The House of Representatives committee on Aviation, this afternoon began hearing on the purchase of two armoured cars for the aviation minister, Stella Oduah, at the cost of N255 million.
The hearing was earlier scheduled to hold on Tuesday but was postponed to allow the minister, who was away in Israel for a bilateral air service agreement signing, to return to the country.
PREMIUM TIMES’ National Assembly correspondent, Ini Ekott, will provide you with updates as they unfold from the hearing room.
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Today’s session closed. Minister expected tomorrow at 10 a.m. Thank you for following our live blog. See you tomorrow.
The committee said it has been informed the minister is on transit-likely from Israel-and will arrive Nigeria later today.
The minister has asked to appear Thursday afternoon, but the committee said she has to be in attendance for the last time by 10am Thursday as the committee must complete its work Thursday.
The cars inspected by the House committee yesterday, Tuesday, are different from the ones stated in the documents between NCAA and Coscharis, the reps said.
Coscharis admits telling the Ministry of Finance/NSA the cars were meant for Lagos state government, but said the arrangement was a usual “sponsor practice” for an event like the sports festival, and there was nothing wrong with that.
The company insists it did not lie. It said during events the company gives cars for use by government, in exchange for waivers that would be used for importing new ones as replacement.
With a lot of gusto, Coscharis said it price was right. But lawmakers have busted that claim by revealing that the firm sent different prices to NCAA and NSA.
Coscharis also claims the car in question goes for about N87 .7 million(factory price) without tax, shipping etc.
But a lawmaker has confirmed that he received a quotation from an American firm for the same car for about N42 million.
Jerry Manwe( a member): “Your own bullet proof is not manufactured in the moon”
Coscharis says a seven series in America is different with what they got from Europe.
Again, the committee said the cars they inspected yesterday are different9in terms of chassis number) from those stated in the documents between Coscharis and NCAA.
Coscharis’ Maduka: To the best of my knowledge, we followed all due process. We were interviewed by SSS. We were interviewed by the National Security Adviser. Every due process by law was followed. “We do business with morality,” he says.
Another Coscharis official: Armoured cars are in levels; Level B7 is the highest for any civilian/VIP armoured cars. More than that is for military tanks.
Coscharis: The controversial cars are level B7. The BMW 760 series, bought by NCAA, goes for 418 thousand Euro from factory without shipping cost, taxes, etc.
Coscharis offers to demonstrate a powerpoint to show how it arrived at the cost. But is disallowed by committee.
Coscharis’ Maduka: “People have spoken, different media have written, I kept quiet. Nobody has called me to ask anything. But I thank God for this opportunity to state my own side of the story.”
“People have called me from US embassy to ask when did you start money laundering.”
He says the whole controversy is “politically motivated”. He pleads to be allowed to speak.
Mr Maduka said the matter is so important that his Uncle died and will be buried tomorrow, but he has to attend the sitting.
He said he is prepared to give details how Coscharis arrived at the price.
First Bank asked to step aside. Coscharis takes over.
Coscharis chief, Cosmas Maduka, calls the car scandal “very controversial matter that has made newspaper headlines for two consecutive weeks” as he takes the hot seat.
First Bank cannot explain how the loan given to NCAA for all its 54 cars climbed from earlier stated N564 million to N643 million.
The bank claimed earlier that the difference was because the two armoured cars were not included-apparently untrue because of the cost.
Under questioning by the committee, the bank now says only the NCAA can explain the difference; the bank says it was only concerned about what the NCAA as a customer asked for.
“Our job as financier are based on what the customers are asking for”
Interaction with First Bank representative continues…
First Bank: The armoured BMWs were not part of the first order from NCAA which comprised mainly Land Cruisers totaling less than N600 million.
House chair, Nkiruka Onyejeocha: So could it be that the BMWs were an afterthought?
First Bank: That’s for the NCAA to answer.
“Absence of the minister is a slap on the face of the House,” Jerry Manwe, a member of the committee from Taraba state said, apparently angered by the minister’s absence.
First Bank official, Seyi Oyefeso, that oversaw the transaction addressed the House committee on behalf of the Executive Director of the bank.
First Bank was invited to make proposals alongside other banks and tender was opened publicly on 21 of May, 2013 in the presence of other banks and media
First Bank was afterwards shortlisted alongside 7 others.
First Bank granted a loan facility of N643 million for purchase of assorted cars.
The Customs representatives at the hearing said Coscharis lied to the Ministry of Finance and NSA, making them to believe that the cars were for Lagos state government, for the National Sports festival.
The NSA office issued End User certificate without knowing that it was doing so for cars to be delivered to Stella Oduah or the NCAA.
So, in a way, the NSA office is right to have told PREMIUM TIMES it did not issue end user certificate for any bullet proof cars for Minister Oduah and the NCAA.
Deputy Comptroller General of Customs, Manasa Daniel Jatau, said the following
The two cars were imported through Tin Can Port 2; Imported from Antwerp Netherlands.
The vehicles were cleared 19/6/2013.
Coscharis imported the cars without paying import duties since there was a waiver from the ministry of finance.
Coscharis obtained the waiver claiming the armoured cars were part of 300 vehicles imported for the Sports festival in Lagos last year, and therefore the beneficiary was Lagos state government.
The due import duty should have been N10.1 million.
The cars had an End User Certificate from the NSA office in the name of Coscharis.
The waiver obtained by Coscharis was for one year; as such the time of importation this year was covered.
Customs admit its laws requires that it enforces duty on any item for which waiver was obtained, which was not used for the purpose stated-in this case, for Sports festival.
Car dealers as well as end users of armoured cars are mandated to seek authorization from the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, before ordering or importing such vehicles into Nigeria.
Last week, reliable sources at the office of the NSA told PREMIUM TIMES no authorization certificate was ever issued to either Minister Oduah or the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, to procure the controversial vehicles.
Nigerian Customs confirmed that the two cars were imported and cleared at Tin Can 2.
The Customs said the import duty on the two cars which should have been N10 million plus were not paid because there was a waiver note issued by the finance ministry.
Customs also confirmed there was an End User certificate issued by the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA.
The hearing, proposed to start at noon, started 25 minutes late. The minister is absent at the hearing. The committee said it will take a position on that later.