Nigeria’s embattled Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, has kept a low profile in Israel where she is with President Goodluck Jonathan on an official visit, sources from the Jewish state said on Friday.
Oduah, who is under probe over the purchase of two BMW bullet-proof cars at the outrageous sum of N255 million for her by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, withdrew to the background and out of sight in Israel on Thursday.
Unlike at previous public functions with the president where she featured prominently, Oduah kept to herself and avoided any form of publicity in Israel.
That was why she did not appear in most of the photographs of Nigeria’s delegation to Israel published on the front pages of leading national dailies on Friday.
Critics have said President Jonathan, after issuing a query to Oduah over the monumental financial scam rocking her ministry, shouldn’t have allowed her to be part of his delegation in Israel.
Oduah also angered members of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation when she failed to show up on Thursday at a public hearing even after an invitation had been extended to her. The lawmakers said she must appear unfailingly before them on 29 October.
At the public hearing, the NCAA disclosed for the first time that the Ministry of Aviation duly approved the controversial purchase of the N255 million bullet-proof cars for Oduah.
The Director of Aerodrome at the NCAA, Joyce Daniel Nkem-Akonam, who was also the acting Director General of the agency when the transaction was done, said the ministry approved the car purchase.
He attempted to defend the purchase by telling members of the committee that since “leasing financing, not direct financing was adopted to procure the vehicles,” the agency breached no law.
But the Bureau for Public Procurement faulted him and said the purchase of the cars did not follow due process.
Ayo Aderigbigbe, who represented BPP Director General, told the committee that no ministry had powers to approve any expenditure above N100 million like in the bullet-proof vehicles case.
“A ministerial tenders board can approve expenditure of N100 million and below, but if it is above N100 million, it must go before the Federal Executive Council,” Aderigbigbe said.
He said the BPP was never contacted by the NCAA over the car purchase.
Fola Akinkuotu, NCAA Director General, who had at a press conference tried to justify the car purchase, told the committee members that he was not in charge when the controversial transaction was completed and did not have enough information.
He said he assumed duties on 14 August, after the deal was sealed.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Transition Monitoring Group have called on those investigating the matter to get to its root and punish all the culprits.
APC said it was shocked that it could be blamed for the public outrage following the scandal rocking Oduah’s ministry.
The spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Yakubu Dati, had blamed the APC for Oduah’s troubles.
But Lai Mohammed, APC Interim National Publicity Secretary, said Dati tried unsuccessfully to “play on President Goodluck Jonathan’s insecurity as far as 2015 elections are concerned.
“This is very insulting not only to Nigerians but also to the President himself, and it will not sell,” he said.