It has been confirmed that embattled aviation minister, Stella Oduah, did not sign the Bilateral Air Service Agreement between Nigeria and Israel on Monday.
Sources indicate that this may not be unrelated to the controversy surrounding her involvement in the purchase of two armoured BMWs at the cost of N255m for which she has been under scrutiny for the past couple of weeks.
President Jonathan came under fire from various anti corruption and media organisations over his decision to include the aviation minister in his entourage to Israel at a time many believe she should have been sacked.
The explanation given for her inclusion was that she was accompanying the president to Israel to participate in the signing of a Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and Israel.
It was, however, reported early on Monday that President Jonathan made a decision shortly after arriving in Israel that Ms Oduah would not be part of the BASA signing ceremony after all.
A top Presidency source on the entourage of the President in Israel told a Punch correspondent on the telephone that the decision to stop Oduah from signing the agreement was taken shortly after Jonathan arrived in Israel.
That same reason, he added, informed the decision of the President’s aides to distance the embattled minister from the President since their arrival in the country.
According to the Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, the BASA agreement was signed by Minister of State for Foreign affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri on behalf of the Nigerian government while Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Mr. Zeer Elkin signed on behalf of the Israeli government.
Dr. Abati also released the photograph (above) of the signing ceremony on Monday and issued a statement confirming that Onwuliri signed on behalf of the federal government.
Abati did not however explain why Oduah was not allowed to sign the agreement despite the fact that the photograph released by her aides showed that she was present at the event.
A former Minister of Aviation, Mr.Femi Fani-Kayode, who shed light on the development, said Jonathan must have prevented her from signing the BASA because of the controversy surrounding the purchase of the cars.
He said, “BASA is supposed to be signed by the aviation minister or she could delegate it to the permanent secretary in the ministry. The agreement has nothing to do with the Foreign Affairs Ministry. I signed quite a few during my tenure.”