Controversial bulletproof cars imported through Tin Can Port
• Customs CG Dikko indicts Coscharis Group over fraudulent duty waiver
• Minister disowns cars
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Abdullahi Dikko, on Wednesday said that the two BMW 760 series armoured cars allegedly purchased by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the personal use of the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, were imported into Nigeria under the pretext of using them for the 18th Lagos National Sports Festival tagged Eco-2012.
Also, usually authoritative sources yesterday informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the controversial vehicles were imported into the country last year through Five Star Logistics Terminal at the Tin Can Island Port Complex, Lagos.
The NCS Comptroller-General, who was represented by one of his Deputy Comptrollers, Dr. Manasseh Jatau, before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation investigating the vehicle purchases in the aviation industry, testified that the NCS granted an import duty waiver for the cars, alongside 298 other vehicles for the sports festival based on the directive of the Presidency.
Jatau said that the duty of N10.1 million was waived via an approval granted by the Ministry of Finance. He said the duty waiver had an end user certificate No.0000001672 in the name of Lagos State government dated 6/6/2013 and issued by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
Dikko also disclosed that the end user certificate for the armoured cars in the name of Coscharis Motors Limited remained tenable as at the time the cars were imported into the country.
The Customs chief said though the NCS was not under obligation to ascertain the final destination of the armoured cars, the cars which were eventually traced to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA) were not transferable to any other outfit other than the Lagos State government based on the provision of the law.
Referring the lawmakers to several documents at his disposal, including the import exemption certificate Ref. BO/R.10260/s.3/VIIIB/73 of November 20, 2012 issued by the Ministry of Finance to the Lagos State government through Messrs Coscharis Motor Limited for the sports festival, he noted: “The Nigeria Customs Service is not a magician; we wouldn’t have known that after the clearance of the armoured cars at the port, the beneficiary decided to do something else with them afterwards.”
President of Coscharis Group, Mr. Cosmos Maduka, alleged political undertone in the entire vehicle fraud saga involving his company.
“The subject under discussion is politically motivated. We followed all due process to bring the vehicles into the country. First Bank provided the financial involvement and we appeared before the officials of the State Security Service (SSS) and the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) for an interview and I want to inform this committee that every requirement by law was followed by us in the entire process of procurement for the vehicles.”
The lawmakers accused the management of Coscharis of inflating the cost of the vehicles even when the company enjoyed duty waiver from the Federal Government.
“You did not pay tax to Nigerians; you purchased the vehicles for the use of the Lagos State sports festival and later sold them to NCAA. I put it to you that you have used your company to rip off Nigerians through NCAA”, a member of the committee, Jerry Manwe, retorted.
Meanwhile, the embattled Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, yesterday disowned the two BMW cars allegedly purchased for her by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, at the sum of N255 million.
Oduah finally appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation yesterday to respond to allegations that she pressured the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, one of the parastatals under her ministry, to buy the two armoured BMW cars for her at an inflated price.
Oduah claimed her spokesperson, Joe Obi, who on 16 October, confirmed that the expensive cars were purchased for her, misspoke.
Obi had said: “Yes, it is true that some security vehicles were procured for the use of the office of the honourable minister in response to the clear and imminent threat to her personal security and life following the bold steps she took to reposition the sector.” But Oduah said her spokesperson spoke in error.
Oduah said allegations against her were false and malicious and could not be substantiated based on her spokesperson’s “erroneous” comment.
She also said allegations contained in online publications that she compelled NCAA to purchase cars for her were false.
She admitted approving the purchase of the expensive cars for the NCAA but said the vehicles were not for her and she did not request for them.
“Nothing in the stated documents mentioned my name. I did not request for any vehicles. All I did was to approve the purchase, subject to the agency doing the needful. NCAA followed due process as required by law,” Oduah said.
“It is not true, cannot be true that NCAA bought bullet proof vehicles for honourable minister of aviation. My understanding is that what NCAA has done is to plan for its vehicle needs for the next three years under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework,” she added.
Oduah claimed the Federal Ministry of Aviation under her watch has always ensured due process is followed.