22 May 2014

Nigeria: N10 Billion Jet - Begin Diezani's Probe Now, Tambuwal Tells Reps

Photo: This Day
Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigerian Petroleum Minister

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, yesterday directed the House Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to go ahead with the investigation of petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke over allegations of spending N10 billion on charter jets. The matter had earlier been put on hold because of court processes served on the House.

This directive by the speaker has put to rest insinuations by a section of the media that he had ordered a stop to the probe.

Speaking during yesterday's plenary, Tambuwal explained that an earlier directive he gave suspending the probe was not based on a "court injunction" stopping the probe as widely reported but a bid to study the "court process" served on the House by the petroleum minister before further legislative action.

"I direct that you (PAC) should as quickly as possible go into it (probe) and turn in your report," he said.

Alison-Madueke had refused to appear before the committee detailed to carry out the investigation, launching a legal suit instead to stop the probe.

The minister allegedly not only used N10 billion to charter and maintain private jets, the said chartered aircraft which was supposedly for official use was also used for private trips. The NNPC has since stated that the practice (chartering aircraft) is common and acceptable in the local and international business environment in which it operates.

It was gathered that government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have been reportedly ordered to receive an express "presidential clearance" before honouring legislative summons.

The House had lambasted President Goodluck Jonathan over his allegation that the lower chamber had increasingly become dictatorial and politically driven in its activities.

Jonathan, during his periodic media chat held recently, remarked: "There is more of politics than work in the House of Representatives." He also warned that the country risks "parliamentary dictatorship".

In apparent response to Jonathan, Tambuwal told members of the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria who paid him a courtesy call yesterday that democracy must be practised the same way it is practised by the people Nigeria copied it from, by being accountable to the citizens who voted leaders into power.

"You can't say public officers should not stand investigation or be summoned by lawmakers who are carrying out their oversight functions," he said, adding that this was part of the problem the nation was facing that's hindering the fight against insurgency. He was referring to appropriating money for the fight against terrorism and not being able to oversight how it is spent.

"We meet a lot of resistance from these agencies of government. Unfortunately, the campaign in the media against the parliament, especially on the issue of oversight and invitations being extended to certain public officers, has not been very encouraging.

"We seek your understanding to the extent that we have constraints. We are often misunderstood. And we're ready to continue to work best in that regard."

While appealing to the women to teach their children the true teachings of Islam, which he said encourages the pursuit of wisdom, he stressed: "Who are saying that boko is haram? They're using machine guns and IEDs; are they products of boko halal or boko haram? So, I don't know where they got and how they arrived at this position. But definitely what they're doing is not the position of Islam.

"If what they're saying and talking about is Islam, I am a student of law; I read shariah. I know the position of Islam on this. You cannot harm a child in times of war. It's forbidden in Islam. It's forbidden in Islam for you to attack women and vulnerable people, not to talk of kidnapping them.

"You are expected to go out of your bounds to search for knowledge that will improve on your lives. Here, we are speaking with microphones, sitting in this hall that is illuminated and all of them came out of knowledge, not necessarily knowledge of religion but knowledge of how we can improve our well-being.

"Continue to pray for us. As mothers, continue to encourage your husbands who are in the services of the government and those who are at the battle front. Continue to educate our younger ones that Islam doesn't prohibit search for knowledge; rather, what Islam encourages -- and we know that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said that we must go out in search of knowledge even if it means going to China. "

The Muslim Women Association had led an appeal to the speaker to step up efforts to stop the killing of women and children by terrorists by allocating funds to the military, tackling the problem holistically through empowerment of the youths, tracing the whereabouts and sustainers of Boko Haram, imploring the executive to release the reports and white papers on investigation of Boko Haram activities and providing security for schools and children.

They also requested that the parliament should implore the executive to send relief materials to victims of Boko Haram attacks and ask members of the House from the north-east to identify with and support the people who are affected by these attacks.

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