Petroleum Minister Stalls Probe Into Financial Scandal
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has halted the investigation by the House of Representatives into the N10billion she allegedly spent on a char?tered private jet, Challenger 850, in the last two years for her trips.
The House Committee on Public Accounts investigating the expenditure was set to conduct a public hearing on Monday, but it was stalled.
The probe was halted by Alison- Madueke, who dragged the Speaker of the House, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, and the committee members before an Abuja Federal High Court.
Her prayer was to “retrain” the House from conducting the probe pending the determination of the suit.
The House leadership was “surprised” when it was served the restraining order on Monday morning.
“This has never happened before in this country; that a serving minister is asking a court to stop the parliament from doing its work.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, confirmed the development as he addressed reporters on the issue.
“The court processes were served on us today; the speaker has been served.
“Simply put, it is to notify us that, this matter which you want to investigate, we have gone to court”, Mohammed stated.
Mohammed described Diezani’s action as a “temporary setback”? for the House, but assured that the legislature would fight to the finish.
According to him, being a “law-abiding House”, the first reaction was to put the hearing on hold until legal opinions were sought.
He spoke further, “We expected the minister to be here today for the hearing.
“Instead, we have been ?served with court processes.
“As law-abiding citizens, we have decided to wait. We will tarry awhile, take some legal opinions and take up from there.
“What has happened today tells you the kind of frustration that the House is facing.
“A matter of public importance is under investigation and a minister is telling us that she has gone to court.
“However, our job is to expose corruption. We will study the court papers and take it up from there.”
The Chairman of PAC, Mr. Solomon Olamilekan, expressed shock over the minister’s decision to “rush to court.”
“Is this to say there is something to hide? What was she afraid of that she went to court?
“The restraining order was served on the Office of the Speaker, stopping us from going ahead with the investigation.
“As a committee, we have not seen a copy, but since the speaker was served, we cannot pretend not to be aware”, he added.
?Wwhile the original mandate of the committee was to investigate the alleged N10bn expenditure on the Challenger ?850, the committee stumbled on additional information indicating that Alison-Madueke chartered two other jets.
One of them, a Global Express XRS, was said to have cost €600,000 in a return charter trip to London.
Olamilekan claimed that all was set for the probe on Monday (yesterday) only for members to be confronted with the news on the court order.
He stated that two aviation firms, Visa Jets and Jet Hanger, had already made submissions to the committee.
On the part of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Olamilekan said the committee received a letter from the corporation asking for extension of the deadline.
However, he admitted that, with the minister’s decision to go to court, the committee had been compelled to await the outcome of the court processes.
She had twice failed to respond to letters the committee wrote, asking her to state her side of the allegation preparatory to the public hearing.
A further directive to make the submissions before April 28, was again ignored.
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