Culled from Vanguard
ABUJA — MINISTER of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, yesterday, told members of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation that the BMW armoured cars that were allegedly bought at a cost of N255m by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, were not meant for her personal use.
As Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also denied granting waiver for the clearing of the armoured cars.
I didn’t grant waiver for amoured cars —Okonjo-Iweala
The Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has denied granting waiver for the clearing of the armoured cars.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said in a statement issued by her Senior Special Assistant, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, in Abuja, that she only granted waiver for the clearing of cars to be used for 2012 National Sports Festival, EKO 2012, hosted by the Lagos State Government.
According to her, it was the Lagos State Government that applied for waivers for the importation of the vehicle for the festival, as contained in a letter dated June 23, 2012. She explained that the waiver affected Coscharis Motors Nigeria Ltd, only in relation to its being the official partner for the supply of automobiles for the sports festival and no more. The statement read in full:
“Recent media reports which claim that the Federal Ministry of Finance granted a waiver to Coscharis Motors Nigeria Ltd for the purchase of armoured cars are totally false and without foundation.
“Rather, on June 23, 2012, the Lagos State Government applied for Waiver of Destination Inspection Charges and Duty Exemptions for Coscharis Motors Nigeria Ltd, the official Automobile Partner for the National Sports Festival (“EKO 2012”), to purchase 300 vehicles on its behalf for the event.
“Since the Lagos State Government met the laid-down criteria, the waiver was granted.
“It is also important to clarify that the waiver granted to the Lagos State Government for the event did not include the purchase of armoured vehicles”.
Oduah disclosed this at the investigative hearing on the controversy on a day the Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, clarified that she did not grant waivers for the controversial armoured cars.
Princess Oduah also told the committee that her media aides, who rose in her defence when the story broke by saying the cars were meant for her security, actually spoke in error.
Commenting on the allegation that the Aviation Minister abused her office by pressurizing the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority NCAA to purchase the cars for her use, the leader of the group asked: “Is Stella Oduah the only minister or public officer for whom bullet-proof cars have been bought in this country?”
She continued: “What her male political opponents have done is to frame her up.
Whenever, any woman is appointed into any high office in this country, the men would go and rake up untidy things about her for the purpose of bringing her down. They should leave her alone”.
In response to a reporter’s question she asked “Have the men exposed other political office holders who are also riding bullet-proof cars ?”
“Have male political office holders who are using bullet-proof cars been removed from office?”
“I want all these questions answered” she said.
According to her: “I am not saying it is good or not good for top government officials to be driven in bullet proof cars.”
What has been done to others who are being driven around in security cars?” she asked.
She said she didn’t want to mention names but was aware that other ministers and even governors were being driven in bullet proof cars.
In response to another question about public outrage over the cost of the cars, she retorted “The cost of security cars bought for other past top government officers was also too high”.
She maintained that all other top government officials should also present their bullet proof cars for probe.
She denied that the group was sponsored by the Aviation Minister to embark on the protest adding that the group’s major goal was to protect the interest of women.
She cautioned President Goodluck Jonathan against sacking the Aviation Minister adding that it would be tantamount to partiality on his part.
She linked the agitation for the sack of Princess Oduah as part of a plot by a cabal to destabilize the Jonathan administration.
Another group which identified itself as the Grassroot Movement for Unity and Stability also participated in the protest alongside the women.
In a press release circulated at the venue of the protest and signed by the group’s National Coordinator, Edisemi Yiki, the group declared that “our society will die the day men and women of good conscience choose to remain silent in the face of cheap baseless blackmail which cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt” .
According to the group: “We are concerned that certain persons have constituted themselves into a secret cabal with the sole aim to undermine and rubbish the developmental efforts of the Aviation Minister.”
The group further stated that some of the present administration’s enemies see Oduah “as a threat come 2015 especially because her political machine known as door-to-door contributed to President Jonathan’s victory at the 2011 polls”.