Friday, October 25, 2013
SANs, NGOs Ask Jonathan To Sack Oduah
photo SOME prominent lawyers, including Yusuf Ali (SAN), and two civil rights organisations, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice and the Foundation for Human Rights and Advocacy on Thursday in Abuja faulted the presidential panel set up by government to probe the controversial N255m car scandal involving the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah.
They also called on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack Oduah and disband the three-man presidential panel set up to investigate her.
They said the Presidential panel was a cover-up like other panels adding that “it is a means of distracting the anti-graft agencies prosecuting the minister.”
The Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor and Director of FHRS, Olafaju Emmanuel told journalists that the panel was a waste of time.
They said, “We condemn in its entirety this step taken by President Goodluck Jonathan over the Minister of Aviation’s profligacy and use of public funds to purchase two BMW armoured cars. Setting up of a panel of inquiry by the President is a clear move to cover up Stella Oduah who we all know is a close ally of President Jonathan.
“We say this because in a country where we have different anti-corruption agencies saddled with the responsibility of trying cases such as this, what is the need for such a panel?
“In 2005, when a Minister of Education, Fabian Osuji was suspected to have gone to lobby members of the National Assembly to influence the budgetary allocation of his ministry, he was shown the way out without constituting any panel of inquiry.
“Over the years, panels have been the easiest ways out of all forms of shoddiness in government and no panel report has ever seen the light of the day. We have so many panel reports begging for attention and implementation, yet on a clear case of impunity in governance, the President is setting up a panel, what a shame.”
The groups stated that with the facts on ground, a clear case of corruption and misappropriation of public fund had been established, adding that with such fact on ground, there was no reason for the panel of inquiry.
“We know that spending public funds on unbudgeted projects attracts three years in jail and a fine of N100,000 as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission law stipulates, so why a panel rather than allowing the law to take it is course if not for a cover-up?”
Meanwhile, more Nigerians have faulted the arrest of some anti-Oduah protesters, describing the action of the police as political.
A legal icon, Prof. Itse Sagay, (SAN), and Ali, who is the Chairman, Anti-Corruption Commission, Nigerian Bar Association, on Thursday condemned the arrest of 29 anti-Oduah’s protesters.
The police arrested the Executive Director, Anti-Corruption Network, Mr. Dino Melaye and 28 others during the protest.
Melaye, who is a former member of the House of Representatives, and the protesters were arrested by the police in Abuja and taken away in a Toyota Hilux vehicle, marked NPS 21280 at about 1pm on Wednesday over a protest seeking for the removal of the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah over the scandal rocking the aviation industry.
The police was said to have been led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police in the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Sunday Olukoya.
Oduah was said to have allegedly made the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to buy two BMW bullet proof cars worth ($1.6m) about N255m.
Melaye, however, was released on Thursday.
Ali said the arrest was unnecessary, adding that people have the right in a democracy to a peaceful protest.
He said the scandal rocking the aviation industry was making Nigeria a laughing stock before the international community.
He urged the President to intervene and sack Oduah so as to convince Nigerians of the genuineness of his anti-corruption crusade.
He also cautioned the police against appearing as protecting only people in government to the detriment of the generality of Nigerians.
“As long as the protest is peaceful, there is nothing wrong with it. There should be freedom of expression. Police should not be seen to be maintaining double standards. The police should not see itself as the protector of people in government. It is the protector of the Nigerian people.
“Police has no business arresting somebody who is organising a peaceful protest no matter who the person is.
“In other climes, this matter would not even degenerate to protest either for or against. The concerned public officer would have saved all of us the trouble by throwing in the towel. But this is Nigeria where public officers no matter the level and amount of scandals, hold on to their office.
“I think it is high time, our President intervened. Afterall, he appointed the individual concerned and at least to give some credibility to the touted fight of this government against corruption. He should do what is right by advising her to step aside.
“I think what we lack in this country is high voltage public morality. People in public offices do not feel they have any moral obligations to our sensibilities. The whole world is looking at us and laughing,” Ali said.
Sagay said the arrest was wrong and advised the police to stop appearing to be political or against those who were perceived to oppose government actions.
“Obviously I am condemning the arrest because there should be freedom of movement and freedom to express opinion. There is absolutely no justification for arresting him. The right to protest is a right and not a privilege. But now if you are suspected not to be in the good book of Aso Rock, you have no right at all as far as the police are concerned. They deal with you outside the law.
“This is what we have seen in recent months that our police have become blatantly political. What they do now is to clearly define themselves as belonging to the Aso Rock party. So, anything that is approved by Aso Rock is fine, those people can demonstrate.
“Anything the police think Aso Rock will disapprove, they clamp down on them. So this is it, including the man in Port Harcourt who is a pure politician but in uniform,” Sagay said.
However, President Jonathan may have deliberately decided to keep the embattled minister, at bay during his first day in Israel following the public outcry that has trailed the minister’s decision to travel with the President despite her being probed over the N255bn bulletproof vehicles bought for her by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
Jonathan is currently on Christian pilgrimage and official trip to Israel. While he left the country on Wednesday, Oduah travelled ahead of him under the explanation that she was going to sign a Bilateral Air Service Agreement with Israel.
Curiously, the minister was conspicuously missing in all the photographs of the President’s activities in Israel so far released, copies of which our correspondent sighted on Thursday.
Even the ones posted by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, on his Facebook page did not show the minister despite that they were taken on the President’s arrival.
Abati posted a photograph of the President receiving a banquet of flower from Miss Love Abdullahi at the Tel Aviv International Airport on his arrival. The Nigerian Ambassador to Israel, Ambassador David Obasa, some unidentified Nigerians and security details were seen with the President.
Posted by GlamourOGO at 4:52 AM