How Cash-Strapped FAAN, Borrowed N1.3 Billion For Aviation Minister’s Bullet-Proof Cars
An ongoing investigation by SaharaReporters has revealed how Aviation Minister Stella Oduah compelled the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), a cash-strapped agency under her supervision, to borrow a huge amount from a commercial bank in order to buy her two bullet-proof cars.
The scandalous transaction, which is quite similar to the one that cost the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) $1.6 million to purchase two armored BMW cars, was also hatched using a loan facility from the First Bank of Nigeria.
Several sources at FAAN and First Bank told SaharaReporters that George Uriesi, the Managing Director of FAAN, conspired with Ms. Oduah to obtain a loan of N1.3 billion from First Bank. Part of the loan was used to buy 205 cars for several staff members, directors as well as board members of FAAN.
In addition, however, four armored cars were purchased for the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, and FAAN’s MD, Mr. Uriesi.
Our sources listed the cars bought for the minister as two “American Spec Lexus Limousines.” As happened in the NCAA deal, reliable sources at FAAN told SaharaReporters that the vehicles were never physically delivered to FAAN. Instead, some of our sources disclosed that the automobile vendor gave the minister over N150 million as kickbacks after First Bank of Nigeria had paid for the vehicle.
A FAAN source said the deal was done with Coscharis Motors Limited, a company owned by Cosmos Maduka. Mr. Maduka’s dealership was also involved in the fraudulent deal in which NCAA spent $1.6 million on the ostensible purchase of two bullet-proof BMW cars.
In an appearance before a panel of the House of Representatives investigating Ms. Oduah’s car scams, Mr. Maduka testified that he fraudulently used import waivers meant for Lagos State to import two armored cars for the minister. Yesterday, the committee of the House of Representatives revealed that two armored cars hurriedly brought to Abuja airport for inspection had chassis numbers that did not match those in the transaction between Coscharis and the NCAA.
Ms. Oduah appeared today before the House committee, offering a well choreographed response to questions about the BMW auto fraud. She claimed that her spokesperson’s earlier admission that the cars were purchased for her because of threats to her person were “inaccurate.” She also claimed that the vehicles were not meant for her but for aviation VIPs.
Some members of the committee appeared in a haste to swallow her well packaged lies. The committee seemed reluctant to ask Ms. Oduah hard questions, said a member of an anti-corruption group who witnessed the session. “Why were they not grilling Mrs. Oduah on how her spokesman, Joe Obi, could have issued a statement on such a sensitive issue without clearing it with her? Why would he say the cars were purchased for the minister’s safety and security, and now she’s suddenly claiming that they were bought for VIP guests of Aviation Ministry? How come NCAA personnel signed that the cars were delivered when they never saw the cars? And there is the most important question that any serious committee should ask: Why did she authorize the spending of nearly $800,000 to buy each car when the real price tag is not up to $200,000?”
The source said that, unfortunately, “oversight committees of the National Assembly have a reputation for letting corrupt government officials get off the hook in exchange for payoffs.”
The Senate committee for Aviation has summoned First Bank and FAAN to appear on Monday to explain the circumstances behind the extravagant automobile purchases.
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