The House of Representatives has accused the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the NIgerian National Petroleum Corporation, of deliberately shielding their activities from public scrutiny.
It said Alison-Madueke and the NNPC were frustrating its planned probe of the N10billion chartered jet scandal involving the minister and NNPC’s proposed $1.5bn loan because they “don’t want to be accountable to the people.”
This allegation is contained in a notice of preliminary objection dated October 31, 2014 and filed by the House of Representatives in opposition to the suit instituted by Alison-Madueke and the NNPC seeking an order stopping the House from probing them.
The House of Representatives which is along with the Senate, a defendant in the suit, said the two plaintiffs had refused to honour invitations by its various committees set up to probe the allegations against them.
The lawyer who filed the notice of preliminary objection on behalf of the House, Aminu Sadauki, explained in his written address, “The minor material leading to the suit is to prevent the investigation by the committee of the 2nd defendant (House of Representatives) into the alleged $1.5bn loan.
“It was also filed to stop the 2nd defendant from investigating the charter of private aircraft for alleged non-official use by the plaintiffs. The major fact leading to the suit is that the plaintiff, who are in the executive branch do not want to be accountable to the people through their representatives in the National Assembly. The plaintiffs are seeking to cut off the investigatory powers of the National Assembly.”
An affidavit in support of the House of Representatives’ notice of preliminary objection reads in part, “I know as a fact that the main reasons giving rise to the suit are that:
“The 2nd defendant’s House Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) invited the Group Managing Director of the 2nd plaintiff (NNPC) to appear before it on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 over proposed $1.5bn NNPC loan. Letters written by the 2nd defendant to the plaintiffs dated March 26, 2014, inviting the plaintiffs to testify and tender evidence at the investigative public hearing of the 2nd defendant’s Public Accounts Committee which they proposed to hold into the charter of private aircraft for alleged non-official use by the plaintiffs.”
One of the counsel for the House of Representatives, Anulika Osuigwe, who deposed to the supporting affidavit, added that “the plaintiffs are yet to comply with the invitations.”
The House of Representatives, through the notice of preliminary objection, asked the court to dismiss the suit by the two plaintiffs, on the grounds that it, among others, amounted to an abuse of court process.
It also argued that the suit was premature and non-justifiable, adding that the plaintiffs had similar suit “between the same parties and on substantially the same ground”, pending before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The Senate which is the 2nd defendant in the suit, was represented in court by O. K Akpokona on Tuesday, but had yet to file such notice of preliminary objection.
Alison-Madueke and the NNPC had through their counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed their suit, tagged, FHC/ABJ/CS/346/2014.
They want the court to among others declare that by law, both the Senate and the House of Representatives lacked the power to invite them without first obtaining the consent of the President.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole on Tuesday directed the plaintiffs to respond to the House of Representatives’ notice of preliminary objection within the period stipulated by the court rules.
He also directed the House of Representatives to file any process it might intend to file in reply within the period as described in the court rules.
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