Controversies have continued to trail the invitation issued to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke by the House of Represenstatives. Diezani Maduake has given various reasons why she would not honour the invitation by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, stating that the committee is yet to fulfill the conditions precedent for inviting public officers.
One of such conditions Alison-Madueke is insisting is that both chambers of the National Assembly are constitutionally required to show that they have passed a resolution duly published in their journal (Hansard) or in the official gazette of the Government of the Federation.
This and more conditions were contained in the new suit filed on behalf of the minister and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) seeking to stop the House from probing the allegation that the corporation expended N10 billion leasing a private aircraft for the personal use of the minister and her family.
In an accompanying affidavit, the applicants (the minister and NNPC) stated: “The respondents have not in any, or all their invitations to the applicants, shown or displayed any such evidence of prior publication of any such resolution, if there was any.”
The minister and the NNPC stated further that they would not honour the invitation sent to them and other officials of agencies under them by the National Assembly because the legislature was yet to meet the conditions precedent to their honouring the invitation and producing the materials the lawmakers had requested.
They also asked the National Assembly to first seek and obtain the permission of President Goodluck Jonathan before proceeding with its planned investigation of the allegation that NNPC expended about N10 billion on hiring aircraft for Alison-Madueke’s use.
She argued that neither the National Assembly nor the various committees of the two chambers of the legislature could invite her and agencies under her ministry to produce unpublished documents and records without the prior consent of the president.
The minister also argued that it was not within the powers of the National Assembly to personally conduct investigations into criminal allegations relating to corruption or fraud in public offices, and that the lawmakers’ frequent invitation to public officers on spurious grounds was a distraction.
She contended that the lawmakers are only empowered under the constitution to exercise oversight functions over her ministry and agencies under its supervision “with respect to public funds, through their various committees so set up, which oversight is only for the purpose of enabling them to make laws and correct defects in existing laws.”
The minister added that where, in the course of performing their oversight functions, the lawmakers stumble on suspicious dealings by public officers, “they are constitutionally permitted to ‘direct or cause to be directed’, the appropriate authority or government agency to carry out the said investigation, and not to personally or physically carry same out as lawmakers.”