Ochereome Nnanna: Much ado about Oduah-gate

by Ochereome Nnanna

Princess_Stella_Oduah-OgiemwonyiShe did not deny complicity in the saga. Rather, she reiterated that (a) the procurement of the cars followed due process, tendering all relevant documents to support her claim

Oduahgate is the latest public scandal that has seized the public sphere in Nigeria in the past two weeks or so. It concerns an allegation that Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, colluded with officials of one of the departments in her ministry, the Nigerian Civic Aviation Authority, NCAA, to order from Coscharis Motors, two armoured BMW cars at a cost totaling N255 million (or $1.6) for her use as Minister.

Apart from the stupendous amount involved, the allegation gathers more outrage when additional independent research in some quarters revealed that the kind of car ordered goes for about N64 million apiece at source. The impression this creates is that some inflation of figures took place, which would expose all those involved in the allegation to prosecution by the anti-graft agencies if prima facie cases of culpability are established against them.

This scandal was born when a whistleblower in the Ministry of Aviation alerted Saharareporters, an online news blog with a penchant for exposing criminal and corrupt activities, especially in government. The story made a landfall in the mainstream media, and everybody has been free with their comments, particularly painting Oduah in the garb of a corrupt minister who must be relieved of her job and sent to jail.

I have a couple of very simple questions. Did the Minister actually collude with officials of the NCAA to purchase two armoured cars at inflated prices at the taxpayers’ expense? Are those cars meant for her official or personal use?

President Goodluck Jonathan responded to the uproar by issuing the Minister a query. He also set up a panel of three headed by the immediate past Head of Federal Civil Service, Alhaji Sali Bello, with the National Security Adviser, retired Col Sambo Dasuki and Air Vice-Marshal Dik Iruenebere as members. A panel consisting of a seasoned top bureaucrat like Bello and the nation’s senior security officer, Dasuki, should be able to explore all the angles to this case and ensure that the President gets all the right answers with which he will decide what to do about this matter. For avoidance of doubt, the President saddled the panel with the job to (a) investigate whether the procurement of the vehicles at that price followed due process; (b) establish the purpose for which they were procured.

In addition to answering the President’s query, which was published in the media, Oduah submitted a large volume of documents to the House of Representatives which summoned her to explain what happened, backing them up with a 12-page defence of herself and the actions she and officials of the NCAA took.

She did not deny complicity in the saga. Rather, she reiterated that (a) the procurement of the cars followed due process, tendering all relevant documents to support her claim; (b) the armoured BMW cars were never meant for her use but for the use of the NCAA in its national and international operational activities. In fact, she (c) pointed out that the NCAA has not spent such an amount, but rather that, through open, due process, the cars were procured from Coscharis through a lease financing by First Bank PLC that will be liquidated in three years. She added that (d) the expenditure was approved for the NCAA by the National Assembly in compliance with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF.

She also pointed out that the purchase of these armoured cars and other vehicles listed in the story were part of the overall modernisation and upgrading of equipment in the Aviation industry, of which the remodeling of the 22 airports around the country is already evident to air travellers in the country. According to her, as an industry regulator, NCAA needs to have all the specialised vehicles which it can deploy when dignitaries from international stakeholder groups come calling, particularly at a time when Nigeria is looking forward to being elected President of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.

Having looked extensively into the cases made by the Minister’s accusers and the defence she has put up, it is my studied opinion that we wait for the presidential panel and the Committee of the House investigating this matter to finish their work. The reason is simple. Both the accusers and the defendant will (naturally) only present facts and arguments that will advance their interests.

There is clear evidence that some of those hounding the Minister are working for vested interests in the industry and the polity at large. It is also obvious that the Minister, in her defence, might have dredged up some red herrings to divert attention.

But a thorough investigation will bring out a complete picture. I wish the presidential and House panels make their findings known to the public. If the Minister or any official of the ministry, the NCAA, the bank and the motor dealership companies are found to have engaged in any misconduct or official corruption or intention thereto, the law must take its full course. The case must be established beyond any shadow of doubt because that will make prosecution easier and less expensive.

But if at the end it is established that indeed, nothing unseemly took place and that the purchases complied not only with due process but were essential towards equipping our aviation industry to meet up with normal international requirements, the Federal Government must be unequivocal in commending the Minister and her team for a job well done.

We are living in a highly charged political environment. We must ensure that the probe and actions we will take in this matter will be well above politics. It will be a sad day if Princess Oduah’s hands are clean and bloodthirsty jackals are allowed to orchestrate a lynch mob and force the President to remove her from office. The President must act on this matter with the highest public interest of Nigeria uppermost in his mind. He must never pander to parochial politics, either knuckling down to the pressures of a vocal opposition or bowing to the soft fancies of Princess Oduah’s past contributions to his political fortunes.

Oduah has made a few mistakes as a human being on her duty post, but within two years as Minister of Aviation, she has already left an indelible fingerprint. But it cannot be helped if she soiled her unique transformation of the industry.

Gov Suswam, a chef’s Bestman!

I READ with great delight how Governor Gabriel Torwua Suswam of Benue State acted as the Bestman to a chef who works for a church in Makurdi.

He was simply identified as Peter, who got wedded to his bride, Tabitha. Said Suswam: “Today I am happy to identify with Peter and Tabitha as I march to the Altar as Peter’s Best man. I have known Peter as a dedicated steward/cook in the Parish House any time I came visiting the Church.

Most youths today will rather refuse to work as stewards and look down on people who do such jobs. It is not what you do that matters but how you affect others in your little position.

“It is for these reasons that I am happy to identify with Peter and wife and wish them a happy married life, while I enjoin other youths to emulate humble beginnings in all they do as it attracts blessings from God and before men”. That’s how leaders inspire the people they lead! Cheers Peter, Tabitha and Bestman, Suswam!

—————————-

Read this article in the Sun Newspapers

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

ODuahgate is the latest public scandal that has seized the public sphere in Nigeria in the past two weeks or so. It concerns an allegation that Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, colluded with officials of one of the departments in her ministry, the Nigerian Civic Aviation Authority, NCAA, to order from Coscharis Motors, two armoured BMW cars at a cost totaling N255 million (or $1.6) for her use as Minister.

Apart from the stupendous amount involved, the allegation gathers more outrage when additional independent research in some quarters revealed that the kind of car ordered goes for about N64 million apiece at source. The impression this creates is that some inflation of figures took place, which would expose all those involved in the allegation to prosecution by the anti-graft agencies if prima facie cases of culpability are established against them.

stella-cars1

This scandal was born when a whistleblower in the Ministry of Aviation alerted Saharareporters, an online news blog with a penchant for exposing criminal and corrupt activities, especially in government. The story made a landfall in the mainstream media, and everybody has been free with their comments, particularly painting Oduah in the garb of a corrupt minister who must be relieved of her job and sent to jail.

I have a couple of very simple questions. Did the Minister actually collude with officials of the NCAA to purchase two armoured cars at inflated prices at the taxpayers’ expense? Are those cars meant for her official or personal use?

President Goodluck Jonathan responded to the uproar by issuing the Minister a query. He also set up a panel of three headed by the immediate past Head of Federal Civil Service, Alhaji Sali Bello, with the National Security Adviser, retired Col Sambo Dasuki and Air Vice-Marshal Dik Iruenebere as members. A panel consisting of a seasoned top bureaucrat like Bello and the nation’s senior security officer, Dasuki, should be able to explore all the angles to this case and ensure that the President gets all the right answers with which he will decide what to do about this matter. For avoidance of doubt, the President saddled the panel with the job to (a) investigate whether the procurement of the vehicles at that price followed due process; (b) establish the purpose for which they were procured.

In addition to answering the President’s query, which was published in the media, Oduah submitted a large volume of documents to the House of Representatives which summoned her to explain what happened, backing them up with a 12-page defence of herself and the actions she and officials of the NCAA took.

She did not deny complicity in the saga. Rather, she reiterated that (a) the procurement of the cars followed due process, tendering all relevant documents to support her claim; (b) the armoured BMW cars were never meant for her use but for the use of the NCAA in its national and international operational activities. In fact, she (c) pointed out that the NCAA has not spent such an amount, but rather that, through open, due process, the cars were procured from Coscharis through a lease financing by First Bank PLC that will be liquidated in three years. She added that (d) the expenditure was approved for the NCAA by the National Assembly in compliance with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF.

She also pointed out that the purchase of these armoured cars and other vehicles listed in the story were part of the overall modernisation and upgrading of equipment in the Aviation industry, of which the remodeling of the 22 airports around the country is already evident to air travellers in the country. According to her, as an industry regulator, NCAA needs to have all the specialised vehicles which it can deploy when dignitaries from international stakeholder groups come calling, particularly at a time when Nigeria is looking forward to being elected President of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.

Having looked extensively into the cases made by the Minister’s accusers and the defence she has put up, it is my studied opinion that we wait for the presidential panel and the Committee of the House investigating this matter to finish their work. The reason is simple. Both the accusers and the defendant will (naturally) only present facts and arguments that will advance their interests.

There is clear evidence that some of those hounding the Minister are working for vested interests in the industry and the polity at large. It is also obvious that the Minister, in her defence, might have dredged up some red herrings to divert attention.

But a thorough investigation will bring out a complete picture. I wish the presidential and House panels make their findings known to the public. If the Minister or any official of the ministry, the NCAA, the bank and the motor dealership companies are found to have engaged in any misconduct or official corruption or intention thereto, the law must take its full course. The case must be established beyond any shadow of doubt because that will make prosecution easier and less expensive.

But if at the end it is established that indeed, nothing unseemly took place and that the purchases complied not only with due process but were essential towards equipping our aviation industry to meet up with normal international requirements, the Federal Government must be unequivocal in commending the Minister and her team for a job well done.

We are living in a highly charged political environment. We must ensure that the probe and actions we will take in this matter will be well above politics. It will be a sad day if Princess Oduah’s hands are clean and bloodthirsty jackals are allowed to orchestrate a lynch mob and force the President to remove her from office. The President must act on this matter with the highest public interest of Nigeria uppermost in his mind. He must never pander to parochial politics, either knuckling down to the pressures of a vocal opposition or bowing to the soft fancies of Princess Oduah’s past contributions to his political fortunes.

Oduah has made a few mistakes as a human being on her duty post, but within two years as Minister of Aviation, she has already left an indelible fingerprint. But it cannot be helped if she soiled her unique transformation of the industry.

Gov Suswam, a chef’s Bestman!

I READ with great delight how  Governor Gabriel Torwua Suswam of Benue State acted as the Bestman to a chef who works for a church in Makurdi.

He was simply identified as Peter, who got wedded to his bride, Tabitha. Said Suswam: “Today I am happy to identify with Peter and Tabitha as I march to the Altar as Peter’s Best man. I have known Peter as a dedicated steward/cook in the Parish House any time I came visiting the Church.

Most youths today will rather refuse to work as stewards and look down on people who do such jobs. It is not what you do that matters but how you affect others in your little position.

“It is for these reasons that I am happy to identify with Peter and wife and wish them a happy married life, while I enjoin other youths to emulate humble beginnings in all they do as it attracts blessings from God and before men”. That’s how leaders inspire the people they lead! Cheers Peter, Tabitha and Bestman, Suswam!

– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/11/much-ado-oduahgate/#sthash.D4rDKz3Z.dpuf

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