By Romoke W. Ahmad & Misbahu Bashir
A Federal Government agency has bought 10 bulletproof cars, at least five of which were flown into the country by a Saudi plane that was involved in the Abuja airport mishap three weeks ago.
The Saudi embassy in Abuja, which disclosed this to Daily Trust in a letter at the weekend, said the cars were meant to be delivered to the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), Kaduna.
A Saudi airlines plane hit runway repair equipment at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in the night on December 4, leading to the closure of the airport for 17 hours.
In its account of that incident, Daily Trust reported that the aircraft was carrying weapons. But the Saudi embassy wrote to say the goods were not “dangerous nor prohibited,” contrary to the impression it said the newspaper’s report created.
The embassy said the cargo comprised 100 tonnes of bulletproof cars which were part of a supply contract for delivery to DICON in Kaduna.
“The General Authority of Civil Aviation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has confirmed that the aircraft was chartered by Saudi Arabian Airline, carrying bullet-proof cars and its final destination is Murtala Muhammad Airport, Lagos, Nigeria,” the Saudi mission said in a letter dated December 20.
“The detailed description of the content of the plane is as follows: -A set of bullet-proof cars weighing 58 tonnes. (And) another set of 5 bullet-proof cars weighing 42 tonnes.
“The goods were a portion of a supply contract for 10 bullet-proof cars to a government agency in Nigeria, which were to be conveyed from Sharjah (UAE) via Abuja, through: fast forward cargo US UAC, to: Defence Industries of Nigeria (DICOM), 45, Ahmad Bello Way, Kaduna, through the companies contact person: Mr Nwajpudu Livinston/CCC. (sic).
“The goods were manufactured in South Africa.
“It is important to note that, the goods the aircraft was carrying were neither those considered as dangerous nor prohibited, this is absolutely in contrary to your esteemed newspapers report which stated that the aircraft was carrying weapons.”
This supply came in the wake of the N255 million bulletproof cars scandal involving Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, who the House of Representatives indicted for flouting procurement regulations in the cars purchase.
It is not clear who would use the 10 bulletproof cars being supplied by the Saudis.
When contacted on Sunday, a spokesman for DICON, Mohammed Lawal Kurfi said he was not aware of the contract and the cargo.
Asked if he could confirm the matter with company’s management, Kurfi said he could not contact the Director General, Major-General E.R. Chioba.
For his part, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said if DICON was the one mentioned by the Saudis, then Daily Trust should talk to the corporation.
DICON was established in 1964, primarily to produce small arms and ammunition for the use of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies. The corporation is also to use its excess capacity to produce machinery spare parts for industries and other products for civilian use, information on its website says.
A source in the military circles told Daily Trust yesterday that India and Brazil set up similar corporations same year and had since gone ahead to exceed their mandate.
“But DICON has not only stagnated; its main preoccupation now is making furniture,” he said.
“It has no business with bulletproof cars. Purchases of heavy weapons and things like bulletproof cars are the responsibilities of Policy and Plans in Defence Headquarters. The whole thing is curious.”
Details of DICON’s N2.59 billion total allocation in the 2013 Federal budget did not clearly show a provision for purchase of any bulletproof cars. But N497 million was provided for “purchase of defence equipment” under capital projects.
Dailytrust Exclusive report