28 March 2014, Abuja – The House of Representatives on Thursday gave reasons why the investigation into the alleged N10bn spent on chartering private jets by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, had not started one week after it ordered the probe.
The House Committee on Public Accounts was given three weeks to conduct the investigation and produce a report.
However, one week out of the three weeks, the committee has yet to open the probe formally.
As of Thursday, there was still no programme on the investigation and no invitations had been sent out to any government officials to appear before the committee.
The PUNCH had reported exclusively on Thursday that the committee, chaired by Mr. Solomon Olamilekan, had only held preliminary meetings on the probe, but had yet to swing into full action.
Indications also emerged on Wednesday that members of the committee had come under pressure from certain “forces” to soft pedal on the matter.
However, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Victor Ogene, explained that the delay was caused by the fact that the committee had not received “official notification” from the House to proceed.
According to him, the normal procedure is for the committee to get the gazetted copy of the resolution and wait to be notified officially by the Clerk of the House.
“The first thing is that the committee will get the official notification on the resolution from the Clerk to go ahead,” he said.
Ogene explained that the delay did not suggest that the House was not going ahead with the investigation.
He also clarified that nobody had been found guilty of any wrongdoing by the House.
“Nobody is guilty and we don’t have to be judgmental until the investigation is concluded,” Ogene added.
He also spoke on comments in certain quarters insinuating that the House was conducting “selective probes,” as there were other government officials who flew in chartered aircraft.
Ogene argued that the comparison was an attempt to create diversion and introduce sentiments into the matter so as to lose sight of the issues raised in the alleged N10bn expenditure by the minister.
He said those mentioning the Speaker of the House, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, as one of the public officials who charter aircraft, “should remember that there is no allegation of any money moving from the coffers of the National Assembly.”
Ogene added, “How does the Speaker come in here? There is nothing like selective probe.”
Ogene also disclosed that the House would pass the 2014 budget in the first week of April.
He told journalists that the committees working on the budget had almost rounded off and would make their reports available for consideration in the first week of April.
– The Punch