As the controversy over the reported purchase of two BMW armoured cars for Nigeria’s Aviation Minister Stella Oduah continues to reverberate, a Nigerian civil society group has appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to order the immediate sale of the US$1.6 million cars.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said the funds from the sale should be used to provide compensation to families of victims of recent air accidents and also to set up a Trust Fund to jump-start ”genuine reform of the aviation industry”.
“Selling the cars as proceeds of corruption and using the funds to pay compensation to families of victims of persistent air accidents would also have the great additional benefit of reining in endemic corruption in the sector as perpetrators would know that they would not be allowed to profit from their crime,” SERAP said in a statement obtained by PANA here Sunday.
The organisation also asked the president “to publicly assure Nigerians that the whistleblower that leaked the information of the two BMW armoured cars bought for Aviation Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah will be fully protected from any harassment, intimidation or persecution by the authorities.”
SERAP said it would offer “free legal services to ensure full protection and safety of the whistleblower in line with international standards”, while appealing to the whistleblower ”to get in touch with our organisation”.
News of the purchase of the two vehicles was broken by the Nigerian online website Sahara Reporters, which published documents to support the claim that the vehicles were purchased for the huge sum of US$1.6 million from a Nigerian car dealer by the regulatory Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The cost of the two vehicles was said to have been highly inflated.
The reported purchase, which has been confirmed by the Aviation Ministry, has generated widespread calls for the Minister to resign and be prosecuted for corruption and abuse of office.
NCAA has however defended the purchase, saying the vehicles were ”pool cars” for the use of visiting international aviation officials.
But SERAP dismissed the NCAA’s claim, saying: “The reported diversion of $1.6 million (N255 million) to pay for two cars by someone that should normally be the number one safety official in the aviation ministry illustrates the level of corruption in the sector, and explains why people’s lives have been repeatedly messed with by those entrusted with air safety and security in the country’s aviation industry.
“The cost in human lives of this diversion of critical funds is incalculable, and the president can no longer continue to treat this as normal, as corruption in the aviation industry continue to cause so much suffering and misery for millions of families across the country.”
Saying that failure to address corruption in the aviation industry meant that the country will continue to struggle to meet global standards in the sector, SERAP urged President Jonathan to ask anti-corruption agencies and civil society to monitor the spending by Ministry of Aviation on everything from airport safety to fleet maintenance and pilot training and certification.