As probe into purchase of the two BMW armoured cars and other operational vehicles bought by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) got underway, it emerged yesterday that the agency spent a total of N643 million, being N403 million above the N240 million stipulated in the 2013 Appropriation Act.
In the initial budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly, the NCAA had requested the sum of N140 million for the purchase of two bulletproof cars at the cost of N70 million per unit, a request turned down by the legislators.
When this request was turned down, the parliament approved the sum of N240 million only for the purchase of operational vehicles.
Despite those concerned, especially the Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah insisting due process was followed in the procurement of the vehicles, evidence brought before the House Committee on Aviation probing the controversial armoured car deal yesterday showed that though the budget provided for a total of 25 operational vehicles, the NCAA turned around to procure a total of 54 vehicles, including the BMW armoured cars at triple the cost of what was provided in the budget for the vehicles.
Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, expressed anger that the NCAA committed public funds to such a deal in contravention of the budgetary approvals made by the National Assembly.
Onyejeocha and other members of the committee raised a number of questions as to the legality of the transaction and whether it followed due process.
Director General, NCAA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, however denied knowledge of most of the decisions leading to the controversial purchases, saying they were made prior to his assumption of duty as the agency’s boss.
The Director of Airspace in NCAA, who was already in office at the time the decisions were made, Mr. Joyce Nkemakonam was left with the duty of explaining the agency’s role in the transaction.
He insisted that the transaction followed due process as it received the approval of the Ministry of Aviation. He however had difficulties providing evidence for his claims.
He also could not defend the agency’s flouting of the Appropriation Act and Section 80 of the Constitution.
The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), in its testimony to the committee denied having information on the said purchase of the two bulletproof cars.
Mr. Ayo Adegbile, who represented the Director-General of BPP, Mr. Emeka Ezeh, said it had no documents to present because the purchases did not pass through the due process office as prescribed in the Public Procurement Act, as against the Aviation Minister’s assertion.
According to him, a procurement of that magnitude ought to have been passed and approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
He explained that going by the extant rules and a circular from the Secretary to the Head of Service of the Federation, procurement from N100 million upwards should be approved by FEC, while only those below that threshold could pass through ministerial tenders boards.
Oduah however escaped the heat of the deliberations as she was away on an official assignment.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Aviation, Mr. George Ossi explained that Oduah would not be available till after next Monday because she was away signing the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) deal with her counterpart in Israel.
Other stakeholders such as the Nigeria Customs Service and First Bank Nigeria Limited were also absent, while Coscharis Motors was partially represented but had no presentations because the firm got the invitation late and its top level managers were outside the country.
The Aviation Committee resolved after the day’s hearing, that Oduah and other absent stakeholders should appear before it to give oral and documentary evidence next Tuesday.