President Goodluck Jonathan may have finally succumbed to public pressure to move against the embattled Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, who is currently being probed over the N255m bulletproof cars bought for her by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
The development came to the fore with the last-minute decision to stop Oduah from signing the much-publicised Bilateral Air Services Agreement with Israel.
The ceremony was given by Presidency officials as the main purpose of her inclusion in the President’s entourage to Israel for this year’s Christian pilgrimage.
In her stead, Minister of State I, Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, signed the agreement on behalf of the Federal Government while the Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr. Zeer Elkin, signed on behalf of the Israeli government.
Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, after releasing a photograph on Monday on the signing ceremony, issued a statement in which he confirmed that Onwuliri signed on behalf of the government.
Abati did not however explain why Oduah was not allowed to sign the agreement despite the fact that the photograph released by her aides showed that she was present at the event.
The President had come under criticisms for allowing the minister to be on his entourage at a time he set up a three-member panel to investigate the purchase of the cars.
A top Presidency source on the entourage of the President in Israel told our correspondent on the telephone that the decision to stop Oduah from signing the agreement was taken shortly after Jonathan arrived in Israel.
That same reason, he added, informed the decision of the President’s aides to keep the minister away from the President since their arrival in the country.
The Special Adviser on Media to Oduah, Mr. Joe Obi, had on October 22 said in statement that the minister travelled to Israel to sign the pact. Two days after, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr. George Ossi, told the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation that Oduah could not appear before it because she “was leading the Nigerian delegation to Israel to sign the BASA.”
A former Minister of Aviation, Mr.Femi Fani-Kayode, who shed light on the development, said Jonathan must have prevented her from signing the BASA because of the situation she was in.
He said, “BASA is supposed to be signed by the aviation minister or she could delegate it to the permanent secretary in the ministry. The agreement has nothing to do with the Foreign Affairs Ministry. I signed quite a few during my tenure.”
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