Stella Oduah’s Romance With Scandals,By Dele Agekameh

agekameh 600For quite some time now, Stella Oduah, the masculine and wrestler-built Nigeria’s minister of aviation, seems to be permanently hooked to scandals of various dimensions and magnitude. Her 27-month tenure as minister has been dogged by several controversies and scandals. Not only this, the aviation industry under her watch has witnessed two major air disasters leading to the loss of no fewer than 200 precious lives.
The latest scandal involving the minister has to do with the purchase of two BMW 760 Li luxury cars which were recently purchased for her by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA. The way and manner the cars were procured as well as the exorbitant price tag placed on them seems to have compounded the integrity issues confronting her. The minister has come under severe criticisms from notable members of the public following the revelation NCAA bought the two bullet-proof vehicles for a whopping $1.6 million or N255 million. The armoured vehicles were reportedly delivered to her in August this year.
The BMW is a fast-moving car with all the accompanied luxuries. For those who prefer a quick dash all around, any make of the BMW series could satisfy their sartorial taste. Findings on the BMW website indicate 760 Li HSS model purchased for the exclusive use of the minister has a shelf price of $186,000 or N29, 760,000 (at N160 per dollar). However, the price varies, depending on options, that is, the aesthetics – both the interior and exterior finishing of the luxury car. is purposely built to meet the highest and most demanding requirements. The 760Li High model has been tested by a German bullet and firing inspection authority. With its 6.0 cm bulletproof glass, the car can withstand attacks with explosives or bullets of the armour-breaking 7.62x54R API calibre often used by terrorist organizations such as the rampaging Boko Haram insurgents currently ravaging the north-eastern part of the country. has a reinforced body and explosion-resistant undercarriage that meets the higher VR9 standard. Even if is hit by a high velocity impact such that could lead to a sudden loss of tyre pressure, the vehicle can run on flat tyres for an upward of 50 kilometres at an average speed of 80 kilometres per hour. The car’s emergency exit is conveniently situated around the front wide screen.
are other features and relaxation ambience that come with the car. Its long-distance infrared technology can pick out people on the carriageway in poor visibility or at night at a distance of up to 300 metres. The optional rear-seat entertainment system allows two passengers to watch the same or different DVDs at the same time. also allows the occupants of the to follow the car’s progress on the navigation system, or even go on the internet as they cruise along. This is possible because two distinct and independent 9.2-inch colour screens are built into the front headrests. To complete this out-of-this-world luxury, in case the owner or occupant desires a good massage to emerge from exhaustion, tiredness or boredom, the car provides optional massage function in the rear-seat backrests.
Except where anything goes, it is absolutely unethical for the minister to have accepted ‘gifts’ from the NCAA, an agency she supervises
The latest revelation has come at a time when certain events in the aviation industry, which Oduah supervises, have become a cause for concern and embarrassment, not just for Nigerian air travellers, but also for the world at large. The first was the Dana Air crash in Lagos on June 3, 2012 barely one year after she took as Aviation Minister, in which 159 people died. Another one was the Associated Airlines crash of October 3, 2013, also in Lagos, which claimed 15 lives.
Apart from the two fatalities, many air passengers had escaped death by the whiskers on some other occasions. One of such happened a day after the Associated Airline’s crash, when a Kabo Airline’s Boeing 747-400 plane, which was taking an estimated 512 pilgrims for this year’s Hajj to Saudi Arabia, an emergency landing at the Sokoto airport after suffering deflated tyres. The emergency landing caused some damages to the airport’s Instrument Landing System.
A few days after this near-tragedy, an IRS Airlines Fokker-100 plane carrying 99 passengers also an emergency landing at the Kaduna airport after developing hydraulic problem mid-air. The nation’s embarrassment is not limited to the Nigerian airspace though, as a Nigerian registered cargo airplane had also crashed in Accra, Ghana, on June 2, 2012, a day before the Dana crash.
In the wake of the Associated Airline’s crash, the unrepentant aviation minister had stirred the hornet’s nest in an ill-informed press conference she addressed after the . Oduah had incurred severe public criticism for describing the two major air crashes as “inevitable acts of God.” She said that, as minister, her job was to provide leadership and ensure right policies were in place for the aviation sector to run efficiently. She passed the buck on safety and industry regulation to the heads of the agencies in the sector, such as the NCAA, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority.
While ‘natural’ disasters may not necessarily be anyone’s doing, the fact remains that with the controversy thrown up by the recent air disasters in the country, it is quite obvious that many things are wrong with the nation’s aviation industry. And from the look of things, coupled with the minister’s vague that air accidents are acts of God, it seems that the minister may be ill-equipped to deal with the situation decisively. Based on the fatal accidents and near-mishaps that we have witnessed in recent times, one wonders if the Nigerian aviation sector has excellent standards and maintenance regulations for domestic airlines. If are, they don’t seem to be enforced.
Again, the minister had said the aviation sector needed injection of funds if air travel must be safe and secure. if this is true (and we all know this), isn’t it then a contradiction that the same minister that desperately shops for operating funds is now engaged in a spending spree, compelling parastatals under her supervision to be buying amoured cars and other gifts for her? This is a dent on the integrity of the aviation minister.
Except where anything goes, it is absolutely unethical for the minister to have accepted ‘gifts’ from the NCAA, an agency she supervises. If were threats to her life as she claims, are constitutional provisions for that, as a bona fide Nigerian, even if she is not occupying public office. She should have exploited that means instead of accepting gifts from an agency whose shoddy handling of the aviation sector, many believe, has contributed enormously to the death of innocent people.
Certainly, Oduah may not be the only minister who breathes down too heavily on the parastatals they supervise. It is common knowledge that many of her mates compel such agencies to foot the bills of their transport, accommodation, feeding and , each time they have to attend one function or the other. Even bills of family members, distant relations and other acquaintances are forced to be picked up by such agencies without a whimper from any of them. This is a corrupt practice that only a country like Nigeria, where ethical issues are taken with levity, condones.
As usual, rather than cover their faces in shame and or make atonement for the unbridled corruption involved in the purchase of the cars, including the highly inflated figures presented to the public, the management of the NCAA is busy chasing shadows. Now, they are busy hunting for the whistleblower, while the minister is sitting tight in office. Is this how we will continue to run the affairs of this country? The answer is no. Something must definitely give way. It is either the government shows a firm commitment to fighting corruption in all ramification or the citizens resort to self-help, which may take the of pelting thieving officials with stones and other available objects on the streets. If the chaos this will precipitate will force our leaders to redress the endemic anomalies in the system, so be it!

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