By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, aborted moves by the House of Representatives to investigate the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, over the allegation that she spent N10 billion on chartered jet.
Delivering judgment on a joint suit filed before the court by the Petroleum Minister and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Justice Ahmed Mohammed voided two separate summons issued to the plaintiffs by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Reps, which requested them to appear to offer explanations regarding allegations of financial recklessness against them.
Justice Mohammed nullified the summons on the premise that no evidence was adduced before the court to show that the proposed investigation was contained in a resolution of the House, which he said ought to have been published in the journal of the National Assembly or the official gazette of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He noted that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, had confirmed that no such resolution was published in the official gazette, “implication of failure to provide the published resolution is that there is no evidence before the court to show that the investigation followed the provisions of the constitution”.
He held that the House of Reps failed to fulfil the condition precedents for the commencement of such probe as stipulated in sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution, as amended.
“I am, therefore, bound to set aside the letters of invitation issued to the plaintiffs, which were marked as exhibits KA-1 and KA-2”, the Judge added.
The judge, however, stressed that had the House produced or annexed a copy of its journal containing its resolution to probe the plaintiffs, “I would not have hesitated to dismiss this suit and order them to submit themselves to the investigative panel.”
Besides, Justice Mohammed maintained that the House of Reps has the constitutional powers to summon any person in Nigeria, regardless of position or status, to appear before it, saying the House equally has the powers to compel the attendance of such person so far as it exercises such powers with due deterrence to the due process of the law.
“This should not send a wrong signal to the public that the House of Reps does not have powers to summon any public officer for the sake of accountability and transparency in the process of governance.”