Nigerians have expressed shock and indignation over the trip to Israel by Stella Oduah, the embattled minister of aviation, who is under probe following the BMW car scandal rocking her ministry.
Oduah jetted out of Nigeria on Tuesday and is with President Goodluck Jonathan in Israel to sign the Bilateral Air Services Agreement,BASA, with the jewish state.
Many prominent Nigerians who spoke on the issue said they were outraged that a minister under such a monumental financial scam could be allowed to travel out of the country along with a president who had just queried her.
They said Nigeria seems to be turning into a banana republic.
According to activist Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Women Arise, Oduah’s trip to Israel is condemnable and offensive.
“It is highly condemnable and it shows how insensitive the minister is. At a time when she should be sober and when she should be explaining herself to the Nigerian people, she has decided to throw caution to the wind by travelling to Israel. It shows the arrogance of our public office holders,” she said.
She warned: “We want to sound a note of warning that Nigeria is being turned into a banana republic and we may need to go back to the trenches. We warn the probe committee to do a painstaking job.”
Ganiat Fawehinmi, wife of the late human rights crusader, Gani Fawehinmi, said she is scandalised at Oduah’s trip with Jonathan.
“It is shocking that she could be allowed to travel with the president at this time and it is only in Nigeria that such a thing can happen,” Mrs. Fawehinmi said.
“By now, she should have been dismissed because all fingers are pointing at her and she has not come out to deny it,” she added.
Mrs. Fawehinmi said the purchase of the two BMW cars at the whopping sum of N255 million is taking place at a time Nigerian students have been forced to stay home for almost four months due to alleged cash crunch.
“All the money being wasted by public office holders should have been put together and invested in our universities.”
According to Comrade Ibuchukwu Ohabuenyi Ezike, Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, Oduah’s trip to Israel is not surprising in a highly corrupt country like Nigeria.
“We are not surprised at what Oduah did because Nigerian authorities since I999 have paid lip service to fighting corruption and crushing impunity.
“Rage by Nigerians without practical actions to chase away this class and reclaim our society will change nothing. The world is watching this ignoble act that brings shame on our people and society,” he said.
According to Achike Chude, Deputy Chairman, Joint Action Forum, JAF, Nigerians are outraged at the amount of money spent to keep a minister of the Federal Republic safe.
“But we have become less ambitious when it comes to corruption. It would appear that when we try to bring the multi billion naira crooks down and fail, then we try harder to bring the multi million naira crooks down,” he said.
To Debo Adeniran, Chairman Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, Oduah’s trip shows that Jonathan is not serious about fighting corruption.
“From all indications, it is clear that the President aids and abets corruption, if not Oduah won’t have the effrontery to boycott the National Assembly panel for a trip to Israel,” Adeniran said, adding: “Nigerians shouldn’t be surprised if Oduah is not punished at the end of the day.
According to Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the setting up of an administrative panel of inquiry by the Presidency to investigate the allegation against Oduah is a wild goose chase and another waste of time and dubious waste of the resources of the Nigerian nation.
Ojudu, in a statement in Abuja, said there are several financial crimes and corrupt practices agencies which are constitutionally empowered to carry out such investigations and make their reports available to the President.
He wondered why the president would set up a panel of inquiry, which colouration already tells a lot about the conclusions it would reach, to usurp the powers of these agencies.
Ojudu argued that the only reason for such a panel is because Jonathan does not have the stomach to really allow a proper investigation of the allegations against Oduah who had been said to have played a pivotal role in the president’s electoral victory in 2011.
Ojudu contended that judging from previous committees that were set up in similar fashion, it would appear that the Jonathan presidency was pooling another wool over the eyes of Nigerians.
President Jonathan, departing to Jerusalem for pilgrimage on Wednesday, set up a three man panel to probe the N255 million BMW cars scandal involving Stella Oduah.
Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to President Jonathan who made the announcement to journalists after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, also confirmed reports that the President also issued a query in which explanation was demanded from the Minister over the car scandal yesterday.
The three-man administrative panel of enquiry that will probe Oduah will be chaired by the immediate past Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isa Bello Sali.
The other members include Sambo Dasuki (retd), the National Security Adviser and Air Vice Marshall Dick Iruenabere (retd).
The Committee, according to Abati will investigate whether the procurement of the vehicles followed due process, the purposes the vehicles were procured for and other incidental matters.
The secretariat of the panel which has two weeks to complete its assignment will be provided by the office of the NSA