18 June 2014, Abuja – Uncertainty still surrounds the investigation of the House of Representatives into the N10bn the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, allegedly spent in two years to charter a private jet, Challenger 850.
Two other jets, including a Global Express XRS, are also under the searchlight of the House.
The public hearing on the controversial expenditure failed to start again on Tuesday (yesterday), the date announced by the House three weeks ago to resume the investigation.
Yesterday was June 17.
The PUNCH learnt that the Committee on Public Accounts abruptly shifted the hearing to June 26.
A source told our correspondent that the decision was taken because the House was still observing its end of session break.
“The House is on break and full activities will not resume till June 24.
“Most members are not available now and it is wise to give them at least two days after resumption to prepare fully for the proceedings.
“This explains the decision of the committee to consider June 26 as the ideal date to resume the investigation,” the source added.
But findings by The PUNCH showed that the alleged “tremendous pressure” being mounted on the committee to soft pedal on the investigation and lack of funding for the hearing remained the major setbacks.
It was learnt that as of Tuesday, no announcements or publications had been made on the probe, inviting organisations and members of the public to submit memoranda to the committee.
“I can see some foot-dragging here and there.
“It doesn’t appear the committee has even been funded to start the hearing.
“The key stakeholders too such as the minister, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company are also not helping matters.
“They do not want the hearing to take place and we can understand why they keep running from one court to another in their hope to frustrate the committee,” a National Assembly official, disclosed to The PUNCH.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Solomon Olamilekan, said he did not work with speculation when he was contacted by The PUNCH on Tuesday.
He stated that there was no going back on the investigation, as the committee was set to start proceedings on June 26.
“We are going ahead with our assignment; we don’t work on speculation.
“If people went to court, I don’t have any court order before me.
“I will go ahead with the hearing and the committee will submit its report to the House,” he added.
Investigations showed that Alison-Madueke might shun the committee again under the excuse that she had gone to court to stop the probe.
It was gathered that since April 28 when she served the House the notice of her court processes, the minister had restrained from making further contacts with members of the committee.
“She is not likely to come; the excuse is already on the ground.
“She will hide under the cases she filed in courts to refuse to appear.
“The minister has done everything possible to ensure that this hearing does not take place,” another source said.
As for the NNPC and the PPMC, findings showed that they had written the committee stating clearly that they would not appear for the hearing.
According to a House source, letters written by the two agencies to the committee carried the same message, “that it will be prejudice to appear and speak on a matter that is instituted before some competent courts of law.”
Sources observed that if the key stakeholders (Alison-Madueke, NNPC and PPMC) failed to appear, it meant that the investigation had failed.
“It will mean death on arrival; which is what the pressure being mounted on the committee is meant to achieve.
“What purpose will the probe serve if the minister, who is at the centre of the N10bn allegation, will simply stay away without making any submissions?,” one of the sources asked.
– The Punch