Abuja (Nigeria), Oct. 31, GNA - Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a three-man administrative committee to investigate allegations of the purchase of two bulletproof BMW luxury cars by Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah.
The three-man panel chaired by Isa Bello Saleh, the country's immediate past Head of Service, includes the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, and an Air Vice Marshal, Dik Iruenebere.
The minister's alleged purchase of the vehicles with funds from the coffers of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), an agency under the Aviation Ministry, has been queried because available evidence suggests that the purchases were extra-budgetary.
The decision by President Jonathan to set up an investigative committee came in the wake of public anger over what had been described as a flagrant display of graft and a misplacement of priorities by the Aviation Minister.
The vehicles which are said to cost about $ 170,000.00 in Europe, but were billed for the price of $ 800,000.00 each by the Nigerian suppliers.
Nigeria is currently witnessing serious challenges in its aviation sector with a total of seven crashes and four near crashes in three years, a figure considered by experts to be extremely high.
Also, aviation experts within the country have complained about declining safety standards and security measures at Nigerian airports. According to reports the NCAA, the agency responsible for the car purchases, is yet to certify any of the 22 airports in the country because they have been unable to meet the requirements on the regulatory checklist, particularly in the area of security and safety in the last 20 years.
A recent incident when a 13-year-old boy beat airport security and hid in the wheel of a Lagos-bound flight from Benin City further exposed the security challenges that Nigerian airports face.
The Minister, however, claimed that these problems had been addressed by the Ministry during her tenure, pointing to an extensive programme of airport renovations that she has embarked on to improve services and infrastructure.
Reports had earlier claimed that the Minister and senior officials of the NCAA were invited by the Legislature to state their positions on the issue but this has not happened, probably because the Minister was reported to be among those who accompanied the President on holy pilgrimage to Israel.
There have been calls for the Minister to be dropped but so far the President has made no response to this demand.