14 April 2014, News Wires – The Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, has said that the House will not be distracted in its resolve to probe the alleged N10bn chartered jets scandal levelled against the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
It also noted that the investigation into the chartered jets was not a “personal quarrel” between Diezani and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Group Managing Director, Mr. Andew Yakubu, as the alleged reaction of the corporation portrayed.
This came as The PUNCH’s investigations on Friday showed that the minister and the NNPC had moved against the Speaker and the House Committee on Public Accounts as part of the move to thwart the probe.
But commenting on the move, Tambuwal’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Imam Imam, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday in Abuja, said the Speaker would not take issues with the minister on a matter that was under investigation by the parliament as empowered by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Imam added, “This is not a personal issue between the Speaker and the minister.
“Does the Speaker run or operate any private jet? Or is the Speaker under any investigation over jets?
“A committee of the House is conducting an investigation and a minister is asked questions? Instead of the minister to answer the questions, she is talking about the Speaker.
“Is the Speaker the one under investigations or the minister?
“Let her go and answer her questions and leave the Speaker out it because there is nothing personal in this matter.”
On the allegations against committees, the spokesman of the House, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said the NNPC always conducted itself as a government agency that did not want any other institution of government to look into its affairs.
He explained that the corporation often conducted its activities in secrecy; hence it felt offended each time the House dared to probe its operations.
Mohammed accused the NNPC of “doing all within its capacity to frustrate investigations, including sponsoring protests and hiring consultants to organise all sorts of campaigns for the NNPC.”
He also stated that previous probes of the NNPC did not end at the House but were referred to the Executive for implementation.
“The concern really is, why is the Executive lacking the political will to implement the results of these probes?
“Does the National Assembly prosecute offenders? That is the job of the executive,” Mohammed added.
The PUNCH’s investigations on Friday revealed that a team of NNPC officials and some security agents were compiling all the flight logs of the Speaker.
A source at the NNPC, who spoke to one of correspondents in confidence, said, “One interesting aspect of the ongoing probe is that the NNPC is in possession of all the flight logs of the Speaker.
“You know for the past two years, the Speaker has not been flying Presidential jets because of fear. Since he started having problem with the Villa, the man has been flying private jets being funded by the National Assembly. Apart from the Speaker, some of the lawmakers have also flown private jets,” the source said.
A source said the department, known as National Assembly Liaison, was headed by Alhaji Bala Bamanga, a General Manager.
Bamanga is said to be supported by other senior officers of the NNPC, a deputy manager and other well-trained personnel just below the managerial level.
It was also gathered that it was the responsibility of Bamanga to sign all letters from the National Assembly and to ensure effective liaison with the House.
The source said, “I can tell you that not less than N10bn is spent annually by the National Assembly Liaison in the NNPC.
“The GM in charge of the department is Alhaji Bala Bamanga, and he has a manager, a deputy manager and other officers with him. He signs all the letters,” the source said.
The source said that there were four committees each in the House of Representatives and the Senate which had oversight responsibilities over the NNPC.
The committees are the House Committee on Petroleum Upstream, the House Committee on the Petroleum Downstream, the Committee on Gas and the Committee Environment.
When contacted, the different spokespersons for the NNPC and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Omar Ibrahim and Mr. Kingsley Agha, respectively, did not answer calls to their mobile phones. Text messages sent to them were also not replied.