- We’ll study ruling – lawmakers By Lawrence Olaoye
& Mohammed Umar-Puma
A Federal High Court yesterday ordered the halt of the current probe by the House of Representatives into the N10 billion allegedly spent on chartered private jets by the Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The court, in an exparte motion dated April 15 ordered the National Assembly to put on hold the investigation of Diezani, and suspend any public hearing in that respect pending the determination of the motion on notice.
The court also ruled that the National Assembly should, for now, put on hold any order to summon the Petroleum Minister before any committee.
The court order was served on Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
But Rep Zakari Mohammed, House spokesman, in a briefing on the development said the House is currently consulting legal luminaries on the ruling and would respond appropriately at the right time.
Zakari said “We expected that the minister 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”.
Rep Zakari, who was accompanied by the Chairman House Committee on Public Accounts that is probing the jet scandal, Rep Solomon Adeola (APC Lagos), noted that “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 face today. This is to tell you the kind of frustrations we face every day we embark on such investigations”.
“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”.
“Rather than leave the issue for speculation, we said let us inform you about the development, so that the Nigerian people would not be misinformed and the House. Our responsibility is to expose corruption. The House of Representatives, in its wisdom took decision to investigate this matter”.
“They choose to wait until the day we said we would start this investigation for them to serve us this letter. 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”, he said.
Adeola, on his part, said the Committe has earlier scheduled 28 of April to receive the Minister and other agencies that have stakes in the investigation only to be told that there was a court order, which has been served on the office of the Speaker.
“Even though the committee has not gotten the copy of that order, so far all the memos we have written, we got responses. We have received documents from Vista Gate in London, and also responses from execute jet handlers 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 Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the honourable minister,” he said.
According to him, “the nature of the court order is simple, they are just restraining us from carrying out our own investigation. I don’t know what they are afraid of that they have gone to court. We wait and see”, he added.