
Based on the Minister’s claim that the cars were not for her, Hon Jerry Manwe asked “who is using them now?” The DG of NCAA answered on behalf of the Minister, stating that “anyone can use any of the cars in the pool.” Not satisfied, Manwa asked again, “are you saying a cleaner can use those type of cars?” The DG then explained that “anybody can use them; but those kinds of cars are for VIP movement, including foreign dignitaries, including the minister, and even you honourable member. Manwa’s response was “thank you, but the law of the country does not allow me to use those cars.”
Chris Maduka, the Chief Executive Officer of Coscharis Motors drew the ire of the legislators while trying to absolve his company of any wrongdoing. Maduka said “we are not doing monkey business here”. He was immediately asked to withdraw the statement.
While winding up the hearing, the chairperson of the committee, Hon Onyejeocha disclosed that everyone was given a fair hearing and she said the committee has received enough documents that will inform its report. She also assured Nigerians that justice will be done.

Author: NewsAdmin

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