Shocking News on bulletproof cars deals
The House of Representatives’ public investigation on the purchase of two BMW armoured cars continued yesterday with more chilling revelations on the transaction, emerging.
This came as the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah and the House committee disagreed on the date and time of appearance before the panel. While the minister, who travelled to Israel to sign the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) requested that she be allowed to face the panel on November 4, the committee insisted that she must appear before it tomorrow at 10 am.
Organisations involved in the controversial car deals, which appeared at yesterday’s hearing include First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Coscharis Motors Ltd and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr. Menassa Daniel Jatua, who represented the Customs CG, Abdulahi Dikko, who is attending an event in The Netherlands, set the ball rolling, as he revealed that import duty waiver was granted to Coscharis for the purchase of the armoured cars. He said the vehicles were among the 300 vehicles designated for the Eko Sport Festival christened Eko 2012, which total duties would have been N772, 132, 311.21.
Jatau said the NCS would have collected N10.1million as duties on the cars, had waiver not been granted to the importer. He explained that since the waiver was still effective, the Customs had no choice than to allow the cars to be cleared from the ports. Jatau also noted that the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), endorsed the clearing of the armoured cars.
Asked why the agency could not impose duties on the cars, when it was discovered that they were sold to NCAA instead of the Lagos State government it was originally meant for, the deputy CG said the service was not aware of the development until last week when the controversy over the cars started.
Documents presented to the committee by the NCS showed that the import duty, VAT, ETLS, CISS and port charges waiver certificate were issued by the Ministry of Finance on November 20, 2012, and signed by the director of Revenue, Mrs. Rose Ngozi Maranzu, on behalf of the minister of finance.
It 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, LandRover, 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.”
However, the atmosphere at the hall changed when the committee accused the management of Coscharis of not delivering the bulletproof cars for which it was paid for. It claimed that the chassis numbers of the two cars delivered to NCAA were different from the one in the quotation submitted by the company for which an approval was given.
Apart from that, the committee queried why the company, in its quotation, placed the value of three BMW armoured cars at $223, 653.48, but later collected $1.2million for two cars. According to the committee, this amounted to defrauding Nigeria.
Equally, the panel questioned the integrity of the cars, declaring that the speedometer of one of the cars had already read 3, 000 kilometers. 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. It also accused the company of ripping Nigerians off.
According to the committee, the change in the prices of the vehicle, from the initial N70 million to N127.5million, even when the company had admitted that it got waiver from the government not to pay customs duties on the cars, casts aspersion on the company’s position on the prices.
Responding, President of Coscharis Motors, Mr. Cosmas Maduka, denied the allegations. He said the price of the vehicles was lowered for exigency reasons. According to him, it was necessitated by the fact that the company would not be selling the vehicles at a price it ordinarily would have sold them.
Maduka, who consistently said that he had built an image and would not tarnish it for any reason, said the manufacturer’s prices for the cars were 418, 000 Euros. He challenged the committee to contact BMW and get a confirmation of the amount of BMW B7 level amoured cars.
For over 30 minutes, the committee was locked up in a heated debate with Coscharis Motors in an apparent move to ascertain the market price of the vehicles. While the committee insisted that the current price of the vehicle should not have ordinarily exceeded N50 million each, Coscharis rejected it, saying he delivered the vehicles at best prices.
On its part, First Bank disagreed with the NCAA authorities that the car deal was on lease arrangement, revealing that the interests on the vehicles were N500million for three years.