Jonathan, Sack Oduah Now

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Stella Oduah, Nigeria’s embattled aviation minister, has failed and should be immediately sacked by President Goodluck Jonathan. She should also be arrested and prosecuted for corruption, mismanagement and breach of trust.

Since Tuesday 15 October when an online news medium exposed, with incontrovertible evidence, how the cash-strapped Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, bought two BMW bullet-proof cars for Stella Oduah in August at the whopping sum of $1.6 million or about N255 million, Nigerians have been calling on Oduah to step down or be sacked.

She has failed to heed the public call and President Jonathan has not spoken out against the outright mismanagement of public money.

Oduah’s men have tried in vain to justify the purchase of the expensive cars and have made more Nigerians angry with each new defence.

For instance, the same day the story was published, Oduah’s men first dismissed the report, claiming that the minister was too rich to demand or accept gifts from the NCAA.

The following day, on Wednesday, the minister’s media aide, Joe Obi, finally admitted that the cars were purchased for the minister because her life was in danger from those who opposed her so-called transformation agenda in the aviation industry. That explanation failed to sell.

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Two days later, on Friday, Fola Akinkuotu, Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, tried to change the story again by claiming that the cars were bought for foreign dignitaries who visit the NCAA for various reasons. That explanation also failed. Oduah’s men also tried to use ethnicity to buy sympathy from Nigerians and portray the scandal as an ethnic witch-hunt against a minister who is hated by non-Igbos. That also failed.

With Nigerians refusing to buy any of their explanations, Oduah set up a panel at the NCAA to unmask who leaked the information to the media. We believe that all these antics are unnecessary and the investigation is an exercise in futility.  Oduah should do the right thing and step down or she should immediately be booted out by President Jonathan.

The issue here is not about who leaked the information to the media. It’s about a minister who used her office and compelled a cash-strapped agency to buy cars for her at over inflated prices.  It is about a minister who broke the law by demanding and accepting gifts from a struggling agency, knowing very well that the cars had not been budgeted for.

It is about corruption, mismanagement and abuse of power. It is about a breach of trust and it gives us an idea about how Nigerian government officials plunder public resources. It is about a minister who is not ashamed of what she did and who is trying to justify the unjustifiable. In other climes, Oduah will be answering questions from anti-fraud or anti-corruption agents. It is about a president who has lost control of his minister. It is about a country where the fight against corruption has collapsed.

We cannot continue that way. The biggest problem Nigeria faces is corruption and outright theft by those in public office. Oduah should be sacked immediately to show the President is serious about fighting corruption. Her punishment should deter others. That’s the right way to go if we want to move as a nation and fix our turbulent aviation industry where planes are now dropping from the sky like hailstones.