by Dare Lawal
The Punch newspaper is reporting that the presidential panel which was set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to probe the N255m bulletproof car scandal in the aviation ministry has indicted the Minister of aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah. Consequently, it is believed that Oduah will be eased out of power in the next cabinet shakeup which is expected later in this month of January.
According to the report, some of the findings of the committee tallied with the findings of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which also investigated the scandal and recommended the sack of the minister. The House endorsed the report of its committee in December, agreeing that Oduah breached the law.
Stella Oduah has been under pressure since October when news broke that she approved the purchase by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) of two bulletproof BMW cars at an allegedly inflated rate of N255m. The revelation sparked a countrywide controversy with many Nigerians and groups calling for her sack.
Here’s how The Punch reported the story:
A major recommendation of the Aviation 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 N100m by the purchase of 54 vehicles valued at N643m.”
Although Jonathan confirmed the receipt of the report of the presidential committee chaired by a former Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Sali Bello, he had yet to make a pronouncement on it.
Other members of the presidential panel included the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki and Vice-Marshal Dick Iruenabhere.
It was learnt on Sunday that the panel, like that of the House, also discovered that the minister’s approval for the cars exceeded the N100m limit.
A top government source, who disclosed this to The PUNCH on Sunday, said although the committee indicted Oduah , it did not say whether she should be sacked or not.
But sources told The PUNCH that there was every likelihood of the President using the cabinet shake -up that would follow the presentation of his ministerial list to the National Assembly to relieve himself of the moral burden of Oduah’s continued presence in his government.
One of the sources said Jonathan did not take any action on the matter when the issue was raging last year because it was not in his character to be seen as being stampeded into taking any decision.
He said, “Those who know oga knows that he is not the kind of person that can be stampeded into taking a decision. That was why he remained calm in the face of the public calls for the minister’s sacking last year.
“As it is now, since he is planning a cabinet shake-up, he may use the opportunity to ease the woman out. After all, during shake-up like the one being planned, he owes no one any explanation. He has the power to hire and fire.”
Another official was more categorical in his claim that Oduah might not escape the imminent shake-up.
The minister’s issue,according to him, came up when the President was preparing his response to an 18-page letter written to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He said, “The consensus then was that Mr. President could explain all the issues raised in Obasanjo’s letter convincingly except the area that bordered on corruption.
“The observation people made that time was that it would be difficult to claim that the President did not harbour corruption with the continuous stay of Oduah in the cabinet at the time of replying the letter considering the calls by members of the public.”