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Investigations by the House of Representatives on the scandalous purchase, at inflated prices, of two BMW bullet proof cars by Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah have revealed that she breached government rules in acquiring the vehicles.

The Punch reported that a director of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday told the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation that the Ministry of Aviation approved the buying of the cars.

Nkem-Akonam, who handled the transaction as the acting managing director of the NCAA, however made spirited efforts to defend the minister, saying that the cars were bought under a lease arrangement, contrary to the documents in circulation that the NCAA paid Coscharis Motors for the cars.

In its evidence, the Bureau for Public Procurement said the procurement of the cars did not faulted him when it disputed the claim that the contract for the cars followed due process.

An official of the BPP, who represented the Director-General, Mr. Ayo Aderigbigbe, told the committee that no ministry had powers to approve any expenditure above N100m.

“A ministerial tenders board can approve expenditure of N100m and below, but if it is above N100m, it must go before the Federal Executive Council,” he explained.

The BPP official also told the committee members when he disclosed that the agency was never contacted by the NCAA over the car purchase.

He said, “We have nothing to forward to the committee on this matter. We have no information on the purchase of the two vehicles or the contract in question.”

The Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Fola Akintuotu, had earlier told the committee that he was not in charge of affairs when the transaction took place.

He said he assumed duties on August 14, after the expenditure had been done.

But there was a mild drama when the committee asked him whether the earlier explanation of the minister’s aide (Joe Obi) that the cars were bought because the life of Oduah was in danger was correct.

“I can’t speak for the SA(Special Adviser) to the minister,” he responded.

Again, he was asked whether a minister was entitled to the type of protection the cars were meant to serve.

To this, he said, “I believe that is a hypothetical question and I cannot answer it.”

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The House has given the minister up till Tuesday next week to appear before its committee.

Fresh facts emerged during the committee’s sitting on how the NCAA made a commitment of “over N1bn” to procure vehicles for security and operational purposes this year without appropriation by the National Assembly, according to Punch.

The agency bought 54 vehicles for N643.1m under “Leased Financing” entered into with the First Bank Plc. These included the controversial N255m bulletproof cars.

The total budget approved by the National Assembly for NCAA’s vehicles this year is N240m.

The National Assembly’s figure (N240m) is for 25 vehicles, excluding the two bulletproof cars.

The Aviation committee, which worked on the budget of the agency, had rejected the NCAA’s request to buy the bulletproof cars.

The NCAA later side-tracked the National Assembly to seek the approval of the Ministry of Aviation to purchase the cars.

More revelations indicated that the NCAA applied to buy each of the bulletproof cars at N70m.

However, it later opted to pay N127.5m for each car, totalling N255m for the two.

This brought the “extra-budgetary” expenditure of the NCAA on vehicles this year to N643.1m.

The committee discovered that the N643.1m was a loan taken from the First Bank Plc and excluded interest, charges and other costs built into the terms of the agreement.

A member of the panel, Mr. Mohammed Wudil, said, “What has come to light is that, if you calculate and include all the charges, the NCAA has committed about N1bn of public funds to these vehicles.”

The committee, which is headed by Mrs. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, said the “NCAA clearly committed an illegality and breached the 1999 Constitution by spending without appropriation by the National Assembly.”

.Culled from PUNCH online: