The sack of the embattled Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, and three other ministers by President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday has elicited reactions from stakeholders in their ministries and other Nigerians.
Jonathan sacked Oduah and Godsday Orubebe (Minister of Niger Delta Affairs), Dr Yerima Ngama (Minister of State for Finance), and Mr. Caleb Olubolade (Minister of Police Affairs).
While Olubolade, Orubebe and Ngama were relieved of their appointments ostensibly to pursue their governorship ambition in Delta, Ekiti and Yobe states respectively, Oduah was sacked for the controversial purchase of armoured cars for the aviation ministry last year.
Oduah was indicted by a House of Representatives committee that investigated the purchase of the two BMW cars valued at N255 million.
She was also reportedly indicted by a presidential committee set up by Jonathan to look into the purchase of the vehicles, which experts believed were grossly inflated.
Staff of the Federal Ministry of Aviation yesterday were thrown into jubilation when news got to them that Oduah had been removed.
When Blueprint visited the ministry around 3:30 p.m, staff were seen in groups outside their offices discussing the development.
One of the civil servants told our reporter under the condition of anonymity that the ministry had worn a negative image since the armoured cars scandal broke out.
He added: “If I were the woman I would have resigned long ago because this is an allegation she was unable to defend. Though some people are saying that the woman is good, that she is a good woman to work with for her generosity, but this is a public office, my dear.”
Efforts by Blueprint to speak with the ministry’s director of press proved abortive as our reporter was told that he had gone out.
At the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, some staff were seen glued to a television set listening to the news at 3:10 p.m. when our reporter visited the ministry.
Some were also arguing amongst themselves that Jonathan could not have sacked the minister they described as a member of the ‘kitchen cabinet.’
Blueprint was reliably informed by one of the staffers that the minister had been nursing a gubernatorial ambition in his home state.
Reacting to the sack of the ministers, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Centre (CISLAC), Comrade Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, and Comrade Samson Itodo, convener of the Say No Campaign, asked the president to immediately get Oduah arrested and prosecuted if he was serious about fighting corruption.
Rafsanjani said: “The sack of these ministers is long overdue, given the allegations of corruption and incompetence they demonstrated in government. But again, for the president to convince Nigerians that he sacked them for the various allegations of corruption, they must be investigated and, if found guilty, should be finished. Otherwise, the minister of petroleum and some other public officers accused of corruption must also go.
“Nigerians will wait to see if they were asked to go for another political engagement, which has nothing to do with the demand Nigerians were making for their sack since some of those partners in crime are still with the president.”
Itodo welcomed the development but lamented that it took so long before the president acted.
He said: “The president is promoting corruption by the supposed soft-landing he is offering his appointees found guilty of corruption in the name of resignation. It appears the president lacks the boldness and courage to sack and prosecute some sacred cows.
“The resignation is not enough; Stella should be arrested and prosecuted. If she goes unpunished many will steal public funds and go scot free.”
In an interview with Blueprint in Lagos, the Deputy General Secretary of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Mr. Olayinka Abioye, however, described the erstwhile minister as a “colossus” who “has been around running the industry as it were for good or for bad, depending on the side that any one of us belongs.”
He said: “People are saying, and I will want to agree with them, that indeed her era has turned around the aviation industry so much so that we are seeing terminal buildings being remodelled, infrastructure being upgraded, and so on.
“Our airports are being beautified. But as a stakeholder in the industry representing the interest of the workers, the question we asked earlier was at what cost are all these transformation and remodelling done?
“The second thing which also bothers us as a trade union is the fact that while the woman was running her administration, the unions were highly disrespected. So, President Jonathan has just given Nigerians a Valentine’s Day gift by the removal of Oduah. However painful it may be, we will cherish this gift.
“As much as we had wanted to cooperate and collaborate with her, we tried severally but all our attempts were rebuffed; the only time in recent history was just the concluded stakeholders’ buy-in where unions were now being cajoled as if we are new babies.
“By and large, we have seen a lot of things but then questions will continue to be asked. For instance, there are certain individuals who have been appointed to the boards of agencies. Despite their being great businessmen, there is something called conflict of interest. If these airline operators and concessionaires who are business men within an industry are also brought as members of boards of particularly the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), it could also create some problems because there will be a time when they will want to protect their personal or business interests.
“So, we sent our observation calling for a review of such membership. Sadly, she will not be there to do that.”
The erstwhile Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade, was seen yesterday at about 3:38 p.m. moving out of his office with a stern look on his face, barely answering greetings from security officers.
The former minister, who wore a gray suit, left quietly without the usual official fanfare, carrying his two briefcases before one of his security aides collected it and led him to the lift.
When Blueprint visited the ministry, the atmosphere was tense, with officers gathering in clusters and discussing in low tones.
A member of staff who preferred anonymity said the minister had a good relationship with the staff and that he took staff welfare seriously.
“He has had a good relationship with the staff. He was very concerned about the welfare of the staff, especially in the area of training. The staff had a good dealing with him,” he said.
Another staffer said: “This is a breaking news. Anybody will want to hear it.”
A security officer said: “Well, if something like this happened, people will always react differently, some are happy while others are sad. Such is life.”
At the Ministry of Finance, Ngama’s sack was also met with mixed reactions.
A female staffer burst out while pointing to an aide of the minister said: “This one na him wicked pass.” Another said: “They no know say river dey flow.”
When Blueprint visited the ministry, an aide of the minister was seen giving instructions on how much should be given to some staff waiting even after closing hour.
“Give him N2,000, and this one N3,000 while you give her also N2,000.”
Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, said the president asked the affected ministers to go and pursue interests they may have.
He said the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Samuel Ortom, would supervise the Ministry of Aviation, while Minister of State for FCT, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, would supervise the Ministry of Police Affairs, pending the appointment of substantive ministers.
He said the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, would remain in charge of the Ministry of Finance while the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Darius Ishaku, would take full charge of the ministry in the meantime.
Maku also told journalists that the president informed FEC members that the sack of former Chief of Staff, Mr. Mike Ogiadhome, had nothing to do with allegations of fraud at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).