It has been revealed that Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan, sought and received import waivers that she then turned over to Coscharis Motors, a private car dealer, to import 200 BMW cars in 2012.
Figures released by Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance budget office show that Mrs. Jonathan secured the import waivers in the name of her pet project, African First Ladies Peace Mission. The ministry just released a list of beneficiaries of import waivers for 2012.
Other prominent beneficiaries include the Lagos State government which got waivers for the importation of 200 BMWs, Fords, Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Lexus, Mercedes, and Jaguar for the 18th National Sports Festival. Part of the waivers granted to the Lagos State government was fraudulently used by Coscharis Motors to import two BMW armored cars for Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah.
Whereas the Ministry of Finance outlined the reasons for giving out waivers to the Lagos State government, it just stated that the waivers granted to the First Lady’s NGO were for the importation of “units of assorted brands of BMW” cars.
A source in Abuja told SaharaReporters tonight that the latest revelation of Mrs. Jonathan’s significant profiting from import waivers is one of the reasons President Goodluck Jonathan has not been able to fire Ms. Oduah after SaharaReporters revealed that she compelled one of the cash-strapped agencies under her control to take out a high-interest, bogus loan to purchase two BMW armored cars for her use.
The same source stated that Mrs. Jonathan’s own waivers, which cost Nigeria a whopping half a billion naira, likely involved fraudulent conversions and misuse. “The First Lady would have earned a huge amount from Coscharis Motors after she transferred the waivers to them,” the source said.
During a House of Reps hearing on the Aviation Minister’s BMW scam, Cosmas M. Maduka, the President and Chairman of Coscharis Group, told bewildered legislators that the fraudulent diversion of waivers was nothing new.
In August 2012, Mrs. Jonathan had hosted a so-called summit of African First Ladies. At the time, media reports disclosed that the Federal Government had bought 200 cars for the summit. However, Mr. Jonathan’s special assistant on the media, Reuben Abati, denied the reports, claiming that Coscharis Motors had donated the cars to the summit at no cost to the government or the First Lady.
The revelations in the waiver document released by the Finance Ministry indicate that Mr. Abati’s assertion was false and misleading.
The list of waiver beneficiaries shows that Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom got an import waiver to import a private jet. The documents released today by the Ministry of Finance reveal that over N54 billion in import waivers was granted to NGOs, individuals, corporations, state as well as federal governments in 2012. Critics have charged that the issuance of import waivers should be streamlined and transparent to avoid abuses and fraud as well as significant loss of revenues to the government.