A Federal High Court in Lagos has restrained the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from inviting a former Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, for questioning.
Justice Mohammed Yunusa ordered the EFCC to stay action on Oduah as regards the purchase of two armoured BMW cars at a cost of N255m in 2013 by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority under her watch.
The purchase of the cars sparked outrage across the country, which later led to the ex-minister’s resignation from office.
The order, made on August 26, 2015, also barred the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector-General of Police from inviting Oduah for interrogation.
The judge said the injunction would remain in force pending the determination of the main suit filed by the former minister, through her counsel, Mr. R.A. Oluyede.
In her statement of claim, Oduah, who is currently the Senator representing Anambra North in the National Assembly, said there was a move by the respondents, doing the bidding of her political adversaries, to persecute and humiliate her.
She feared that they would succeed in their sinister plot if they are not stopped.
According to Oduah, her persecution, which began in the run-up to 2015 general elections, was spearheaded by former Speaker of the House of Representatives now Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.
“The All Progressives Congress, in a desperate bid to capture power, began a campaign of calumny by demonising the most visible leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, including myself and others who were seen as pivotal to the re-election bid of the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan”, she claimed.
As part of the APC’s campaign of calumny, she stated that the party’s leadership commissioned some faceless organisations to forward petitions to the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, accusing her of “all manners of corrupt practices and offences in respect of my stewardship as Minister of Aviation”.
Oduah said despite her selfless service and the positive changes witnessed 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 in the cross-hairs of the APC, which was seeking to depopulate the PDP and distract its leaders with trumped up charges.
According to her, part of the then opposition party’s game plan was to charge PDP leaders “in a criminal trial in a Lagos State Government-controlled court”.
Defending her decision to grant approval for the purchase of the armoured cars, the former minister explained that they were meant to transport International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) officials, who were in the country to inspect and certify the 22 airports being rehabilitated under her watch.
She further said 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 at the peak of their reign of terror.
“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.
Praying the court to protect her, Oduah claimed that if she is not protected by the law, “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”.
After granting her application, Justice Yunusa adjourned hearing in the main suit till October 2, 2015.
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