1. The Rule of Law Collective is a civic platform comprising Nigerians from all walks of life who seek to advance public service and accountable governance in Nigeria through the fair, non-discriminatory, and effective application of laws.
2. The disclosure that aviation authorities through Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) acquired two bullet-proof BMW vehicles allegedly for two hundred and fifty-five million Naira, is a scandal. The NCAA claims that these vehicles were purchased for security purposes. It further claims that these vehicles were acquired because the life of the minister could have been in danger.
3. Many things about this transaction are serious cause for concern: the cost price of the vehicles would appear to have been grossly over-inflated; it is not clear whether or not this purchase was provided for by the Appropriation Act; or that the public procurements procedures were complied with. Above all what kind of danger does the Aviation Minister face above that faced by her other Ministerial peers or indeed by the Service Chiefs or security sector managers who are at the frontlines of managing the current security situation in the country?
4. The Presidency has reportedly constituted a three-person “administrative” panel headed by the immediate past Head of Service of the Federation, and including the current National Security Adviser (NSA) and the immediate past Chief of Policy and Plans in the Defence Headquarters. The Panel is required to report within two weeks. As the Panel begins its work, however, the Aviation Minister and the National Security Adviser are in Israel as part of an official delegation with the Presidency.
5. The Rule of Law Collective recalls that Mr President has the duty to abolish all forms of corrupt practices and abuse of power in the nation as duly provided under S.15(5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
6. The signals from the Presidency on this case are, however, equivocal and troubling. There are many institutions capable of investigating the allegations in this transaction, including the Police, the EFCC, and the ICPC. It is not clear why retired officials have been brought in to investigate this case or whether they will be as effective as the statutory institutions established for such cases.
7. Moreover, two members of the three-man Panel may not be immediately available to begin their work. The NSA is presently in Israel while another member of the Panel is presently sitting as a commissioner in the on-going Justice Gbadeyan Commission of Inquiry into the Alakyo incident in Nassarawa State. As a result, it is doubtful whether the Panel can meet the two-week Presidential deadline for the submission of its report.
8. The decision of the Presidency to send the Aviation Minister or authorise her visit to Israel in these circumstances is condemnable. While she continues to preside over the affairs of the Ministry, the integrity of the investigation cannot be guaranteed as relevant staff could come under pressure to interfere with the investigations or with evidence.
9. The Rule of Law Collective therefore calls on the President, Pending the submission of the report of the Administrative Panel and in order to preserve the integrity of the investigations, to interdict and suspend the Aviation Minister immediately. Nigerians expect that the report of this Administrative Panel will be submitted on time, that its contents will be made public and that all persons found responsible for or connected to this scandal or found to have benefitted from the transaction will face the full force of the law.
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