Okonjo-Iweala denies granting waiver for armoured cars.

The Ministry of Finance on Thursday said it did not grant waiver for the controversial N255m bulletproof cars purchased by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.

The disclosure came barely 24 hours after the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation was informed that  the  Federal Ministry of Finance and the National Security Adviser were made  to believe that the  two vehicles  were for   the 18th  National Sports Festival (Eko Games 2012) hosted by Lagos State.

But in a statement on Thursday and made available to our correspondent, the Coordinating Minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the waiver was granted only to the Lagos State Government and not for the purchase of the controversial armoured cars

The statement by the CME’s Special Adviser (Communications), Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, described claims that the finance ministry granted waiver to Coscharis Motors Nigeria Ltd for the purchase of armoured cars as “totally false and without foundation.”

It reads in part, “On June 23, 2012, the Lagos State Government applied for Waiver of Destination Inspection Charges and Duty Exemptions for Coscharis Motors Nigeria Ltd, the official Automobile Partner for the National Sports Festival (EKO 2012), to purchase 300 vehicles on its behalf for the event.

“Since the Lagos State Government met the laid down criteria, the waiver was granted.

“It is also important to clarify that the waiver granted to the Lagos State Government for the event did not include the purchase of armoured vehicles.”

Also, the Nigeria Custom Service in a statement on Thursday said its role in the car scandal was to implement the waiver granted for the importation of the 300 vehicles.


No amnesty for Ombatse cult group – Al-Makura

The Nasarawa State Governor, Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura, on Thursday ruled out amnesty for members of the outlawed Ombatse militia organisation from the Eggon ethnic group, which killed many security operatives in May this year.

He vowed that the criminals and their sponsors would not escape justice.

According to him, granting amnesty for the occult group will amount to preempting the work of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry, set up by the state government to ascertain the remote causes of the killing of security personnel in Alakyo, Lafia Local Government Area of the state.

The governor, who spoke with journalists in Abuja was reacting to what he described as misrepresentation a comment credited to him during his lecture at the Institute for Security Studies in Bwari.

He said, “As a matter of fact, I feel very worried by this misrepresentation because nothing can be farther from my views which I said and what was credited to me. In fact, myself and my administration are bent on bringing to book criminals and perpetrators of the dastardly act in Alakyo which resulted in the killing of security operatives during the operation.

“It is very unfair to me and my government for anybody to insinuate the fact that my government is mooting the idea of amnesty. That is farthest from the truth; we will not have anything to do with amnesty for now because the Judicial Commission of Enquiry is still sitting. We are waiting for the commission to conclude its exercise so that we will bring to book the people involved. At no time in the course of my presentation did I ever mention anything to do with the issue of amnesty.

“I insist that these criminals must be fished out and they must not be left unpunished. We are waiting for the commission of enquiry to finalise its sittings. I will like to assure all and sundry that this government is focused and consistent in our search for peace and justice; justice must be done for people who have been offended.”

Pro-Oduah protesters accuse Amaechi over minister’s travail.

Protesters supporting the embattled Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, have accused Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State of being among top government officials spearheading the “witch-hunt against the minister.”

The pro-Oduah protesters, who gathered at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, where the aviation ministry is located,  alleged that the Rivers State Governor was against the minister because his aircraft was grounded earlier this year by agencies under the ministry.

The National Coordinator, Grass Root Movement for Unity and Stability – a rights group, Mr. Edisemi Yiki, alleged that calls for the sacking of Oduah were politically motivated.

He argued that his group had investigated and their findings revealed that a serving Governor from the South-South region of the country was leading the campaign for the removal of the aviation minister.

He said, “It is now clear that the calls for Oduah’s sacking were politically motivated. I can confirm to you that a serving South-South Governor is among those leading the witch-hunt against Stella Oduah.

“And this is because one of his aircraft was grounded by agencies under the ministry sometime this year. But what they fail to understand is that the minister has done well and must be allowed to continue the good work we see at our airports.”


Court stops Enugu council poll in two LGs

A High Court sitting in Enugu State has stopped in some areas the council elections slated for Saturday in the state.

This followed an order it granted against the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission.

Enugu State chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance had approached the court seeking an order for judicial review in line with an order of mandamus injunction.

The order followed two different suits filed by the APGA candidates in Ezeagu and Isi-Uzo local government areas.

The court, presided over by Justice A. O Onovo, equally granted same order for Ugwuasa ward.

The two APGA chairmanship candidates in Isi-Uzo and Ezeagu LGAs were disqualified by the ENSIEC on the grounds that their running mates were not qualified to run for the election.

Counsel for the APGA candidates, Alex Amujiogu, said by the order of the court, ENSIEC had been stopped from conducting the election.

He said, “We are before the Enugu State High Court to seek an order for judicial review, in line with order of mandamus injunction and declarative order to stop the ENSIEC from conducting local government election.

“Today, the honourable court after reviewing the facts in our application, has granted the applicants leave to compel ENSIEC to appear before it on November 7, 2013.”

Bullet-proof cars not bought for me, Oduah tells Reps

The Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, has denied reports that the two BMW armoured cars, bought by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority from Coscharis Nigeria Limited, were bought for her.

Appearing before the committee looking into the crisis in the aviation industry, especially the purchase of the armoured cars, Oduah said the controversial cars were meant for the safety of aviation visitors to the country.

She claimed the NCAA bought the cars for the safety of foreign aviation visitors in line with Nigeria’s growing role in AICAO certification.

“It is totally untrue that NCAA bought cars for me.

“They were not registered in my name”, she said

Meanwhile after a long wait by the committee members and the press, the minister arrived at 11.42am, about one hour 42 minutes behind the scheduled 10am for the session to testify before the committee.

She came a few minutes after the committee members, led by the Chairman, Mrs. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, arrived the venue.

The minister, who wore a stripped blue ankara dress with a matching blue head scarf, walked into the hall at 11.42am

Oduah also wore white beaded jewellery to complement her embroidered blouse.

She took a sit facing the panel members. But, shortly after, she rose, went halfway between her seat and the high table, where she exchanged pleasantries with the committee chairman.
Oduah walked out of the hall before returning again to resume her seat.

Reassignment of Babalakin’s case stalls alleged money-laundering trial

The trial of the Chairman, Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, charged with aundering N4.7bn on behalf of the convicted former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, was on Thursday in Lagos adjourned to November 27.

The adjournment followed the reassignment of the case to Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Ikeja High Court by the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Ayotunde Phillips.

Babalakin and four other defendants are facing 27 counts of conspiracy, retention of proceeds of a criminal conduct and corruptly conferring benefits on account of public action.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Babalakin, Alex Okoh and their companies — Stabilini Visioni Ltd, Bi-Courtney Ltd and Renix Nigeria Ltd – are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for the alleged money-laundering charges.

The court’s registrars told counsel for the EFCC and Babalakin that they had yet to receive the case file from the Chief Judge.

They also confirmed that the court would not sit until the case file was received and asked the lawyers to suggest a date for further hearing of the case.

Both Babalakin’s counsel, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), and the EFCC’s counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), agreed that the case should be adjourned to November 27.

Meanwhile, the registrars in the court of the former judge, who handled the case, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, have informed both parties that the case file was no longer in their custody.

Lagos prison escapee steals 20 cars.

The Lagos State Police Command has apprehended a 32-year-old convict, Kingsley Chibuzor, for snatching over 20 cars between 2011 and 2013.

Chibuzor was said to have escaped few months into his sentence from the Kirikiri Medium Prison in 2011, where he was serving a term for malicious damage.

After his escape, the suspect was said to have specialised in snatching cars in Lagos, Anambra and Ebonyi states but met his waterloo when he was arrested by the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Lagos.

He was arrested alongside two members of his gang; Ozoemena Enebeli and Prince Nwafor.

Chibuzor said, “I was arrested and sent to prison for malicious damage. My prison sentence was supposed to be for three years but I spent only some months there. One day, around 4am, I told a prison official to help me get kerosene and he left the door to our prison open.

“I was able to sneak into a particular area of the building and jumped over the fence. The area was dark and nobody saw me. From there, I trekked to Ojo Barracks to visit my mother but when she asked how I left prison, I did not answer her.”

The father of four said he relocated to Imo State for about six months so as to evade prison officials and policemen, who were on his trail.

 He however said he returned to Lagos soon after because he could not survive in the village.

He said, “I became a commercial bus driver and every day, I delivered N5,000 to my boss while I made about N1,500. Sometimes, I also operated heavy duty equipment at my free time and I was paid for it.

“The money was not enough to sustain my family. I met Ozo (Enebeli) at a beer parlour in Mile 2 on a particular day. We became close friends because we spoke the same language and we decided to become armed robbers. I ‘organised’ N40,000 and bought two guns from Benin Republic.

“Our first operation was at Surulere in Lagos. A man was about to enter into his compound and we snatched his Toyota Camry 2000 model from him and we sold it for N200, 000.”

Chibuzor Said that he never killed any of his victims but only snatched their cars from them after which he would sell them cheap.

He said he continued to work as a bus driver but only robbed whenever he was broke.

“We snatched a Toyota Highlander jeep as the owner was returning from a beer parlour in Asaba.  We sold it at N400,000 even though its value was over N1m. We snatched a Toyota Camry in Onistha, Anambra, and a RAV 4 jeep at the Igando area of Lagos. We sold the RAV 4 for N150,000.

“While transporting the Highlander to one of our associates in Ebonyi, we saw a Toyota FJ Cruiser and we snatched the vehicle from its owner. The vehicle is worth over N3m but we sold it for N500,000,” Chibuzor recalled.

The suspect was however arrested at the Igando area of Lagos while he was attempting to snatch another vehicle and meet with a buyer.

Through his arrest, the police were able to apprehend Enebeli, who was in Ghana.

Enebeli, in his defence, said he had given up robbery and had relocated to Ghana but was lured back to the country for one more robbery operation.

He said, “I am into computer graphics but I lost my job in 2010; that was when I met with Chibuzor. We carried out many robbery operations but we never killed anyone. We never even kidnapped.

“One day in Igando, a man left the key in his ignition and wanted to open the gate to his house when Chibuzor and I quickly jumped in and drove off. It was later that we realised that the man’s girlfriend was even in the vehicle.

“But we did not attack her; we let her go because we are not bad boys. I had even given up robbery and had settled in Ghana where I was living well and was even sending money to my wife and children. I was only tempted to come for one more operation.”

The Police Public Relations Officer of the state command, Ngozi Braide, confirmed the incident to our correspondent on the telephone, adding that the matter would soon be charged to court.