N255m armoured cars: PDP washes hands off Aviation Minister

…says culprits must be punished

. Stakeholders in aviation urge ICPC, EFCC to investigate minister

The embattled Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, yesterday failed to get the support of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the ruling party distanced itself from the N255m armoured cars purchase scandal.

The party stated emphatically that it is greatly worried by the scandal.

A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP Chief Olisa Metuh, said the position of the party on corruption is unambiguous while its practical examples in zero tolerance for corrupt practices abound. Hence, the party declared that it had never and would never condone any form of corruption.

The PDP said that it would not cover up for Oduah over the bulletproof cars’ scandal, warning that the culprits shall not go unpunished.

His words: “We wish to assure Nigerians that whoever is found culpable shall reap in full, the bitter consequences of corruption and disservice to our dear nation.

“The position of our great party on corruption is unambiguous and our zero tolerance for corrupt practices abound in practical examples because our founding fathers placed utmost premium on transparent and accountable government as a fulcrum for achieving a Nigeria of our dream.

Our successive leaders since 1999 have resolutely stuck to this. “It is common knowledge that at one time or the other, some members of the top leadership of our party or their relatives faced charges of corruption and never was the law restrained from taking its full course. “To us as a party, the accusation of corruption in the Aviation Ministry is a big worry.

It is for this reason that the President and the leader of our party has set up a panel to investigate the matter while the National Assembly which we also lead has stepped in. We commend the President and the National Assembly for doing what is appropriate in the circumstance.

“It is a fundamental rule of due process and fairness that these investigations be allowed a full course so that those at the centre of the saga would be availed an opportunity to offer their own side and avoid a case of conviction before trial.”

The party, however, urged aviation officials to remain focused until a case is established against them. “If otherwise established, the aviation officials should not be intimidated but remain focused in the outstanding transformation that Nigerians have witnessed in the sector.”

The PDP further frowned at the ethnic dimension which comments and street actions on the issue have taken, cautioning tribal lords and lynch mobs on the two divides that such biased sentiments could hardly achieve an objective basis for establishing the culpability of the public officers involved in the matter.

“These public trials in which the accused stands no chance of defence are antithetical to democracy as it is capable of railroading appropriate investigation into an unjust conclusion. We, therefore, wish the various ethnic lords, jingoists as well as lynch mobs who have found occupation in sensational, subjective and antinational comments and protests to take their exit and allow the appropriate institutions of authority to dispassionately handle the matter,” Metuh cautioned.

The PDP also criticised the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, for its hypocritical stand on corruption, saying the party is not different from a white-washed tomb. The party said: “The APC is a stinking sepulchre. The party is the headquarters of corruption in Nigeria.

This is a party whose leaders relish in stinking miasma but artfully turning blind eyes to it. They, however, go megaphonic when other political parties are involved. Hardly can you point at any of its leaders without a heavy baggage.

In fact, the governors and leaders of the APC have been involved in bullet proof car deals more scandalous than that at the aviation ministry, but this is conspicuously missing on the sermon list of these false evangelists of good governance.”

“The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly is still standing trial for acts of corruption, yet it is not discussed. In Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Edo and Osun states, bridges and road contracts are outrageously inflated and the masses daily pauperised with the APC conniving in silence.

The case of the brazen privatisation of Lagos under Bola Tinubu which has continued till now is a trite knowledge, yet the APC sees no corruption in it at all,” the party added.

The PDP further contended that the stench of corruption oozing from the wheel and deal of the concessioning of the Lekki toll gate and its debilitating effects on the electoral fortunes of APC was the reason the Lagos State government retrieved and paid off the concession.

Meanwhile, stakeholders and professionals in the Nigerian aviation industry have called on the anti-graft agencies in the country; the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, to urgently move into the sector to save it from total collapse.

The stakeholders spoke against the backdrop of the N255m BMW760 armoured cars scam involving the Aviation Minister and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA. Speaking on the issue, the former National Secretary of Airlines Operators of Nigeria, AON, Alhaji Mohammed Tukur, said if there was any time the aviation sector needed the urgent intervention of the anti-graft agencies, it was now.

He described the situation as sad, adding that the sector had never witnessed this form of corruption before. He said: “It is a sad situation because we have never had this level of corruption in this industry. The corruption in the aviation ministry is huge.

It is not only NCAA that bought such vehicles. I can tell you on good authority that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, also bought some vehicles for the minister.

“That is why we are asking the anti-graft agencies to come in to investigate these aviation parastatals. It is not only the minister that is involved. If somebody asked you to do something illegal, why not resign, instead of doing it.” Tukur, who said he had faith in the capacity of President Goodluck Jonathan to address the issue, however, warned that should he shield the minister from prosecution over the alleged scam, it would rub off negatively on his government. He said the law should be allowed to take its due course.

He also canvassed for the scrapping of the Aviation Ministry and its integration into the Ministry of Transport, saying that was the practise in other parts of the world including the West African states.

On its part, the National Cabin Crew Association, NACCA, expressed shock over the armoured cars scam, saying even if the minister needed to address the issue of security, the cost of the vehicles was indefensible. NACCA National President, Mr. Charles Onuoha, said that his group was on the verge of honouring the minister for her role in re-modelling airports in the country when news of the armoured cars scam filtered in and frustrated the process.

He said: “We were planning to honour the minister on October 25, 2013, and while we were waiting for approval, the information of the cars scam came. We are pained that it happened; we felt embarrassed by what happened.”

Another stakeholder, who preferred anonymity, wondered why some Igbo youths had been protesting in support of the minister, stressing that it was unfortunate that tribalism had been allowed to creep into aviation. According to him, verdict is yet to be passed on the minister and her kinsmen are already threatening hell and brimstone, even when what she did is unacceptable. “Why are we tribalising everything in this country?

If what the minister did is found to be true, it is criminal and the law should be allowed to take its course?” he said. Onuoha urged President Jonathan not to send the wrong signal to the international community by shielding the minister from prosecution, if found wanting and urged the antigraft agencies to step in as fast as possible to save the sector from further plunder

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