by Stanley Azuakola
The embattled minister of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, on Thursday made her much anticipated appearance before members of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation. When the committee began its sitting last week, the minister was away with President Jonathan in Israel.
Her appearance on Thursday was a very revealing one, and here are takeaways from the committee sitting.
1. Oduah’s story is flat out denial
The minister gave a 12-page presentation and the crux of her argument was that the N255million BMW armoured cars were not bought for her personal use.
“Let me state emphatically that from the onset that the allegation concerning the purchase of the 2 nos bullet proof cars for me by the NCAA is false in its entirety,” she said.
The question is: How come Oduah has still not sacked Joe Obi, her spokesman. Obi stated very clearly just one day after the news story broke out, and when they did not expect it to take the severe turn it has taken, that “following Oduah’s reforms in the sector, a lot of entrenched interests felt that they had been dislocated from the sector. The minister began to receive series of threats to her life, but because of the general lack of security in the land, she did not want to raise an alarm but kept it quiet and then decided to protect herself. So those vehicles were purchased in response to the general state of security in the land and the personal threats to her life because of the giant steps she has taken to reposition the sector.”
He also defended why two cars were bought, saying, “Normally, you don’t buy one utility vehicle but you buy two at a time because you must have a back-up for public officials. The level of exposure which came with her job warranted the purchase of the vehicles. As a private citizen, she never had these vehicles.”
Every other thing which the minister has been saying since then are just afterthoughts. If they aren’t, how come she has not fired Obi for lying against her?
Consider what happened afterwards, when the former DG of the NCAA, Joyce Nkemakolam was asked by Hon. Jerry Manwe to disclose who uses the controversial bullet proof cars since the minister bluntly confessed that they were not bought for her use.
“Who is using the vehicles now since the Minister said they were not purchased for her?” he asked.
The man was silent for a few minutes. Then he said, “Anybody can use the vehicles when they are in the pool. They are operational vehicles.”
Of course that was not a satisfactory answer, so Manwe tried again. He asked the former DG, “Do you mean that a messenger or cleaner in the agency can use the cars?”
Again, the man was silent for sometime and then managed to say that “those categories of vehicles are for VIPs which include the Minister, including you, the Honorable.”
The hall erupted with laughter.
There’s only one reason why Nkemakolam was speechless for that long: Those cars were bought for Oduah, just as her spokesman said two weeks ago.
2. Oduah’s sub-plot is to attack the messenger
Sometimes, even neutrals have issues with the reporting done by online news media, including Sahara Reporters. However, one of the strategies which Oduah chose to use during her defence was to attack Sahara Reporters and dismiss the entire story. It was a most ridiculous effort especially because when her spokesman first addressed this issue, he never faulted the veracity of the SR story. So what exactly did Oduah mean when she said this on Thursday?
“As you all are aware, what necessitated this public hearing were the events that followed a false and malicious online publication that I had compelled the NCAA to purchase for me 2 nos BMW bullet proof cars at the cost of $1.6million.”
Her statement was just propaganda – plain and simple… and nobody is buying it.
3. Brethren, what is the needful?
By law, Oduah does not have the right to grant approval for expenses above N100 million, but she did. Her defence of that particular damning act was interesting. She claimed that she approved the money and asked the NCAA to “kindly do the needful.”
So what exactly was the needful? The committee members told her that the needful sounded like a go ahead to implement what she had already approved. But Oduah said, “no you are wrong on that the needful does not mean full approval.”
Oduah simply does not care who else takes the fall as long as she protects her hide. Following her introduction of the “needful” into the argument, the current DG, Folu Akinkuotu was asked whether he did the needful. He said he wasn’t in charge then but that if he were the one the directive was given to do the needful, he would have sought the correct approval. So once again the question fell on the man who was in charge of the NCAA when this “needful” charge was given, Joyce Daniel Nkemakolam.
Nkemakolam said “we interpreted the directive to mean to go through it in line with the procurement Act.” He said they did the due diligence but they had a mindset that they were within the budget limit. But he was asked why he didn’t do due diligence to ensure that it was in tandem with the procurement law, he said he thought since the agency had got the approval of the National Assembly there was no need for such diligence.
Now the committee has heard from all the parties involved, the nation awaits their verdict.