Aviation workers threaten to go on strike

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport
Aviation workers have threatened to protest against the purchase of two armoured cars by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority for the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah.

The NCAA had reportedly paid about N255m for two bulletproof BMW 760 Li cars.

The NCAA, while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation in Abuja on Thursday, admitted that the Ministry of Aviation approved the purchase of the cars for Oduah.

The Director of Aerodrome, NCAA, Mr. Joyce Nkem-Akonam, who handled the transaction as the acting Managing Director of the NCAA, told the committee that the agency breached no law, as “leased financing, not direct financing, was adopted to procure the vehicles.”

Speaking to one of our correspondents on Friday, the National President, Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Benjamin Okewu, however said the association did not buy NCAA’s explanation and would hold a meeting next week to conclude its plans on the protest.

According to him, other labour unions and civil society groups have been lobbying aviation workers to join them in a mass protest.

Okewu said, “What we are talking about is between now and Wednesday. We should have had the meeting and taken a decision on what to do.”

The General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees, Abdulkareem Motajo, in a separate interview, confirmed that associations in the sector were making plans to protest against corruption in the aviation ministry.

“All the three unions in the industry are doing the same thing; we are leading the fight together and we will not relent until we ensure that everything is put in order. We are working together,” Motajo said.

Apart from the corruption in the industry, the workers are angry that the Federal Government is bent on punishing the whistle-blower who revealed the scandalous car transaction to the media. The unions argued that what the informant did was for public good.

The Federal Government had announced its manhunt for those who leaked official information on the bulletproof cars, but Okewu noted that the Freedom of Information Act protected such persons.

He said, “Let them (FG) try anything, we’ll tell them that we are in charge.”

Similarly, Motajo said the person who leaked the information deserved a national honour.

He said the individual should be given a national award “for exposing what Nigerians have seen as a risk to their common wealth.”

He added that the informant had the cover of the Freedom of Information Act.

“The unions are waiting to see any action that will be taken against such a person. We demand that the National Assembly and the Federal Government should give a national award to such a person, instead of sacking him or her. The union will never allow anybody to be sent out as a result of divulging this information.”

Meanwhile, it was gathered on Friday that the Presidency is angry with Oduah for the leakage of her explanation of the car purchase to the media before the President got his copy.

Oduah in her explanation claimed that she committed no crime in the matter that had attracted public outcry forcing President Goodluck Jonathan to constitute a three-man panel to probe her.

Jonathan was in Israel for the ongoing Christian pilgrimage when the minister’s response was published.

The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, told one of our correspondents that Oduah should have kept silent and allowed the panel set up by the President to carry out its assignment.

“If I were her (the minister), I would be silent until the committee set up by the President to probe the matter finishes its job,” he said.

When asked specifically if it was true that the Presidency was not happy with the minister for allowing her response go public, he replied, “That was why I told you that if I was in her shoes, I would have kept quiet and allowed the committee do its job.”

In a related development, investigations carried out by reporters have revealed that the police have no record of any complaint about threat to the life of the minister.

The minister had claimed that she authorised the purchase of the two armoured cars on account of threat to her life because of the reforms she was carrying out in the aviation sector. However, findings indicated that no formal report about the alleged threat was lodged with the police.

Police sources told our correspondent in Abuja on Friday that the Force would have taken such a matter seriously, if Oduah had lodged a report about threats to her life.

“The minister reportedly said her life was under threat, but she didn’t lodge any complaint to the police; we can’t find anything in our record about the reported threat; there was no petition or complaint that we could have worked with, if indeed her life was under threat as she claimed,” a senior police officer who pleaded anonymity stated.

Further findings showed that none of the ministers had requested additional protection or additional personnel from security agencies in the past months.

The Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba, could not be reached for comments as he was said to be out of the country on an official assignment, while Assistant Force Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Inyang, declined to speak on the matter.

It was further learnt that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Saturday, asked NCAA officials to tender documents of the BMW cars purchased before it.

“That’s the first step, we need to see the documents before inviting everyone involved in the deal,” a top official of the EFCC, who pleaded anonymity, said on Saturday.

Jonathan had on Wednesday succumbed to pressure mounted on him by Nigerians and other stakeholders on the purchase of the bulletproof cars by instituting a probe into the matter.

The President’s decision came less than 24 hours after members of the House of Representatives ordered an investigation into the matter.

Oduah, who has been under public criticism for the cars, on Wednesday departed for Israel where the President is also observing pilgrimage. There have been reports that her Israel trip was an attempt by the minister to lobby Jonathan to retain her job.

The Presidency had, however, said Oduah was in Israel to sign a bilateral services agreement on behalf of Nigeria with Israel.

The minister played a prominent role during the 2011 campaign for Jonathan’s presidency.
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  1. Are they just knowing about the cars now? They were all covering it up. As if na today bullet proof cars start to reign. APC is not talking. Cos Fashola also bought bullet proof cars for himself & Tinubu's personal use not too long ago. Nigeria needs a total overhauling. Not just d aviation sector.

  2. Are they just knowing about the cars now? They were all covering it up. As if na today bullet proof cars start to reign. APC is not talking. Cos Fashola also bought bullet proof cars for himself & Tinubu's personal use not too long ago. Nigeria needs a total overhauling. Not just d aviation sector.


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