One week gone without any work, the administrative panel asked to probe Stella Oduah’s acquisition of two exotic cars has a week to go
The three-member panel commissioned Wednesday by President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate the purchase of two armoured cars by aviation minister, Stella Oduah, at an inflated cost N255 million, has yet to begin work a week after, reliable sources familiar with the matter have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The committee, chaired by the immediate past Head of Service, Sali Bello, with the National Security Adviser, NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, and Air vice Marshal Dik Iruenebere as members, has held no meetings, and has not even conducted preliminary examination of the controversial procurement.
The reason for the delay, officials who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES said, was because the NSA, Mr. Dasuki, was out of the country with Mr. Jonathan who is visiting Israel, and is due to return to Nigeria later Tuesday. The NSA, Mr. Dasuki, will also return alongside the president, officials said.
The office of the NSA is serving as the secretariat for the committee and in Mr. Dasuki’s absence, no work has been done by panel.
The delay surrounding the investigation would appear to further strengthen concerns over just how much attention the government has accorded the scandal that has outraged Nigerians.
With a two-week mandate from the president, the committee is left with seven days to fully investigate whether or not the purchase was listed in the budget, and whether or not stipulated procurement due process were followed.
The panel will also confirm, officially, whether the two armoured BMW brands were indeed imported into the country with adequate security clearance from the NSA’s office, a requirement for all armour-fitted vehicles imported into the country.
Establishing that security compliance has become central to the committee’s work amid growing concerns about the possibility that Ms Oduah, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, which carried out the purchase at the minister’s directive, may have spun a mere paper process as cover to launder money.
PREMIUM TIMES has confirmed from top security officials that the two cars are not listed anywhere by the office of the NSA as having been issued the End User Certificate, a compulsory permit for all armoured cars in the country.
“We have thoroughly checked our list and I can confirm that at no time did we issue end user certificate to anyone to procure any such cars,” one source told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday. “It is a serious violation, and the minister and other people involved have a lot of explanations to make.”
Separately, the House of Representatives committee on aviation, which is also investigating the transaction, has confirmed that the contract was unauthorized and not approved in the budget. The Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, has also made it clear the purchase was not openly bided for as required by law.
But while the House committee, which began its investigation on Tuesday, has held one public hearing and has scheduled a second on Wednesday, the presidential panel has yet to sit.
Ms Oduah is expected to testify at the House hearing on Wednesday, having failed to attend the first hearing as she was also in Israel with Mr Jonathan.
President Jonathan has been criticised for allowing the minister travel while under investigation, at a time many Nigerian demand that she be fired or suspended while investigations continue.
“The egregious act of putting the minister on his entourage, at a time she is at the centre of a terrible scandal, calls to question the President’s sense of propriety and his commitment to the war against corruption,” the APC said in a statement on Sunday by its spokesperson, Lai Mohammed.”This indecorous action of making a minister who is under investigation for monumental corruption and abuse of office one of the faces of Nigeria in a foreign land is an embarrassment to the country and its people, and a further dent on the poor image of the Jonathan administration.”
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