by Segun Odeleye
For those who have been wondering about the whereabouts of the controversial bulletproof BMW cars bought by former aviation minister, Stella Oduah, there is now an answer for you. According to Oduah’s successor as aviation minister, Samuel Ortom, the cars are still parked at the premises of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Ortom stated this when he appeared before members of the Hon. Nkiruka Onyejiocha-led House of Reps Committee on Aviation. He explained that the cars are just parked there and have not been returned despite a national assembly directive because President Goodluck Jonathan and other stakeholders have the final say.
Fielding questions from reporters at the National Assembly Complex, he said: “Before we comply, we have to carry Mr. President along and every other stakeholders. We cannot just carry the bulletproof cars and dump them at Coscharis. There are documents to be filled, and there are processes to follow. As soon as we complete the arrangements, we will take the cars back.”
He did not say how long it takes to fill the documents and follow the processes.
Ortom also faulted media reports of a fraud of N174 billion unearthed by the National Assembly in the aviation ministry. According to him, his ministry was indebted to the tune of N174 billion based on the report of an in-house committee he instituted when he became minister but it was not fraud.
Ortom promised to run the affairs of the ministry transparently.
He also disclosed that the sum of $100 million had been accessed from the Debt Management Office (DMO) as part of the counterpart-funding to execute the contract for expansion work on the country’s airports in Abuja and Lagos.
“We have taken some drastic measures. The figure of N174 billion was generated from the ministry and it was an interim report that we set up to verify our indebtedness. It never came from the National Assembly. It was surprising to hear that the National Assembly came and discovered N174 billion fraud in the Ministry of Aviation. How such news got to the press is what we are going to investigate.
“Currently, we are meeting with the DMO to try and reschedule the payment and the meeting is ongoing. Construction is going on, money was paid. The $500 million is still with the Chinese EXIM bank, so it is not going to have any effect on that. $100 million was paid as counterpart-funding because it was part of the agreement that was reached by the Ministry of Finance. The $500 million is still there and will be drawn directly from the bank once the certifications are done; so there is not going to be any problem.”