…As House insists minister must appear Thursday
SAN FRANCISCO, October 30, (THEWILL) – The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation was told on Wednesday that N10million waiver was approved for Coscharis Motors by the Federal Ministry of Finance on the controversial bulletproof cars bought for the Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah.
The Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Manasseh Daniel, who represented the Comptroller General of NCS, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, told the House Committee investigating the purchase of the cars by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that the waiver was obtained through alleged dubious application.
The disclosure came as the committee gave the minister an ultimatum to appear before it unfailingly on Thursday. The minister had written through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry , Mr. George Ossi, informing the committee that she was on ‘transit’ hence would not be at the hearing. But committee chairman, Hon Nkiruka Onyejiocha, insisted that she appears unfailingly at 10.00am Thursday.
“Tomorrow’s date is sacrosanct, please communicate that to her,” Onyejiocha said after explaining that it is in the spirit of fair hearing that the lawmakers keep shifting the dates to enable her state her case before the committee.
The Customs boss also alleged that Coscharis applied for a one year duty waiver for 300 cars in the guise of importing cars for the 18th National Sports Festival, EKO 2012 Games, in Lagos.
He disclosed that the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) issued the end users certificate for the cars believing that the armoured cars were for the National Sports Festival whereas.
He alleged that Coscharis used the duty exemption to clear the cars and 298 others at the expense of the Lagos State Government who would have been the beneficiary of the payment of N772.132m for the 300 cars and N10.1 m for the two BMW cars.
“The N10million import duty payable on the 300 vehicles meant for Eko 2012 Festival was used to clear the armoured cars,” he alleged, as he noted that the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, endorsed the clearance of the armoured cars believing that they were for Lagos State Government.
According to him , ” The armoured cars were cleared because there was an authorisation letter from the Minister of Finance. ” But the committee also indicted Coscharis for alleged inflation of the cost of the cars as documents presented by the NCS showed that the import duty, VAT, ETLS, CISS and port charges waiver certificate was issued by the Ministry of Finance on the November 20 and was signed by the Director of Revenue, Mrs. Rose Ngozi Maranzu, on behalf of the Minister of Finance.
The certificate read in part: “I am directed to refer to your letter dated 23rd June, 2012 on the above subject matter and to convey the approval of Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief to the Lagos State Government for waiver on import duty, value added tax (VAT), ETLS, CISS and other port charges in respect of the importation of 300 units of BMW, Ford, Land Rover, Range Rover, Lexus, Mercedes, Escalade, Jaguar and buses (petrol/diesel) for use during the 18th National Sports Festival (EKO 2012), to be imported through Messrs. Coscharis Motors Nigeria Limited, as indicated in the duly certified attached list.”
Responding to the allegations, President of the Coscharis Group, Dr. Cosmas Maduka, explained that the NCAA demanded a jerk up of the prices of the controversial vehicles from what the company had submitted earlier, saying “NCAA told us that the initial price is not proper.”
Maduka justified the waiver, saying it was an agreement between the Federal Government and Coscharis that when there is a major event such as COJA and EKO Games and the government cannot afford to buy cars, the company would provide cars to use while the Federal Government grants it waivers in return.
Maduka said, “We have a duty waiver from the Federal Government for 300 vehicles. This is not the first time we are getting this, we got it during COJA”.
The lawmakers also established that the controversial cars were originally purchased on behalf of the Lagos State Government for the 18th National Sports Festival and later sold to NCAA.
The Committee insisted that Coscharis deceived the public and the government by saying that the cars were bought for NCAA when actually they were purchased on behalf of the Lagos State government.
The committee also averred that one of the vehicles supplied was of different make and type.
First Bank Plc, represented by Seyi Oyefeso, in its presentation, told the committee that it extended a N643million loan facility to the NCAA for the vehicles to be paid over 36 months.
Though the committee also disagreed on the cost of the vehicles, insisting that the current price of the vehicle shouldn’t have ordinarily exceeded N50 million each, Coscharis rejected this , saying that could never be the case of with BMW B 7 series anywhere in the world.
Maduka however disclosed that NCAA demanded a jerk up of the prices of the controversial vehicles from what the company had submitted earlier, saying “NCAA told us that the initial price is not proper.”
The Committee in its submission insisted that Coscharis deceived the public and the government by saying that the cars were bought for NCAA when actually they were purchased on behalf of the Lagos State government. The committee also accused the company of ripping Nigerians off.
According to the Committee, the change in the prices of the vehicle from the initial amount of N70 million to N127.5m even when the company had admitted that it got waiver from the government on the cars cast aspersion on the company’s position on the prices.
By Saint Mugaga, Abuja