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Published On: Mon, Jun 2nd, 2014

Diezani factor in reform of oversight powers (I)

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By Saratu Tobi

The on-going spat between the House of Representatives and the Petroleum Minister Diezani Allison Madueke has now moved away from the arena of head-hunting legislative harassment to the realm of judicial adjudication on the constitutionality of arbitrary blanket subordination of a minister’s status under the Executive arm to oversight functions of the Legislature. This is a welcome option for a mature and independent overview of the peculiar targeting of Minister Diezani by the Tambuwal-led House of Representatives, in a manner indicative of political malice against the Minister by an unapologetic opposition serving lower chamber. Not even the Speaker of the House can convincingly project the serial-summoning and persistent persecution of one particular minister in the federal cabinet as being solely motivated by legislative interest. So it is not only in the interest of the victimized minister but also to preserve the credibility of the constitutional provisions for separation of powers, that such lacuna for unleashing legislative powers against perceived political soft targets by partisan legislators be excised.

This much-needed sanitization of the oversight functions of the legislature by definitive judicial determination of their necessary scope and limits is the main objective of the latest suit against the legislature’s stalking of Minister Diezani under the guise of exercising oversight functions to fight corruption. It is yet another evidence of the minister’s unfazed squaring-up to the bullish obsession of the APC legislators in the House with smearing the persons, institutions and processes involved in management of the nation’s petroleum sector and discrediting the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency in the process.

The Lamido Sanusi saga provided a high-definition insight into the conspiratorial strategy behind the APC campaign of calumny from the roles of the figure-flunking ex-CBN governor and the permissive latitude extended to him by the colluding committee of the House in staging propaganda stunt over the bogus 49/20/12 billion dollar missing from Nigeria’s oil sales proceeds. Despite the monumental failure of that sleaze which back-fired badly on Sanusi’s chequered career and spotlighted the fictitious foundations of the opposition’s “crusade” against corruption, the Tambuwal-led House has persisted with its perfidy by opening yet another front in its anti-Diezani agenda. Its latest House resolution to investigate Shell and the minister over yet another “alleged illegal” sale of Oil Mining License 29, proves beyond any doubt the malicious motivations of the House.

Since the House of Representatives has given cause for the public to doubt the genuineness of its avowed “honourable” mission to fight corruption in this glaring manner, the clear and present danger of brazen abuse of legislative oversight functions which their misconduct highlights should not be glossed over for malicious political convenience. Apart from the proven fallibility of several honourable members to the virus of dishonourable conduct and corrupt tendencies – even Speaker Tambuwal uses chartered jets paid for by the House without appropriation- , the integrity of the constitutional provision for separation of powers must not be at the mercy of the malicious recourse to legislative oversight against a legitimately elected government, its President and his ministers and agencies.

Today it is about Diezani and the NNPC, but the disruptive and distractive impact on governance within the Petroleum Ministry and the NNPC, regardless of their strategic economic importance, cannot be underplayed if the timeless national interest is uppermost of considerations. There must be a bold resolve to protect issues of national interest and good governance from vicissitudes of petty partisan political rivalry playing out in the legislative chambers through abuse of legislative functions such as oversight of the Executive. This is where Minister Diezani’s mature recourse to the judiciary can be better appreciated in addition to her bold and courageous response of getting on with her job unperturbed by the irritating interest of the House in literally hounding her out of office.

Saratu Tobi wrote in from Kaduna

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