As pressure mounts for a probe into the alleged purchase of armoured vehicles by the minister of aviation, Stella Odua, at an inflated cost of N255 million, President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a three – man administrative panel to investigate the scandal.
The special adviser to the President on media and publicity, Reuben Abati, disclosed this while briefing journalists at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting on Wednesday.
The three-man panel is to be chaired by the immediate past head of service, Sali Bello, while other members include the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, a colonel and Dik Iruenebere, an air vice marshal.
“Indeed Mr. President considers this very a weighty matter and that is not true as some people have been alleging that no action has been taken. Let me assure you that President Jonathan will like to assure the general public that nobody no matter how highly placed will be shielded or exempted from this inquiry that he has directed and that appropriate action will be taken against any person or persons who maybe found guilty of misconduct or misappropriation of public funds either in this respect or in any other respect,” Abati said.
He explained that the panel of enquiry set up by the President is to investigate whether the procurement of the vehicles followed due process or not. The panel is also to look into the main reasons for procuring the vehicles.
“President Goodluck Jonathan has taken the initial step of asking the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, for explanations and that is in public domain and so it will not be right to say that the President is not aware of the matter. But, also, President Jonathan has also today taken a step further and you will probably be the first set of Nigerians to hear this, by setting up a three-man administrative panel of inquiry,” he said.
While Abati did not state if the minister would step aside while she is being investigated, he noted that the panel which has a time line of two weeks would also give the President the necessary advice on the matter.
The President was earlier reported to have issued the minister a query on Monday, to which she is expected to respond before his return from Israel.
In the query, Jonathan is said to have directed the embattled minister to provide him a detailed report on the procurement of the controversial bullet-proof cars, especially the cost, procurement processes and other issues relating to the transaction that have been raised by the media.
However, it was gathered that the aviation minister was already in Israel ahead of the President’s pilgrimage and state visit, even though she is not officially listed on the President’s team.
She was absent at today’s FEC meeting.