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The Rots On Stella Oduah’s Table And Ominous Dangerous Signal For Aviation

Nigeria's Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah

The Patriots Press Release

We have monitored closely with keen interest the unfolding events in the Aviation Ministry since the assumption of office of Princess Stella Oduah as the Minister in charge of the Aviation Ministry under President Goodluck Jonathan’s current administration. The indefatigability which Oduah showed at the onset of her work at the Ministry, notwithstanding the unseen deception then, won her not a few fans among Nigerians (the writer inclusive). Just like in the past, Nigerians are used to having Aviation Ministers who are bereft of any ideas on Aviation development, those that are merely political centurions who have to be rewarded for their vote manufacturing, conversion and electoral victory abracadabra in favor of the President.

Nigeria's Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah

Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah

Coming from the Private sector where she runs her own oil firm, and armed with several academic qualifications in Finance, the expectation of the concerned stakeholders on the incoming Minister higher than ordinary. Seemingly true to this assertion, the Minister immediately commenced several audits of both human and financial resources of the Ministry, as well as all Agencies under her supervision in line with the transformation Agenda which she has set for the industry.

At the initial stage, the first step taken by the Minister appeared to have fetched her an impressive score card at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which turned her to a reference point for fellow Ministers who were yet to find their feet in their respective ministries in line with the much talked about dividends of democracy that  the Jonathan Administration so desperately intends to bequeath to Nigerians.

The two chambers of the National Assembly severally and at different fora openly celebrated Stella Oduah as a change agent in the Aviation Industry, His Excellency President Jonathan’s head must have swelled so many times when accolades were pouring in for Oduah; after all,  it was he who has a great hunting nose for “achievers”.

As true Nigerians who are equally stakeholders in the industry, we owe Nigerians the duty of exposing the state of rot and dishonor to which the entire Aviation Industry has systematically descended under “The Honorable” Minister’s deceitful and hypocritical reign. Posterity will judge us for keeping silent and allowing project Nigeria to continue its free fall into the abyss of failed nationhood, not even where the lives of innocent Nigerians are at stake.

Our cry against corruption like the cry of so many helpless, bewildered Nigerians who are daily buffeted by the club of corruption may go unheard and unattended to by the terrestrial powers that be, but the blood of innocent Nigerians who die daily as a result of greed in high places will not cease to cry out against the likes of Stella Oduah.

It is so amusing that even the over 400 Federal lawmakers who were supposed to see through the antics of the Aviation Minister were equally taken for a ride under their nose, the Minister is continuously orchestrating the biggest fraud of the century and milking the Aviation Parastatals dry all in the name of unsavoury transformation agenda .

It will be instructive even though unbelievable to note that the proud Amazon has of late instructed all the heads of Parastatals and Agencies under Aviation Ministry, as well as all Directors and Departmental Heads not to respond to invitations from any organ of the National Assembly on any issue, without first notifying her and obtaining written permission from her to honour such invitation. Such is the disdain and derision that Madam Minister have for those in the hallowed chambers.

One may want to ask whether senator Hope and Honourable Nkiru as well as former Perm Secretary Ene Ita are not all members of the Minister’s thieving crew, as they all have suddenly become her ardent followers of late. They need to convince Nigerians otherwise.

The vibrancy, doggedness and clear sense of direction which oduah displayed at the beginning of her Ministerial duties has not slowed down any bit; rather, she has clearly revealed that her energy is all the while targeted not at transforming the Aviation Industry but at making as much money as possible. Her unequal avarice has drained the purse of all the Agencies under her and turned them on their heads; running even day to day activities of these Agencies has virtually been taken over by this imperious Minister.

President Jonathan need to urgently convince Nigerians that he did not give  Madam neighbour-to-neighbour the fiat to recoup her investment into last presidential election campaign and also gather enough money for 2015 Presidential election campaign. People are beginning to wonder the formula adopted and the string pulled by Stella Oduah who literally “dethroned” and took the place of her erstwhile husband who was previously a Federal Minister and have come to the inconvenient conclusion that the Minister could as well be more powerful than the President, hence the inability of the Mr. President to even dare investigate the very many allegations of fraud levied against the Minister.

Joe Obi or whoever is now in charge of Madam Minister’s Media Affairs can begin to defend her by reeling out once again to the hearing of Nigerians all her cosmetic achievements, he can even dub this write-up a figment of the writer’s imagination, or call our allegations unfounded; but Nigerians need to know the following:

Has madam Minister not been using the no objection clause and selective tendering with active connivance of the Public procurement Bureau to award infrastructural development and upgrade contracts running into about 25Billion naira to Chinese firms under the Airport remodelling exercise?

We hereby  call on the Chairman, House Committee on Anti-Corruption, National Ethics and Values as well as the EFCC to re-open investigation into all contracts awarded under the Airport remodelling exercise, and please when next you pass through any of the recently commissioned airport, take a more detailed look and you will notice how Nigerians had been short-changed.

The ceaseless hunger for affluence in the most disheartening illegal manner would not abate, not in this dispensation unless urgent and bold stance is taken by well-meaning Nigerians to stop this maliase. Unknown to many, since the appointment of Stella, Madam Minister has instituted a monthly standing deduction order of about N158million each from the accounts of Aviation Agencies namely NAMA, NCAA and FAAN and other Agencies under her and remittance of same into a secret account solely run by her. These deductions have successfully crippled the operations of the aviation’s agencies concerned to the extent that paying staff entitlements have recently become a Herculean task.

Our Investigation reveals an apparent restiveness among the workers of the agencies and the three Aviation Labour Unions are already geared for a showdown with the agencies Management.

Just recently, madam Minister ordered the three main Agencies (FAAN, NCAA and NAMA) to cough out millions of naira to settle the bill of six (6) Sophisticated custom-built ballistic armoured BMW cars for her personal use ( either for her failed Gubernatorial ambition campaign or for 2015 Neighbour- to- Neighbour presidential election campaign).

Madam Ministers continuous human and material resources audit of all the entire Parastatals and agencies of Aviation Ministry will appear to be of noble intentions to any simple minded unsuspecting Nigerian, however beneath this facade of reorganization is a corrupt and giant sleaze which is continuously being perpetrated.

Price Waters Coopers (PWC) has audited various aspects of four Agencies under the Ministry, financial operations for at least 4 times. As we speak PWC staff, young boys and girls who have hardly graduated from university are on ground at the Parastatals offices since January this year to date looking for God knows what.

The Minister usually fix the Audit fee to be paid by the Aviation Agencies to PWC for  these phony consultancy audits at about 250million naira each totalling a whopping sum of  One Billion Naira on each occasion for FAAN, NCAA, NAMA AND AIB.

We will not be surprised if all these allegations are denied or even defended by the Heads of these Agencies, one because they have their jobs on the line and they dare not speak the truth. But the bible says: “say the truth and the truth shall set you free”

Nigerians are already accustomed to institutional corruption since independence, though unfortunately, but the no one would have envisaged the monumental level and sophisticated manner madam Minister has taken her own. We are left flabbergasted at how madam minister can order the Parastatals /Agencies to cough out 4 billion naira on consultancy audit when they have statutory yearly audit being done by reputable external audit firms in addition to almost quarterly audit inspection of their records by the Auditor-General of the Federation, Accountant-General of the Federation, Public Accounts Committee of the Senate and other Federal auditing bodies. No doubt madam minister has a stake in PWC firm.

The Honourable Minister took her impunity to the highest level by employing over 2000 new staff to fill non-existing vacancies in all the Agencies under the Aviation Ministry. Ordinarily, one would have had to salute her efforts at taking a part of Nigerian unemployed youths off the labour market, had she not ulterior motive. The way and manner she has been conducting such exercise laid credence to this ethics-puncturing recruitment.

Ninety percent of these newly recruit staff are members and online signatory to the Minister’s last neighbour to neighbour presidential election campaign.

Let us intimate you of Nigeria ’s most scandalous, nepotistic, furious and unsavoury recruitment pattern in history. The vintage madam minister personally printed the letterhead of all the Aviation Agencies/Parastatals, typed employment letters stating out of designation and grade level and regularly summon the heads of the applicable Parastatals into her office to append their signatures on the already typed employment letters. Such letters are then intermittently released to her wards almost fortnightly.

Interestingly, smarter ministry officials are having a field day stealing as many already prepared employment letters as they wish from madam minister’s office and typing their own people’s names on it-taking the advantage of the Minister’s excesses. Newly engaged staff keep turning up at the agencies even when staffs are seen sitting under the trees and pavements and corridors in the Agencies.

We have never seen anywhere in Nigeria even the world at large the unfortunate bureaucratic corruption by the Minister. No singular Minister has breached the Public Service Rules and even Federal Character Principles than Stella Oduah. Not only that over 85 percent of the favoured applicants laterally employed by the minister are from two geopolitical regions (your guess is as good as mine), all of them were given the grade level far above their academic qualifications and career experience. A number of fresh graduates (without any previous cognate experience) were placed on GL 12, 14, 15 as she deem fit.

We challenge the office of the Head of Service to conduct its own independent investigation into these allegations.

Expectedly and to make matters worse, the ministers newly engaged staff throw insults at their superior officers at will, dictates where they want to be posted, and insists on immediate enjoyment of certain privileges reserved for only confirmed staff. They regularly threaten superior officers with sack on the strength of their relationship with madam minister. It’s quiet unfortunate!

Madam minister has systematically destroyed the Civil Service Rules and Professionalism in the entire Aviation Parastatals, with impunity and the flagrant disregard for extant rules in appointment. On weekly basis, cross-posting of officers from one agency to another without recourse to qualifications, relevance, professionalism and work experience of the officers concerned has become the common practice.

Nigerians can imagine the posting of an officer who had spent the last 16 years of his career  at an agency saddled with weather analysis or aircraft traffic like NIMET or NAMA to start supervising aircraft inspection at NCAA – this could be a researchable variable for the course of the ceaseless plane crashes all over the Country; God help us.

It is not a contention that Aviation Industry is a highly specialized one globally and is administered by stringent standards and recommended practices for a little mistake can lead to colossal loss of valuable human lives, imagine an airbus with 900 passengers onboard crashing, that is the population of a whole village, yet madam minister sees nothing wrong in forcing round pegs into square holes to manage such sensitive duties?

ICAO recommends perimeter security fencing of all members nation airport landmass. It is equally instructive to note that only a paltry 23 percent of Nigeria Airport landmass is presently fenced with concrete (not the recommended security fence) the remaining 77 percent remains wide open to prospective terrorists and would be stow-away (apologies to the Benin stow-away Boy). The implication of this for safe and secure flight operation is best imagined.

Joe Obi, Yakubu Datti and other media mouth-organ of madam minister will frantically try to discredit our allegations in order to cover up their pay mistresses’ mess, but we are dragging all the actors who participated in turning the Nigerian aviation industry upside down to the court of public opinion. Time will tell, posterity will judge and Nigerians will soon see Stella Oduah either in the hall of fame or in the garbage can of history like some of her predecessors.

Worst hit by madam Minister’s greedy cornering of aviation agencies financial resources under the guise of automation and transformation is Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA). A once robust and vibrant regulatory agency of government that won President Goodluck Administration its first tangible laurel and International accolades through the attainment of the much coveted Category 1 FAA CAT 1 position with attendant economic benefits for Nigeria has been turned to a caricature of its old self.

The serial rape of NCAA financial resources by the Minister through incessant financial demands has led to staff entitlements piling up in arrears, aircraft inspectors allowances, duty tour allowances, engineers allowances are left unpaid, staff morale is at its lowest ebb and the far reaching implication which the current situations at the agency portrays for the safety and security of Nigerian air transport system cannot be overemphasized. Madam Minister with active connivance of Aviation Ministry Officials compels NCAA to pay huge sums as estacode allowances to herself and her cronies at the Ministry for different foreign trips (official and private) almost every day, even outrageously above the official rate, while the Agency staff who need constant training to perform their safety oversight function (that has been so taken care in the budget) are being denied such opportunities. Maybe Madam Minister will explain to Nigerians what she does with her Ministry yearly budget? We are beginning to believe the grapevine that clouded the sky at that time as to the unceremonious removal of a former DG of one of the Agencies under her, who, by principle stood his ground against the lawlessness and breach of rules by the rampaging Minister.

Aircraft inspectors allowances are not being paid as at when due, leaving them to the open temptations of bribe and compromise from corrupt and desperate airline operators who wants their planes to fly at all cost. The implication of this for air safety and air transport security is better imagined. The recent Associated aircraft crash is a veritable case in point.

Further to our investigations, we have discovered that just recently, World Bank cancelled a long existing training grant to the NCAA because of the Ministers illegal over-bearing influence on the Agency. Usually, the World Bank does not only provide the fund for the training but also conduct the training itself. It’s shocking that Madam Minister in her bid to scoop every available kobo from the Ministry and its Agencies, she directed that world bank to monetize it and put the fund under her supervision. Infuriated by this singular show of ignorance and greed, the project was cancelled.

In conclusion therefore, we are dutifully sounding a serious note of warning to both the Presidency, the Legislature and all the high and mighty whose family and friends, constitutes the bulk of air transport passengers in Nigeria to wake up from their slumber and immediately reverse the unfolding ugly trend being spurned by Madam Minister by calling her to order, or else more innocent bloods will be shed and Nigeria thrown into international embarrassment any moment from now as a result of unending breach of every aviation rules and ethics. The way and manner she is handling the Ministry is horrendous and more dangers loom ahead if this is not checked. President Jonathan should feel the genuine pulse of Nigerians, help safe the Aviation Industry from total collapse, listen to the voice of reasons and SACK THE MINISTER NOW. God Bless Nigeria.

Rose Ibekaku
For: The Patriots



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