The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Inspector-General of Police yesterday failed to send lawyers for the hearing of a suit filed by a former Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah. Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court in Lagos, on August 26, restrained them from questioning or arresting her for the purchase of two bulletproof vehicles until her suit was determined.
The vehicles, bought under her watch as Aviation minister, were said to have cost N255 million, an amount that sparked outrage.
The judge also stopped the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Attorney-General of the Federation and the IGP from inviting the former minister for interrogation.
The EFCC, it was learnt, did not file any application to discharge the restraining order within the time allowed.
Justice Yunusa had adjourned hearing to October 2, but the matter was, however, listed for hearing yesterday, apparently due to its urgency.
The court’s registrar said hearing notices were issued to parties, but as proceedings commenced, no lawyer announced appearance for Oduah, EFCC and IGP.
But ICPC was represented by Ms. Funmilola Oluborode, who said the commission did not receive a hearing notice.
According to her, she was directed to to represent ICPC by a superior, who got to know the case was coming up for hearing after seeing it in the causelist.
The ICPC lawyer said since other parties were not represented, there was nothing she could do alone. She sought an adjournment.
Oluborode said ICPC was yet to file any response to Oduah’s suit and asked for time to enable the commission file its defence.
Justice Yunusa said the suit was a fundamental rights’ enforcement action, which deserved urgent hearing.
Oduah, in a supporting affidavit, justified the 2013 purchase of two bullet-proof BMW cars by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The former minister, who represents Anambra North in the Senate, said 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 so that they would not be attacked by the rampaging Boko Haram insurgents, who were causing havoc in the Northeast.
Oduah said the bullet proof cars were necessary because the visit of the airport inspectors coincided with “the peak of Boko Haram terrorists’ menace when the United Nations building and the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force were bombed in Abuja.”
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 manner of corrupt practices and offences in respect of my stewardship as minister of Aviation.”
Oduah said was shocked by the allegations because the Aviation ministry, under her watch, was run in the cleanest manner imaginable.
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 on 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 November 16.