Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Alleged N10 Billion Chartered Jets Scandal - Our Mandate Was Misread - - Reps

Abuja — THE House of Representatives, weekend, said the mandate given to its Committee on Public Accounts, PAC, to investigate the alleged expenditure of N10 billion on chattered jets by Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, was misread.

Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Victor Ogene, APGA, Anambra, disclosed this at a media briefing in Abuja.

He said: "We are sorry for that slip, wherever it came from."

He said the House was thankful to Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the High Court sitting in Abuja "for standing on the side of justice" by clearing the air on an injunction purportedly issued by him.

Ogene, however, blamed those opposing the proposed probe of reading some sections of the 1999 Constitution in isolation of section 88 and 89.

He explained: "The House will not at any time shirk its responsibilities. Acting in personal capacity is different from acting as an agent of government, so it is baffling to attempt to prevent agents of government from being answerable to Nigerians.

"Any life not worthy of examination is not worth living, because the essence of democracy is to ensure that we examine ourselves. The position of the law is unchanged, and no man or woman is above the law of our land."

On the Minister's alleged resistance to the effect that only the President could endorse her appearance before the probe panel, Ogene said the House would not go into issues which the Minister was in court for, dismissing the perceived witch-hunt suggestions in the public domain.

"When the current National Assembly was inaugurated in 2011, I don't think any member had any particular Minister in mind. The House does not prosecute anybody because reports of our investigations are still passed on to the executive arm to implement.

"The tendency in Nigeria is that when people are summoned, they are seen to be guilty abinitio, which is not correct," he noted

According to Ogene, the mandate of the House to the Public Accounts Committee over the alleged expenditure had never at any time been withdrawn.

He added that investigations of this nature should not start and end with the physical appearance of the persons concerned, as Constitution permitted either written or oral submissions and both, as might be required to obtain the needed information.

He said the House commended Nigerians for their steadfastness and as important stakeholders.

"Yes, we sometimes have our differences but at any time, we must realise that we are one government. So we expect the smooth administration of the nation," he said.

Vanguard recalls that the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, had, on April 29, directed the House to appear before him to explain the origin of the restraining order it said stopped its Public Accounts Committee, PAC, from investigating allegation that the Minister spent N10 billion on chartered private jets.

Members of the committee, led by its Chairman, Solomon Olamilekan, had at a press briefing on April 28, said they were served with a restraining order from the court, stopping further investigation into the allegation against the Minister.

They had accused the judiciary of attempting to usurp their oversight function, saying they would suspend the investigation to study the said restraining order, with a view to responding accordingly.

Consequently, Justice Mohammed, on the last adjourned date, summoned the House to "come and clear the air" on whether it was actually restrained from going ahead with the probe.

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