In a curious twist of fate, bound to generate more controversy, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Femi Ogunbayode, Monday confirmed that the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, on Saturday, escaped an assassination attempt by unknown gunmen.
However, the police said she was not in the vehicle at the time her Escalade SUV, with registration number FST 914 BL, was shot at about 10 pm.
Oduah has been at the centre of a scandal surrounding the purchase of four bulletproof cars on her behalf by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
However, it was the purchase of two BMW armoured cars at the cost of N255 million by NCAA that has received the most condemnation and which triggered the calls for her sack.
When the scandal broke last month, Oduah’s media aides had said the armoured cars were purchased for the protection of the minister, who they claimed had received death threats in the past, as well as other foreign dignitaries representing international aviation organisations who visit the country frequently.
However, during the probe into the purchase of the two BMW cars by the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Oduah had refuted the statement by her aides, stating that they were not authorised to do so.
The scandal also prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to set up an investigative panel headed by a former Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isa Bello, as the chairman, and the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Air-Vice Marshal Dick Iruenebere (rtd) as members.
The panel, which was given two weeks to submit its report has since submitted its report and is awaiting the president’s decision.
In its report, the House, however, indicted the minister and made a recommendation that the president takes a decision on the issue, pointing out that the offence for the unbudgeted expenditure on the cars attracted a three-year jail term and a fine of N100,000.
The House also indicted NCAA and Coscharis, the auto dealer that had supplied the cars, and recommended their investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The CP, who spoke on the phone to THISDAY through his Public Relations Officer, Mr. Athine Daniel, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), on the alleged attempt on Oduah’s life, said the complaint was lodged at the Mabushi Police Station at 5.35 pm yesterday, almost 48 hours after the alleged incident.
Ogunbayode said what was found inside the car after the shooting was a metallic object, which the police are investigating. The driver of the vehicle, whose name he withheld, wasn’t injured, he added.
Also speaking to THISDAY on the phone, Mr. Joe Obi, the Special Adviser, Media to the minister, said the incident occurred on Saturday along the Nnamdi Azikiwe Road by Banex Bridge, Minister’s quarters, Maitama.
He added that unknown to the gunmen, Oduah was not in the car at the time of attack. He said the driver was lucky to have escaped the assassin’s bullets.
Also, photographs of the Escalade provided by the FAAN spokesman, Yakubu Dati, showed that it appeared to be riddled with some bullet holes, but the reference to the bullet holes was inexplicably missing in the statement provided by the police on the attempt on Oduah’s life.