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Alleged N10bn Plane Charter: Again, NNPC, Diezani Move To Stop National Assembly Probe

Source: thewillnigeria.com
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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, May 22, (THEWILL) â€' A fresh move has been made by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, to stop the National Assembly from investigating the alleged N10bn spent by the Minister on the charter of private jet.

The move came as the House of Representatives said it was ready to begin the probe with the Speaker of the House, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, giving a marching order to the Public Accounts Committee of the House to commence the probe immediately.

But NNPC and the Minister moved swiftly to stop the probe by filing a fresh suit against the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Federal High Court challenging the powers of the legislators to institute the probe.

The new suit, filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), is quite different from the earlier suit filed by Mr. Etigwe Uwa, (SAN), which comes up next Monday before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of an Abuja Federal High Court.

In the fresh suit, NNPC and the Minister want the court to determine whether or not they have the power to deduct from the revenue in their custody to settle third parties' debts before remitting the remaining to the Federation Account.

Posing five questions for the court's determination, Ozekhome seeks 10 reliefs for a determination that the National Assembly lacks the powers to probe the minister and the NNPC, saying that such probe should be done rather by the anti graft agencies.

Challenging the powers of the lawmakers under sections 88 and 89 and 214 of the Constitution in the fresh suit, Ozekhome wrote to the Clerk of the National Assembly to inform the both the House and Senate to stop issuing further invitation to the minister pending the determination of the suit.

Among other reliefs, the minister and NNPC are asking the court‎ to issue a perpetual injunction to restrain the lawmakers from 'interfering or further interfering with their power to make deductions at source from their gross earnings for purposes of settling debts it owed to third parties, including other expenses and contractual obligations, before paying the net sum thereof into the federation account under Section 162 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered.'

‎They also asked the court for a declaration that by virtue of Sections 88, 89 and 214 of the constitution the Respondents (the Senate and the House of Reps) or any of their committees were not legally and constitutionally empowered and/or competent to personally/physically probe or conduct investigation into allegations of fraud, corruption or other criminal activities said to have occurred in the agencies under the applicants' supervision or control, when there existed agencies that were legally and constitutionally empowered to carry out such investigations into alleged fraud or other criminal conducts and prosecute offenders upon conclusion of their investigations.

They further asked the court to declare that by virtue of the said provisions the ‎respondents 'are not legally empowered to personally and/or physically probe or conduct investigation into allegations of fraud, corruption or other criminal activities said to have occurred in the agencies under the Applicants' supervision or control when such probe or investigation is not for the purpose of enabling the Respondents make laws or correct any defect in existing laws.'

They also said that Section 8 of the Legislatives Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act Cap. L12 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2010 precluded the lawmakers from summoning them for the purpose of giving evidence and or producing any papers, books, records or other documents which related to the unpublished official records of the Applicants without the consent of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria first had and obtained by the Respondents or their Committees.

They asked the court to declare that the lawmakers acted above their powers and functions by sending out invitations to the them and agencies under their control when such invitations were not for the purpose of enabling the Respondents make laws or correct any defect in an existing law.

Though the case is yet to be assigned to any judge, other reliefs being sought by the applicants include : 'A declaration that by virtue of the provisions ofSection 7 (4) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Act, Cap. N123, Section 1 (2) and ‎Section 2 (1) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (Projects) Act, Cap. N124, thereof, deductions can be made at source from the gross revenue accruing to the 2nd Applicant, (NNPC) for the purposes of settling debts it owes to 3rd parties, including payment of expenses and other contractual obligations, before paying the net sum thereof into the federation account under Section 162 of the constitution of the1999, as altered;

An‎ order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents from further conducting direct personal or physical probe, inquiry and/or investigation into any alleged fraud, corruption or other criminal activities in the agencies under the Applicant's supervision or control;

'An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents from summoning the Applicants or any agencies under the Applicants' supervision or control, to appear before them for the purpose of giving evidence and/or producing any papers, books, records or other documents, which relate to the unpublished official records of the Applicants without the consent of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria first had and obtained by the respondents or their committees;

'An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents from further sending out invitations to the Applicants for the purpose of appearing before them to answer to allegations of fraud, corruption, or other criminal activities in the agencies under the applicants' supervision or control, when such invitations are not for the purpose of enabling the Respondents make laws or to correct any defects in existing laws; and;

'An ‎order that the Respondents restrict themselves only to causing or directing the appropriate bodies or agencies of Government, i.e. the Police, the EFCC, ICPC, or any other agencies so authorized by law, to conduct such probe or investigation with respect to allegations of fraud, corruption, or other criminal offences alleged to have occurred in the agencies under the Applicants' supervision, or control.'