*Orubebe, two others dropped
*Supervising ministers to take over affected ministries
*Jubilation engulfs aviation industry; stakeholders react
By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North, BEN AGANDE & Daniel Eteghe
ABUJA—The gale of sack at the Presidential Villa continued, yesterday, as President Goodluck Jonathan fired the controversial Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah and dropped three others.
Those dropped by the President included the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe; Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade and the Minister of State for Finance, Dr Yerima Ngama.
Minister of Information and Supervising Minister for Defence, Labaran Maku, who confirmed the sack said the president relieved the ministers of their appointments to allow them pursue other interests.
Mr Maku also debunked reports in the social media that the former Chief of Staff to the President, Mike Oghiadomhe was removed because of his alleged involvement in corrupt acts in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The Minister of Information said: “Today (yesterday) the President announced further changes in the Federal Executive Council. He said a number of ministers have been asked to step out of the federal executive council to further their own interests, some in politics, others in their own private enterprises.
“Clearly, what the President did today (yesterday) was to allow ministers who have indicated interest in pursuing further goals in the polity, in the economy and in the life of the country to be allowed to go.
“Those asked by the President to go include the following: The Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd); Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe and Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah.
“In announcing his acceptance of their decision to participate in the polity, the President thanked them very sincerely for the great job they have done in helping the government realise the goals that have been achieved under the transformation agenda. The President believes that they have done so well for this administration and was generally happy with what they have done, particularly in their various sectors to help the administration realise the goals we have seen today under the transformation programme of the government.”
Refutes media reports on Oghiadomhe
“The President also further explained that contrary to some insinuations in some quarters, that our colleague, the former Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, was asked to go because of alleged involvement in NNPC alleged fraud, the President explained that contrary to these insinuations which came from the social media and were also replicated in some regular media, Chief Oghiadomhe left to pursue further interests in politics.
“The office of the Chief of Staff does not supervise the NNPC, it has no direct correlation with the NNPC and he said if Chief Oghiadomhe left because of the NNPC alleged fraud, then it will suggest that there would have been people that were involved with him and those people too would have gone.
“So contrary to these speculations, the President asked him to go when he offered to resign to pursue interest in politics. Politics is very vast so the President made it very clear that the resignation of the former Chief of Staff has nothing to do with alleged misdemeanour in NNPC but rather purely the decision of the former Chief of Staff to withdraw his services was to participate in politics”.
Supervising ministers to replace Oduah, others
Mr Maku further announced that “the President asked the following ministers to take charge of the ministries:
For the Ministry of Aviation, the Minister of State for Trade, Industry and Investment, Samuel Ortom, will supervise it until the substantive appointment of an Aviation Minister.
“The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, already has a Minister of State, Darius Ishaku; in the Ministry of Finance of course the CME (Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) is already in charge. For the Ministry of Police Affairs, the President asked the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Olajumoke Akinjide to take charge of the Ministry”.
Asked if other ministers who also have interests in higher political offices would be asked to go in batches, Labaran Maku said: “That is left for the President to decide. I am not the President but I believe sincerely that it depends on what they have communicated to Mr. President. He does not just take those decisions in isolation”.
He added that “the President said he has asked them to go because of their interests. They have indicated interest in pursuing higher and deeper interests in the polity and so he has decided to allow them go and pursue those interests. You have to get that correctly so that you won’t go and say something like it was said in the case of the former Chief of Staff”.
Asked if the President asked Oduah to go based on the report of the presidential committee on the N255 million car scam, Maku said: “I have just reported exactly what the President said. Also don’t forget allegations don’t necessarily mean guilt and I think the press should always be patient. But the truth of the matter is that they left because they indicated interest in playing deeper roles in the politics of the country and the President has decided to let them go”.
Jubilation engulfs aviation industry
Meanwhile, the aviation industry went into jubilation, yesterday, as many stakeholders expressed delight over the removal of Princes Stella Oduah.
Some stakeholders, however, faulted the timing of her removal, arguing that she should have been allowed to complete the airport remodelling project.
While expressing delight over the removal of the Aviation Minister, Deputy General Secretary, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Comrade Olayinka Abioye affirmed that President Goodluck Jonathan had just given Nigerians a valentine gift, stressing that it was a welcome development.
Comrade Abioye further noted that Princess Oduah’s tenure was full of irregularities, noting that she disrespected the unions all through her tenure.
According to him, all the remodelling of airports and upgrade of facilities did not follow due process, asking what was the cost of the airports remodelled and the source of the funds.
He also noted that most of the agencies were tasked to partake in the remodelling project. He said that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) was asked to purchase electronic counters which were not part of the responsibility of the agency.
Comrade Abioye said: ”We will remember Princess Stella Oduah for so many things. All the remodelling project and upgrade of infrastructure, did they follow due process? The answer is no; were the stakeholders carried along in the process? The answer is no. Were proper materials used in the buildings and the structures, the answer is no. Does FAAN which is supposed to be the supervisor in the know of several of these things? The answer is no.
“President Goodluck Jonathan has just given Nigerians a valentine gift by the removal of Princes Stella Oduah and, however painful it may be, we will cherish this gift. The House of Representatives in their report indicted the minister for violating extant rules and urged the government to review her appointment. That word review means a very big thing, if somebody is appointed in a place and there is an error and you said please can we review the appointment of this person, it means that, please get this fellow away from this place or position.”
Also speaking, the President of Aviation Round Table, (ART), Capt. Dele Ore said that the sack of Oduah was good news, adding that he congratulates President Jonathan for the bold step he has taken.
Capt. Ore further noted that with this development, it was time to re-position the aviation sector in the right track as this would help in protecting the Category One Status of the country.
He said: ”That is good news, I congratulate President Goodluck Jonathan for the bold step he has taken though it is belated. It is a welcome development. Now that the minister has been asked to go this is the time to bring aviation back to the right track. We hope it is not too late to protect our Category One Status which is being threatened.
“We expect that her successor will be coming will correct several errors that have been committed in the process of this transformation agenda.”
EFCC to swoop on Oduah, others
Meanwhile, the stage was, yesterday, set for the nation’s anti-graft agencies to move against the former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah.
Although the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, told journalists that the President relieved the affected ministers of their portfolios to enable them pursue deeper political ambitions, it was clear that the former Aviation minister was booted out as a result of her involvement in the bulletproof cars scandal, which rattled the Presidency.
A top source in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said yesterday that investigation into the matter had been going on and would now be taken to a logical conclusion with Oduah’s ouster.
The source, which declined to be named, pointed out that the coast had been cleared for the commission to resume its investigation on the multi-million scandal that shook the nation’s image at home and abroad.
The source said: “It is true that the investigation of Oduah has been ongoing and we can now take the matter to a logical conclusion to save the image of the commission and the country.”
Asked how soon the former minister would be summoned, the source said that ‘nothing would be done in secret’ when the investigation resumes.
But the removal of the minister by President Jonathan has been described as medicine after death by Mr. Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.
Malami noted that the President should have sacked Oduah when the heat was on rather than allow her continued stay to deal a serious credibility blow on his government and Nigeria.
Malami said: “The sacking of Oduah is belated and of no relevance to this country. In fact, it is too late to say the least. She has already done a substantial damage to the credibility of this administration and her sack at the moment does not make any sense at all”.