22 December 2014, Abuja – The House of Representatives said on Sunday that it would appeal the judgment of an Abuja Federal High Court, which forbade it from summoning the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
In a judgement given on Wednesday last week, the presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, also halted the House’s probe of the N10bn the minister reportedly spent on maintaining a private jet, Challenger 850, for her trips.
The judge held that the House summons to the minister to answer questions on the jet was “invalid” on the grounds that the lawmakers’ resolution was neither published in the journal of the National Assembly nor in the official Gazette of the Federal Government.
But, House spokesman, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said in Abuja that the last had not been heard of the face -off between the House and the oil minister.
Mohammed said that lawyers to the House were reviewing the decision of the court and would enter the appropriate appeal against the judgment.
He said he would not speak further so that his comments would not jeopardise the appeal being prepared by the lawmakers.
“There is a possibility that our lawyers will appeal the judgment and whatever I say could be considered as prejudice,” he added.
However, Mohammed recalled that the Supreme Court had decided before now that none of the three arms of government could interfere with the functions of the other “or stop the other from performing its duties.”
But, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Mr. Solomon Olamilekan, said that the Alison-Madueke case had exemplified the lack of accountability by government and its officials.
It was Olamilekan’s committee that was mandated by the House to probe the N10bn expenditure before it was initially stalled by a restraining order and finally, Wednesday’s judgment.
Olamilekan cited the case of the yearly federal budget, where he said “slush funds like Service Wide Votes” were kept and spent in disregard to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
According to him, the details of the “omnibus” SWV are never made available to Nigerians, a situation that gives government and its officials the freedom to spend without being accountable to anybody.
He noted that the same reason explained the government’s “inconsistencies” in its three-year Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, as it kept modifying it every year instead of allowing the three-year proposals to run through.
Olamilekan added, “Whenever you ask as to who gave the approval for this extra-ordinary expenditure or not, nobody can say. And whenever you attempt to even bring the government of the day to appear for explanations, they continue to place one challenge or the other before you, using the Judiciary.
“I say it without fear or favour that what is currently happening in this country calls for sober reflections, where public office holders should take stock of their conducts and see if what they have made of the nation now is what they desire to bequeath to their children as a legacy.
“Every year-in year-out, we modify our MTEF. Why the modification? MTEF of the government should be at least within three years; whereby the government can know that as from this year, this is our target, and next year this our target.”
The PAC chairman named the “Minister of Finance” and the “Director-General, Budget Office” as the two officials who could explain how government spent the huge funds voted in the SWV.
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– The Punch