TWO groups clashed yesterday in Abuja over Aviation Minister Stella Oduah’s N255 million bulletproof vehicles.
One, an anti-corruption organisation, called for Ms Oduah’s resignation. The other confronted anti-Oduah protesters, snatching their placards and shouting that the minister should keep her job.
The amoured vehicles were bought by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a probe of the transaction. The order follows moves by the National Assembly to examine the controversy.
A former House member, Dino Melaye and some members of his Anti-Corruption Network (ACN), who staged the anti-Oduah protest, were arrested by the police when they picketed the Ministry of Aviation.
Melaye said the protest was to sensitise Nigerians to the scandal. His team was confronted by another group, who protested in support of Oduah.
Before Melaye was arrested, a skirmish was averted as the pro-Oduah group attempted to stop the Melaye group.
Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Assistant Police Commissioner Sunday Ogunkoya arrested the former lawmaker after the pro-Oduah and anti-Oduah protests, which lasted for about 45 minutes.
The police accused Melaye of preventing easy traffic flow at the Abuja Central Business District (CBD).
Melaye, was taken away in a white police Hilux van, marked NPS 21280. There were two other police officers with the leader of the team.
Melaye asked President Jonathan to ignore the ‘neighbour to neighbour’ relationship with Ms Oduah and act on the scandal. He called for her resignation.
Ogunkoya also ordered the arrest of no fewer than 37 protesters who were already seated in a white coaster bus marked FGE 103 XA. The protesters were in a red uniform with the inscriptions; “Corruption now with impunity”, “Anti-Corruption Network”.
They carried placards with inscriptions, such as “EFCC-Investigate, ICPC-Prosecute, SSS-Arrest Stella Oduah, Nigerians demand”; Jonathan Sack Oduah! Stop Corruption for Once”; Oduah Must Go Now” and “Under President Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, Oduah Would Have Been Sacked”, among others.
Speaking before he was taken away, Melaye described the police action as “partial” and “unlawful”. He said his team’s protest was peaceful and meant to persuade the President to act on the matter.
The protest would have extended to the Aviation Ministry, as planned, but it was halted, according to Melaye, because of the pro-Oduah group who attempted to disrupt it.
The pro-Oduah group insisted that the minister should remain in office.
They shouted “Oduah Must Stay” and made several attempts to disrupt Melaye’s team’s protest.
They wanted to get rid of the placards and struggled to destroy banners held by members of the Anti-Corruption Network.
Describing the opposition as “hoodlums” who were determined to hijack his protest, Melaye accused the Police of being impartial. He said about four vehicles had conveyed the opposition to the venue of the protest and they were still there by the time of his arrest but they were left untouched.
“On police pension scam where their money was squandered, we had a protest. For the first time, we went to the Supreme Court to protest on behalf of the police; they did not arrest us then.
“Today, Stella Oduah is the ninth minister the Anti-corruption Network will be after. We are in court with the minister of justice; we have protested against the minister of finance in her premises, minister of Niger Delta in his premises and today, we came peacefully. We have completed our protest, As our bus was about to move, they said one single bus cannot move. They said we were disrupting traffic,” Melaye said.
The former lawmaker reminded the police that their resources were among the tax payers’ money, which was used to purchase the cars, adding that the huge sum was not included in the ministry’s 2013 budget.
“It is criminal to spend money that is not budgeted for. The hooligans are there; they are not arrested. I am a tax payer and I am supposed to be protected by the police,” he said.
But the National Youth Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party Coalition 2015, Comrade Edwin Emily, said the rule of law should be allowed to prevail in the alleged scandal. He said appropriate anti-graft organisations should be allowed to investigate the matter rather than destroying the minister’s image.
“Nigerians must not be deceived. If you are fighting corruption, come out open. You cannot mobilize people who do not know what they are here for.
“I personally was called to mobilise people the last time and what he promised to give people was not given. They all disappeared. If you are fighting corruption, fight so that Nigerians will applaud you; not to gain more popularity, tarnishing the name of people. That is unfair. We should allow the law to take its course,” Emily said.