This is definitely not the best of time for the embattled Minister of Aviation, Miss Stella Oduah as the House of Representatives on Thursday agreed that she breached the 2013 Appropriation Act and therefore must be fired and possibly face prosecution.
It therefore asked Jonathan to review her appointment for approving expenditure of over N643m for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to procure 54 vehicles this year.
The spokesman for the House, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, when contacted, explained that the lawmakers wanted the minister sacked.
He said, “The review here means a change in status. It is a mild way of saying that Mr. President should sack the minister.”
The House noted that her approval limit as a minister was N100m.
It added that in the process, the agency purchased two bulletproof BMW cars at the cost of N255m without the approval of the National Assembly.
The House took the decision at Thursday’s plenary after endorsing the report of its Committee on Aviation, which investigated the purchase of the bulletproof cars.
A major recommendation of the committee, which was adopted, reads, “The House urges the President to review the continued engagement of the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, for having contravened the Appropriation Act, 2013 and the approved, revised threseholds by exceeding the Ministry of Aviation’s approval limit of N100m by the purchase of 54 vehicles valued at N643m.”
The House further directed the ministry and the NCAA to terminate all the transactions relating to the bulletproof cars because they “were neither provided for in the Appropriation Act, 2013, nor was due process followed in their procurement.”
The PUNCH had in a series of exclusive stories highlighted the committee’s findings and recommendations.
In addition to terminating the transactions, the House ordered that “all money so far spent on the entire transactions should be recovered by the Ministry of Finance and paid back into the Consolidated Fund of the Federation.”
The House faulted the diversion of waivers meant for other purposes to import the bulletproof cars and asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to “investigate the chassis number (DW68032) of one of the vehicles on the one reported to have been delivered and the one inspected by the committee members.
It also asked the EFCC to “investigate and if found wanting, prosecute all persons/institutions involved in the transactions.”
Coscharis Nigeria Limited, which supplied the controversial cars, was not left out.
The House directed that the company should be investigated on the “issue of waiver” and also to determine the “exact cost of the two BMW vehicles.”
It also ordered the company to pay the value of the waiver to the Federal Government.
The House recommended further, “The former Acting Director-General of the NCAA, Mr. Nkemakolam Joyce, and the Director of Finance, Mr. S. Ozigi, should be sanctioned in accordance with the Civil Service Rules for deliberately breaching the Appropriation Act, 2013, and other extant laws of the federation.”
The House adopted all the seven recommendations of the panel, which was chaired by Mrs. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, a Peoples Democratic Party legislator from Abia State.
But, in her reaction, the minister accused the House of harbouring a “hidden agenda.”
She noted in a statement by her media aide, Mr. Joe Obi, that in spite of the evidence she tendered before the committee, the panel made such recommendations about her.
Part of the statement reads, “We are shocked and disappointed that in spite of the deluge of representations and evidence provided by all invited stakeholders on the matter, the House would reach conclusions that have only confirmed that there was a hidden agenda in the entire exercise from the beginning.
“We recall vividly the underhand tactics of the House when, 24 long hours before the report of the investigation was due to be laid before the plenary, “certified true copies” were handed over to online and traditional media.
“The motive of those who handed the document to unauthorised persons has fully manifested in the adoption of the recommendations that do not reflect the public hearing conducted in the full glare of Nigerians and the media.
“We stand by our earlier submissions to the committee that due process was followed in the procurement of the vehicles by the NCAA.”
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, has assured members of the Rivers State House of Assembly that the National Assembly would ensure that adequate security was provided for them to sit in Port Harcourt.
Tambuwal therefore summoned the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed, for a meeting on the matter on Thursday (yesterday).
He said, “The Chairman, House Committee on Police Affairs (Usman Kurmo), is here. Tell the IG I will want to see him today (Thursday).”
As of 10pm on Thurday, it was unclear if Abubakar honoured the invitation.
Tambuwal spoke when he received a faction of the Rivers State House of Assembly in his office.
The faction comprises 25 lawmakers led by the Speaker, Mr. Otelemaba Dan-Amakiri.
The legislators were in Abuja to thank Tambuwal for mediating in the Assembly’s crisis and to seek his assistance in making the IG provide them with adequate security.
Tambuwal recalled that the House intervened in the crisis in July in a bid to “save a democratic institution.”
He added, “The National Assembly was vindicated by what happened when you tried a few days ago to resume sitting.
“We won’t let go on the Rivers matter and we are ready to exhaust all levels of appeal to resolve it.”
The speaker declined further comments on the matter because he acknowledged that it was still pending in court.
Earlier, Dan-Amakiri had said that it was proper for the group to visit the speaker and inform him of the intention of the members to resume sitting, since the House superintended temporarily over the affairs of the assembly.
However, he said he was not sure of the security of the members as they planned to resume sitting on Monday next week.
He said, “Although, we signed an undertaking with the police to be of good behaviour, we are not comfortable with the police because of our previous experiences.
“That is why we seek your assistance. Please, ask the IG to provide adequate security so that what happened on July 9, 2013 will not repeat itself.”