BY EMMAN OVUAKPORIE, JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU, JOSEPH ERUNKE & LEVINUS NWABUGHIOGU
ABUJA—The House of Representatives is to investigate the purchase of two official vehicles at the cost of N250 million for the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, when it resumes tomorrow.
The inclination of the House is in the wake of fury in the two chambers of the National Assembly over the alleged purchase of the two armoured vehicles which the legislators claimed was not provided for in the 2013 budget.
The two BMW vehicles were purchased for Mrs Oduah by the National Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, a parastatal under the supervision of the Ministry of Aviation.
While House members were livid over the purchase which they claimed as insensitive, senators were more circumspect even though one senator described the purchase as obscene.
Both chambers of the National Assembly are resuming from Sallah break tomorrow.
We will unravel those involved — Rep Mohammed
Spokesman of the House, Rep. Zakari Mohammed, PDP who told Vanguard yesterday that the purchases could not have been endorsed in the 2013 budget said the House would launch an investigation into the issue after it resumes tomorrow.
“The House as soon as it resumes proceedings this week will unravel circumstances surrounding the purchase of those cars,” he told Vanguard in a telephone interview.
Asked whether the House captured the purchase in the 2013 Appropriation Act, Mohammed said “the House cannot approve such a thing it must have been captured under another sub title.”
Speaking in the same vein, Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, Rep Ahmad Ali described the situation as appalling and scandalous.
“One thing I am certain of is that the House will unravel those involved and know who and who collected money and such people must face the full wrath of the law.
“I used to respect the Minster of Aviation a lot. But with this, the Ministry officials have scandalized the administration. While it is her choice to apologize to Nigerians, it remains the responsibility of the administration to surprise Nigerians and frontally address the indiscretion.
“This incident should not be added to the catalogue of impunity going on,” Ali added.
Chairman of the House Committee on Anti-corruption and Ethics, Rep Abiodun Faleke on his part said Oduah would definitely be made to answer questions if the vehicles were actually bought at the prices reported.
“Definitely if the cars were bought, we need to know how and why and by whom, if it is true, she has a lot to answer when we resume.”
Rep. Ogbonna Nwuke representing Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency, Rivers State said there was no provision for the purchase in the 2013 budget.
“The money used in purchasing those vehicles was not appropriated for. You can go through the budget, it’s not there,” he claimed yesterday.
“The fact is that those cars have been bought with tax-payers’ money and what we should really concern ourselves is whether really it was appropriated for in the Appropriation Act.
“Can you imagine how many jobs that amount of money would have created in the Aviation industry? At a time that over 66 percent of Nigerians are below poverty level. Can you imagine how many persons that would have taken off the streets? We are worried about the percentage of people who are not employed. Yet, nobody cares instead what is important is to buy bullet-proof cars because somebody feels threatened.”
Representative Bassey Dan Abia, Eket/Onna/Esit/Ibeno Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State said the fate of the minister remains in the hands of the president but he nevertheless affirmed that the purchases could only have been done without appropriation by the National Assembly.
“I can’t call for her sack, her sack is the prerogative of the President.”
Oduah’s purchase of N255m cars obscene — Senate
One senator speaking on the condition of anonymity described the action of the minister as ‘obscene’ bearing in mind the condition of the country’s public universities which have been closed down for months.
“I suspect that it is not in the budget. And then two, for a country that is passing through these times, that is obscene to say the least,” the senator said.
He also said that the purchase of the two BMW cars at such an outrageous price should be investigated, adding, “for those who should know (the price) they say that those vehicles are over priced so the relevant agencies must investigate it.”
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Hope Uzodinma did not respond to enquiries.