[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss a suit by a former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah, seeking to stop her invitation for interrogation for the purchase of bulletproof cars.
It filed a notice of preliminary objection to the suit, contending that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa, on August 26, barred the commission from arresting Oduah until her suit is determined.
The judge also stopped the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector-General of Police from questioning the former minister.
EFCC, in its preliminary objection, said besides the lack of jurisdiction, there was no valid basis for the action.
According to the anti-graft agency, the suit was wrongly filed in Lagos because the subject matter took place in Abuja.
EFCC said Oduah’s claims were baseless and speculative as there was no concrete evidence that she was about to be questioned.
It added that the senator did not show enough material fact to justify her claim that she was about to be invited or arrested.
The commission urged the court to reject Oduah’s suit for lacking in merit.
Oduah, in her suit, justified the 2013 purchase of two bullet-proof BMW cars by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The vehicles were said to have cost N255million, an amount that sparked outrage.
Oduah, who represents Anambra North in the Senate, said there was a move by the respondents to persecute and humiliate her.
She, however, explained that the vehicles were bought for the use of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) officials who were in the country to inspect and certify the 22 airports being rehabilitated under her watch.
According to her, the vehicles were acquired to safeguard the foreign officials’ lives so that they would not be bombed, attacked or abducted by the rampaging Boko Haram insurgents who were creating havoc in the Northeast.
Oduah said the bullet proof cars were especially necessary because the visit of the airport inspectors coincided with “the peak of Boko Haram terrorists’ menace in the country, when the United Nations building and the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force were bombed in Abuja.”
“It was thus imperative that the NCAA, which is an apex regulatory authority in the Nigerian aviation industry, operating under the SARPs of the ICAO and subject to assessment by ICAO, acquire its own armoured vehicles for the use of the ICAO officials coming for inspection and certification at the time,” Oduah said.
She added that the bullet-proof vehicles were captured in the 2013 budget, adding that they were duly procured in line with the Bureau of Public Procurement regulations.
She said the respondents would be doing the bidding of her political enemies if they are not stopped.
In the papers she filed before the court, the former minister said the bid to arrest her for a crime she did not commit began as the general election approached.
According to her, the House of Representatives, led by Aminu Tambuwal (now Sokoto State governor), and its Committee on Aviation, were especially out to get her.
But the lawmakers’ move, she said, was part of a grand plan by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to capture power by all means.
The party, she said, carried out a campaign of calumny by “demonising” the most visible leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Being a frontline PDP member, she also became a target, especially as she was seen as playing a crucial role towards the realisation of President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid.
She said as part of the APC’s campaign of calumny against her and others, the party’s leadership commissioned some faceless organisations to write letters to the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation.
Among others, she said she was falsely accused of “all manners of corrupt practices and offences in respect of my stewardship as minister of Aviation.”
Oduah said she was shocked by the allegations because the Aviation Ministry under her watch was run in the cleanest manner imaginable.
The former minister said despite her selfless service to Nigeria and the positive changes made by the ministry under her watch, including the revamping of the country’s air transportation, Tambuwal still ordered her investigation based on the petitions containing “spurious and wild allegations.”
She said because of her electoral value and strategic politicking, she had been a target of the ploy by the APC to weaken the PDP and distract its leaders with trumped up charges.
According to her, part of the APC plan was to charge PDP leaders “in a criminal trial in a Lagos State government-controlled court.”
Oduah said unless the court intervened, “the APC will unleash repression against her and others and this may cause the country to recede to a one-party state, with gross adverse effects and irreparable damage to our nascent democracy.”
Justice Yunusa adjourned to October 2 for hearing of her suit.