Thursday, September 3

Bulletproof cars: EFCC asks court to dismiss Oduah’s suit

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed a preliminary objection to the suit filed by a former Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, seeking court’s protection from probe.

Oduah had on August 26, 2015 obtained an interim injuction barring the EFCC from taking any action against her as regards the purchase of two armoured BMW cars at a cost of N160m in 2013 by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority under her watch.

Justice Mohammed Yunusa of a Federal High Court in Lagos granted the order following an ex parte application by Oduah’s lawyer, Mr. R.A. Oluyede.

Also restrained by the order are the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission; the Attorney General of the Federation and the Inspector General of Police.

The judge barred the respondents and their agents from inviting or arresting Oduah for questioning pending the determination of her main suit.

But the EFCC, in its preliminary objection, is challenging the jurisdiction of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court to entertain the matter.

The anti-graft agency is contending that the suit was wrongly commenced in Lagos since the subject matter took place in Abuja.

Apart from this, the EFCC described Oduah’s claims as baseless and speculative, saying that the ex-minister failed to place enough material fact before the court to justify her claim that she was about to be invited or arrested.

The commission urged the court to reject Oduah’s suit for lacking in merit.

Oduah, who is currently in the Senate representing Anambra North Senatorial District, had approached the court claiming that the current government, under the guise of anti-graft war, was making moves to persecute and humiliate her.

She claimed that the All Progressives Congress government had perfected plans to try prominent members of the Peoples Democratic Party, including herself, on trumped up charges in a Lagos State Government-controlled court.

According to her, this ploy was to depopulate the PDP so that Nigeria could become a one-party country.

She said her persecution, which began in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, was spearheaded by the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, who was then Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chairman House’s Aviation Committee.

According to Oduah, the All Progressives Congress, in a desperate bid to capture power, began a campaign of calumny by “demonising the most visible leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, including myself and others who were seen as pivotal to the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan.”

She said as part of the APC’s campaign of calumny, the party’s leadership commissioned some faceless organisations to write letters to the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, accusing her of “all manners of corrupt practices and offences in respect of my stewardship as Minister of Aviation.”

Oduah said despite her selfless service and the immense progress made under her watch, including the revamping of the country’s air transportation, Tambuwal still ordered her investigation based on the petitions containing “spurious and wild allegations.”

She said because of her electoral value and strategic politicking, she had been a target of the ploy by the APC to depopulate the PDP and distract its leaders with trumped up charges.

According to her, part of the APC plan was to charge PDP leaders “in a criminal trial in a Lagos State Government-controlled court.”

She, however, explained that the two armoured BMW purchased for N160m were for the purpose of conveying officials of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, who were in the country at that time for the routine inspection and certification of the 22 airports in the country, which were being rehabilitated under her watch.

She said the purchase of the armoured vehicles was necessitated to safeguard the lives of the foreign officials, since the inspection and certification of the airports coincided with “the peak of Boko Haram terrorists’ menace in the country, when the United Nations building and the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force were bombed in Abuja.”

“It was thus imperative that the NCAA, which is an apex regulatory authority in the Nigerian aviation industry, operating under the SARPs of the ICAO and subject to assessment by ICAO, acquire its own armoured vehicles for the use of the ICAO officials coming for inspection and certification at the time,” Oduah explained.

She added that the bulletproof vehicles were budgeted for in the 2013 budget, adding that they were duly procured in line with the Bureau of Public Procurement regulations.

The ex-minister said upon her assumption of office in 2011, she “quickly realised that the quest for direct foreign investment in Nigeria could not be optimally successful without world standard airports for international and domestic air travels.”

Because of this, she said, she therefore directed that the proposal of N9bn made for the rehabilitation of four airports be made to cover all the 22 airports in the country.

Begging the court to protect her, Oduah said unless the court intervened “the APC will unleash repression against her and others and this may cause the country to recede to a one-party state, with gross adverse effects and irreparable damage to our nascent democracy.”

Hearing of the main suit has been adjourned till October 2, 2015.

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