N10bn Allegation: Court Stops House From Probing Petroleum Minister
We'll Study Court Order, Says Reps
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Monday issued an order restraining the House of Representatives from investigating allegations of reckless spending of N10 billion on chartered jets by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The order was consequent upon a suit filed by the minister and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC against the Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, to stop the House Committee on Public Accounts from investigating the duo.
Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja described the action of the minister and the corporation as attempts by the Executive to frustrate the House from exercising its constitutional responsibilities.
He said the House was no longer going ahead with the investigation because the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Minister had secured a court order restraining the House from investigating the allegations of N10 billion expended on chartered jets.
Mohammed said the House was studying the court order and would take appropriate action.
'We expected that she should be here today. But we have been served with a court order, notifying us that they have gone to court. The import of this is that as legislators, we are supposed to fight corruption, but of course this is another demonstration of the frustrations we face from government. However, as a law abiding arm of government, we would tarry a while and take a legal advice about this issue. May be that was why she did not show up today. This is to tell you the kind of frustrations we face every day we embark on investigation,' he said..
Mohammed addressed the press conference alongside the chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Solomon Adeola Olamilekan.
According to Mohammed, 'This is a clear case of a matter which is under investigation, or supposedly will go into investigation, but is being frustrated. We are studying the papers and taking position.
'They choose to wait until the day we said we would start this investigation for them to serve us this matter. So it tells a lot about what they intend to achieve with this issue. We don't need to go into details.
'But of course we have come out formally to tell you about the stand of the House.'
In his contribution, Olamilekan whose committee is mandated to carry out the investigation explained that 'Today is the 28th of April when the committee scheduled to receive the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources and other agencies that have stake in this investigation.
'But as we speak, there is a court order, which has been served to the office of the Speaker, even though the committee has not gotten the copy of that order.'
On how far the Committee has gone with the investigation, Olamilekan said 'So far, so good for all the memos we have written, we got responses. We have received documents from Vista Gate in London, and also responses from Executive Jet Hangers about the flight details and all that have also been served to the committee, as we speak. The only correspondence we have not received, which we were expecting to get upon their appearance is that of the NNPC and the Honourable Minister of Finance.'
It will be recalled that the House had last month directed the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the alleged expenditure of N10 billion by the minister on charter of private jets both for official and family use after adopting a motion brought before it by Hon. Samuel Babatunde Adejare.
Adejare had in his motion alleged that the minister was involved in reckless spending amounting to N10 billion and argued that it was a violation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
'This colossal waste is currently estimated at N10 billion, which include the payment of allowances to the crew for the trips, hanger packing and rent based on the lease agreement,' he had told his colleagues.â€¬
SAINT MUGAGA, ABUJA