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Jonathan Places Oduah On ‘Tactical Suspension’



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President Goodluck Jonathan may have placed the embattled Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, on  “tactical suspension,” findings by The PUNCH have revealed.

A reliable Presidency source   said Jonathan decided on the  “tactical suspension,” hours before the signing of the Bilateral Air Service  Agreement between Nigeria and Israel on Monday.


The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Mr. George Ossi,  had on October 24 told the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation that Oduah   led a Nigerian delegation to Israel to sign the BASA.

The House committee  is probing the  purchase of  two  bulletproof cars  at  a whopping N255m  price by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority for the minister.

Our source explained that  it was the ‘tactical suspension’ that made Jonathan to direct the Minister of  State (1) for Foreign Affairs , Prof. Viola Onwuliri, to sign the  agreement instead of  Oduah.

When asked by one of our correspondents what ‘tactical suspension’ meant, he   said, “Oduah will not be allowed to attend public functions that will have the President in attendance until the three-member  committee  set up to investigate the matter turns in its report.”

The source, who said he did not know whether the “tactical suspension” order had  been formally communicated to the minister,  stated that  the step became necessary in order to dissuade Nigerians who hold the opinion that the President  was  shielding  Oduah.

In what seemed a corroboration of the “tactical suspension,” the  Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, insisted that  Jonathan would not associate with or shield anybody found to be corrupt.

He insisted  during an interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, that the minister did not travel to Israel on the entourage of the President.

“Did you see them (Jonathan and the minister) together in Israel? The President will not associate or shield anybody found to be corrupt. That is why he set up that panel because he will not want to act based on media reports,” Gulak  said.

Shortly before our  source  and Gulak  spoke, the Presidency  said  the BASA  was signed by Onwuliri  because it was a matter bordering on foreign affairs.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati,   in an exclusive telephone interview with one of our correspondents,  argued  that there was no politics involved in Onwuliri signing the agreement on behalf of the government.

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He said Nigerians should not reduce the matter to “the politics of political appointees who are all ultimately birds of passage.”

The President’s spokesman said Oduah did not only attend the signing ceremony but was also involved in framing the technical details of, and in preparing the agreement along with her Israeli counterpart.

He said it was when that was done, that the Foreign Ministries moved in at the level of G2 diplomacy.

Abati added, “The groundwork (for the agreement) was done by the Ministry of Aviation hence the involvement of the Aviation Minister, but this being a country-to-country agreement, more or less a treaty, it had to be signed by the Foreign Affairs Minister.

“It is also the convention in diplomacy to pair ministers. The Israelis brought their Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, so we did the same. There was no politics involved and there is no doubt that it is within the provenance of the Foreign Ministry to sign agreements on behalf of the country.

“Let me add that BASA is about countries entering into an agreement.

“It is not about individuals. We must avoid the ridiculous temptation to reduce something that will promote good relations with a friendly nation to the politics of political appointees who are all ultimately birds of passage.”

When asked  if the  embattled minister  was under “tactical suspension,”   Abati replied, “She (Oduah was actually in attendance at the signing of the BASA . As I said, she was involved in framing the technical details of, and in preparing the agreement along with her Israeli counterpart. That done, the Foreign ministries moved in at the level of G2 diplomacy.”

Meanwhile,   the  ruling Peoples Democratic Party said on Tuesday that it  was  worried by the  bulletproof car scandal.

Like, Gulak, it assured Nigerians that whoever was  found culpable  would  face the law  because it (PDP) would never condone any form of  graft.

The party, however, wondered why the opposition All Progressives Congress was going into a frenzy over the scandal when  its “governors and leaders   have been involved in bulletproof car deals more scandalous than those  in the Ministry of Aviation.”

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In a statement by its    National Publicity Secretary, Chief  Olisa Metuh,  the PDP said its  position  on corruption was unambiguous.

A part of the statement reads,   “The position of our great party on corruption is unambiguous and our zero tolerance for corrupt practices abounds in practical examples.

“To us as a party, the accusation of corruption in the Aviation ministry is a big worry. It is for this reason  that the President and the leader of our  party has set up a panel to investigate the matter while the National Assembly which we also lead  has stepped in.”

It   frowned on the ethnic dimension which comments and street actions on the issue had taken and advised   “ethnic lords, jingoists as  well as lynch mobs “ to realise that  biased sentiments could hardly achieve an objective basis for establishing the culpability of the public officers involved in the matter.”

The party then went for the jugular of the APC ,  saying  it  (APC) was not different from a white washed tomb.

The PDP described the  APC as a stinking sepulchre and  the headquarters of corruption in Nigeria.

It said, “This  is a party whose leaders relish in stinking miasma but artfully turning a blind eye to it.

“They however go megaphonic when other political parties are involved.

“Hardly can you point at any of its leaders without a heavy baggage.

“In fact, the governors and leaders of the APC have been involved in bulletproof car deals more scandalous than those at the Aviation ministry but this is conspicuously missing on the sermon list of these  false evangelists of good governance.”

It wondered why  the trial of  the  Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji,   for acts of corruption,  had yet to  be  discussed by the APC leadership.

The PDP further contended that the  stench of corruption oozing from   the concession  of the Lekki Toll Plaza  and its debilitating effects on the electoral fortune  of APC  was the reason the Lagos State Government allegedly retrieved and paid off  the firm that built the  road.

Source: Punch

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