Some opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives have reacted to the plans by an ad-hoc committee investigating the $1.3 billion Malabu deal to summon former President Goodluck Jonathan over his role in the controversial award of OPL 245 licence.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Justice who also chairs the ad-hoc panel investigating the scandal, Razak Atunwa, had told PREMIUMTIMES that his committee would invite the former president for questioning.
Mr. Atunwa later released a statement to the media restating his position, with sources telling PREMIUM TIMES the committee has the approval of the Speaker to summon the former president.
Although Mr. Jonathan has denied receiving from the over $800 million transferred into the private account of ex-petroleum minister, Dan Etete, by his administration, from the money paid by oil giants Shell and ENI; investigations in Nigeria, U.S. and Italy indicate the former president may have benefitted from the scandal.
Apart from Mr. Jonathan, other officials believed to have benefitted from the Malabu funds include his justice minister, Mohammed Adoke, and then petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
It is based on recent revelations suggesting Mr. Jonathans involvement, that the House committee decided to invite the former president.
Some lawmakers from Mr. Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have, however, expressed reservations with the decision.
Mr. Atunwa, like House Speaker Yakubu Dogara, is of the ruling All Progressives Congress, but his committee like the House of Reps, also has PDP members.
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, said there are modalities in summoning an ex-president.
“If it is the resolution of the house, we’ll follow it logically,” he said. “This isn’t the first time a former president will be summoned by the house”
The PDP House leader said rather than summoning the former president, the two oil firms (Shell and ENI) who paid the money into the Nigerian government account should be investigated.
“The ex-president said he doesn’t have a foreign account,” he said. “I think the committee should rather investigate the oil firms, the Minister of petroleum and attorney general since they participated in signing the MoU.”
He however expressed optimism that Mr. Jonathan will be exonerated at the end of the investigation.
“I chaired that committee in the 7th assembly, we did our investigations and I’m sure Mr. Jonathan will exonerated”
Also commenting on the potential summon, Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma, a PDP lawmaker from Edo State said he is not aware of such plans but believes the ex-president will appear if summoned.
“I know Dr. Jonathan is a man who believes in the rule of law, he will definitely appear if he is invited”
“We shouldn’t be talking about that now since he has not been invited” Mr. Agbonayinma said.
He said the allegations against the former president, who is spearheading moves to unite a factionalised PDP, had not been proven in court.
Also speaking on the matter, Nicholas Ossai from Delta State said any plan to invite the former president must be discussed at plenary.
“Former presidents, irrespective of their political parties are senior citizens, and there are certain levels of respect accorded to them”
“If there is any plan to summon him, it has to be deliberated on the floor of the house”
“The principal officers have to be consulted,” Mr. Ossai said.
In his reaction, Solomon Maren, a lawmaker from Plateau State, said there is no need to invite the ex-president since he didn’t partake in the signing of the agreement.
“There were people in charge of the justice and petroleum ministries, they are the people who are to explain to us the terms of agreement,” Mr. Maren said, referring to the 2011 agreements that saw the oil block given to Shell and ENI while they paid the $1.3 billion to the Nigerian government. It is from the money the oil firms paid that the Jonathan administration transferred $801 million to Malabu company accounts controlled by Mr. Etete.
“Mr. Jonathan certainly did not draft the (2011) agreement and he can’t peruse the entire agreement”
“It is expected that the ministers will do the entire agreement on his behalf and give him an executive summary,” he said.
Another PDP lawmaker from Gombe State, Ali Isa, drew parallels between Mr. Jonathan’s planned invitation and that of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
“I remember in the past when the House was investigating power; a similar attempt was made to invite former president Olusegun Obasanjo. But because of the respect the House has for him, the committee didn’t do that.”
Mr. Isa suggested an alternative way the lawmakers could question the former president.
“I know if the committee wants any information, they will pay a courtesy visit to the former president who is still respected within and outside the country”
“They won’t summon him,” he said.