The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Thursday distanced herself and her office from the raging controversy concerning the two armoured BMW cars recently imported into the country for the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah.The minister first issued through her twitter handle, saying the customs waiver she approved had no link to either the aviation ministry or bullet proof cars, but for the importation of 300 cars ordered by the Lagos State government for the National Sports Festival (“EKO 2012”).
While the Chairman of Coscharis Motors Limited, Cosmas Maduka, told the House of Representatives committee on Aviation probing the N255 million purchase that the Federal Ministry of Finance granted his company waiver for the importation, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala dismissed such claims as “totally false and without foundation.”
She then followed up with a formal statement for clarification.
“On June 23, 2012, the Lagos State Government applied for Waiver of Destination Inspection Charges and Duty Exemptions for Coscharis Motors Nigeria Ltd, the official Automobile Partner for the National Sports Festival (“EKO 2012”), to purchase 300 vehicles on its behalf for the event,” the Special Adviser to the Minister on Media, Paul Nwabuikwu, said in a statement.
“Since the Lagos State Government met the laid down criteria, the waiver was granted. It is also important to clarify that the waiver granted to the Lagos State Government for the event did not include the purchase of armoured vehicles.”
At the public hearing by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the Deputy Comptroller General of Customs, Manasa Jatau, had also accused Coscharis Motors of lying, by deceiving both the Ministry of Finance and National Security Adviser, NSA, into believing that the two armoured cars were among the ones acquired for Lagos state government for the National Sports festival.
Mr. Jatau, who alleged that the N10.1 million import duty due to Customs for the two cars were not paid, said Coscharis had used the same waiver for the Lagos State cars on the controversial BMW’s associated with NCAA.
“Coscharis imported the cars without paying import duties claiming there was a waiver from the Ministry of Finance. Coscharis obtained the waiver claiming the armoured cars were part of 300 vehicles imported for the Sports festival in Lagos last year, and therefore the beneficiary was Lagos State government. The cars had an End User Certificate from the NSA office in the name of Coscharis,” Mr. Jatau told the committee.
The NSA office had apparently issued End User certificate without knowing that it was doing so for cars to be delivered to Stella Oduah or the NCAA.
Reliable sources close to the office of the NSA, however, told PREMIUM TIMES last week that no such authorization certificate was ever issued to either the Minister of Aviation, Ms Oduah or the NCAA, to procure the controversial vehicles.