EFCC Moves to Probe Oduah’s N255m Armoured Car Deal. •Senate undecided as pressure mounts for minister’s sack Reuben Buhari and Omololu Ogunmade, Hammed Shittu   and Christopher Isiguzo

Despite the attempt by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to divert attention away from the N255 million spent procuring two armoured cars for the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, her troubles refuse to go away as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have decided to probe the deal.
Sources informed that the commission has started making preliminary investigations into the contract and could start probing the exorbitant purchase of the cars that was believed to have bypassed due process.
Since the story broke that the NCAA bought two BMW 760 LI armoured cars for the use of the minister, there has been a growing clamour for President Goodluck Jonathan to sack her if she fails to resign.
However, the NCAA Director-General, Dr. Fola Akinkuotu, denied that the cars were for the minister, saying that the agency bought them for operational purposes.
“The cars are operational vehicles used in the various operations of the NCAA transporting the minister and aviation related foreign dignitaries as part of its operations,” he had said at a news conference at the weekend in Abuja.
Besides the EFCC, which has launched a preliminary probe into the purchase of the two bulletproof cars for the minister, the House of Representatives has indicated its readiness to investigate the transaction as soon as it returns from Sallah break.
However, the Senate has not taken any decision yet on the controversial transaction.
Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Babayo Gamawa, sources yesterday said that the issues needed to be put in proper perspectives before a decision could be taken on it.
According to him, the first step to take was to visit the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) as well as the audit department to find out if the purchase of the car actually followed due process and whether a proper audit was done before the delivery of the cars.
Gamawa, who represents Bauchi North Senatorial District in the Senate, noted that it was necessary to check if due process was really observed before the purchase.
He made the remarks bearing in mind that attention had not been concentrated on whether due process was observed at all for the purchase or not.
The senator, who declined to give an official reaction to the controversial deal, said it would not be right for him to comment on the issue when the upper chamber had not adopted a resolution on the matter.
The Senate has been on Sallah break in the last two weeks but will resume today.
Gamawa, who also said the Senate had not received any official correspondence on the issue, added that the chamber would not hastily react to any issue unless it has received documents authenticating the reality of such events.
He however did not rule out the possibility of the Senate having a motion and subsequent resolution on the matter this week, depending on the facts available to it.
He, nevertheless, disclosed that the urgent task before the Committee on Aviation now was the investigation of the crash of an aircraft belonging to Associated Airlines in Lagos on October 3.
The plane was conveying the corpse of a former Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, to Akure before the crash, killing 16 of the 20 people on board.
The Senate on October 8 had mandated the committee to summon Oduah to explain all she knew about the crash as the lawmakers had alleged that corruption in the sector was the underlying factor behind the crash.
Although Gamawa was not categorical on the possible date for the appearance of the minister before the committee, he said it might take place this week.
Two groups however took different positions yesterday on the call for the probe into the car deal, with the Muslim Media Watch Group (MMWG) calling for the removal of the minister for being a beneficiary of the controversial bulletproof cars.
But the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), an umbrella body for youth groups in the South-east, which defended Oduah, urged Nigerians to exercise caution in their comments on the issue.
The MMWG said in a statement that it backed the call for the removal of the minister to show the world that Jonathan has no sacred cows in his cabinet.
The statement signed by MMWG Coordinator in Kwara State, Ibrahim Abdullahi, said: “The NCAA’s confirmation of the purchase of the two bulletproof cars for the parastatals was an act of financial recklessness and mismanagement.
“President Goodluck Jonathan has always condemned corruption and affirmed that his government is fighting infractions of management and economic issues.
“Also, in view of crisis in the aviation industry, MMWG calls on President Jonathan to shop for an outstanding aviation expert as a minister. Aviation is an area of speciality like health, works and finance that have professionals handling the ministries.
“Equally, the probe of all air disasters recorded in the country in recent times must also continue with reports submitted promptly and implemented decisively.”
Taking a different position on the issue, the IYM warned Nigerians against reaching a hasty conclusion on the car deal.
The group also cautioned those planning demonstrations to ask for the removal of any minister to desist from doing so as their acts would not be condoned.
In a statement in Enugu Monday by its National President, Elliot Ukoh, the IYM expressed concern that disgruntled businessmen in pursuit of a political vendetta preferred to use unemployed youths as “cannon fodder”.
The group also said the criticisms of Oduah were politically motivated.
It accused some businessmen whose concessions and lease agreements in the sector had either been cancelled or terminated in the public interest of being behind Oduah’s travail.
“Their belief is that once she is out of the way, the old order would return where they would continue to feather their nests,” it said

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