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Aviation Officials Claim N255 Million Ministerial Car Scandal Is “All Rumours”

Aviation authorities in Lagos attempted a vigorous push back on Tuesday report that the nation’s aviation minister, Stella Oduah, abused her office by compelling the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, to purchase two armoured BMW cars for her worth N255 million.

The New York based online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, claimed in an investigation report that Mrs. Oduah compelled the NCAA, an agency under her supervision, in a presumed case of corruption, conflict of interest, and abuse of office, to procure the cars for her with public funds. Aviation spokesman, Yakubu Datti, dismissed the newspaper report as “rumours” suggesting that it was politically motivated.

“I don’t respond to rumours…[and] as we approach 2015, people are bound to make up all sorts of stories,” Mr. Datti told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview, arguing, “This is a woman (Mrs. Oduah) who is successful and established. A woman that made her mark in oil and gas, who owned trucks, barges, and so on. What is two cars?” The newspaper, which supported its report with documents of the procurement, said it discovered that Mrs. Oduah, a close associate of President Goodluck Jonathan, is enmeshed in a pattern of questionable expenditures in the aviation ministry.

Sources at the agency also said, according to the paper, that the NCAA embarked on such a jamboree despite its “financial challenges.” “The NCAA does not have enough funds to upgrade equipment, send staff for critical training, and hire enough qualified staff. Yet, all the minister is concerned about is to have two exotic BMW cars from the little money we have for operations,” SaharaReporters quoted a source as saying. The aviation ministry however declaimed such suggestion, describing it as “ridiculous.”

Documents obtained by SaharaReporters showed that the transaction for the purchase of the two BMW vehicles began last June. The request for delivery of and payment for the two vehicles was, however, fast-tracked between August 13 and 15. The transaction involved the NCAA, First Bank of Nigeria, and Coscharis Motors Limited. In a letter dated August 13, 2013, J.D Nkemakolam, the former Acting Managing Director of the NCAA, sent a letter to the Managing Director of Coscharis Motors asking the company to deliver two BMW 760 armoured vehicles to the agency based on a pro-forma invoice dated June 25, 2013 at the cost of N127, 575,000 ($796,846.21) each.

The total amount for the two black BMW Li HSS vehicles, with chassis numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044 respectively, was N255,150,000, or $1,593,687.31. The NCAA’s letter further directed Coscharis Motors to deliver the vehicles with sales invoices, delivery notes, and attestation documents. SaharaReporters stated that the payment for the vehicles was made into a First Bank of Nigeria account (number 2018912995 with sort code: 0111152303), according to a letter signed by Godwin Umeaka, Coscharis’ group financial controller.

The two cars were delivered to the NCAA on August 13, 2013, where it was received by two store managers, F. Onoabhagbe and Y.A. Amzat (who is also the agency’s head of transport). On August 15, 2013, Sola Ogunsakin of the NCAA signed off to certify completion of the transaction. While the aviation ministry under Mrs. Oduah embarked on a massive face-lift of airports across the country; the Nigerian airspace also witnessed several air mishaps that led to the loss of over 150 lives.

“Under Mrs. Oduah, the ministry has carried out many big capital development projects. But what outsiders don’t know is that these projects are being used to divert big amounts into private pockets,” SaharaReporters quoted an aviation source as saying. The newspaper, however, said that its sources stated that they were not aware of the whereabouts of the new cars, with some claiming that the minister had converted them to private use.

But Mr. Datti dismissed such claims, adding that Mrs. Oduah lived a life of comfort graced by generosity in which she “buys cars and dashes to people” long before she became a minister. Also, when contacted, Joe Obi, the minister’s spokesperson, promised to get back to PREMIUM TIMES after “verifying the story and the document” published alongside the article.

“At the moment, I can’t give you any response because I need to authenticate the documents published on the website,” Mr. Obi said. “We would do that shortly,” he added.

Documents obtained by the newspaper for the report below.

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