Nigeria’s embattled Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, could have easily bought an Eclipse 500 private jet with the whopping $1.6 million (about N255 million) used to buy her two BMW bullet-proof cars, investigations have revealed.
Although most private jets cost between $3.5 million and $25 million, with the larger ones like the Boeing Business Jet gulping as much as $100 million, an Eclipse 500 private jet goes for between $1.5 million and $2 million, according to Controller, a general aviation trade publication in America.
With the two outrageously over priced cars, Oduah could have also bought at least five presidential limousines used by United States President, Barack Obama, at the cost of $300,000 each.
Each of the two bullet-proof BMW 760 Li cars bought for Oduah by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, is also more expensive than the car used by British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
While Oduah’s cars go for $800,000 (about N127.5m) each, Cameron’s armoured Jaguar XJ X351 car costs £200,000 (about N52m).
Oduah could have also bought as many as 1231 cars, the type used by Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, who drives a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle worth $1,300.
With a monthly salary of about $13,000, Oduah would have been able to pay Mujica’s salaries for 127 months or approximately 10 years.
The world’s poorest president would have certainly found the gift preposterous and would have certainly given out most of it to others as he does with his monthly salary.
He has refused to move to the official presidential residence, opting to stay in the simple home of his senator wife on the outskirts of the capital, Montevideo.
At an exchange rate of N155 to $1, the N255 million Odua used to buy the two cars would have conveniently establsihed eight cottage clinics of N30 million each, or fund sinking of 50 boreholes in a country where only 17 percent of its over 160 million people have access to pipe-borne water, according to a UNDP report.
And with a minimum wage in Nigeria at N18,000 or about $118, Oduah could have paid the monthly salaries of 13559 people.
Besides, had the prices of the cars not been inflated, Oduah would be able to save about N195 million of taxpayers’ money.
Since the revelations last Tuesday of the purchase of the expensive cars in August, Nigerians have expressed outrage and calls for Oduah’s sack have become strident.
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Barrister Femi Falana, has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for an investigation to be opened. Falana threatened to go to court if nothing is done.
Many anti-corruption crusaders have called for the arrest and prosecution of Oduah.
Debo Adeniran, Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, said the recent plane crash and serious incidents could be attributed to incompetence and gargantuan corruption.
However, instead of addressing issues of corruption, mismanagement and breach of public trust, Oduah was said to have declared war on Nicholas Edwards, the alleged whistle-blower who allegedly leaked information to the media.
The minister set up a panel on Friday, headed by the Director of Consumer Protection at the NCAA, Adamu Abdullahi to probe the leaked information.
Analysts have said the panel is an exercise in futility since the information leaked is true. They asked Oduah to do the right thing and step down.
SaharaReporters, an online news medium, had on 15 October published documents that exposed how the cash-strapped NCAA had in August this year bought two bullet-proof BMW cars for Stella Oduah at the whopping sum of $1.6 million or N255 million.
Shortly after the article was published, Yakubu Dati, spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, who often speaks for Stella Oduah, rejected the allegations, claiming that the minister was too rich to request or accept car gifts from the NCAA.
By Wednesday, Oduah had instructed Joe Obi, her media aide, to own up to the purchase of the cars. Obi claimed the cars were purchased because Oduah faced imminent threats from some people who did not like her so-called transformation agenda in the aviation sector.
The explanation triggered more condemnation and outrage and calls for her sack multiplied.
By last Friday, Fola Akinkuotu, NCAA Director General, explained at a hurriedly arranged press conference that the cars were not bought for the minister of aviation but rather were purchased to move around foreign dignitaries when they visit the agency.
Akinkuotu told journalists he would show them where the cars were parked at the end of the press conference. But when the event ended, the NCAA boss did not show proof of any car. Reports have said the transaction was only on paper as no car was actually delivered.
With more negative reports being published on daily basis, especially on the social media, reports have said that Oduah has approached Reno Omokri, Jonathan’s aide on social media, for help and counter any negative publication.
It was also reported that the embattled minister has commenced a last ditch effort to save her job. It was learnt that she had used the last few days seeking private audience with President Jonathan.
On Friday, Oduah was sighted at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, as calls for her sack persisted.