Mrs. Alison-Madueke sought “an order of interim injunction restraining the Respondents whether by themselves, their members, committee, or agents from summoning or directing.”
A judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has denied issuing any order barring the House of Representatives from probing the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the ministry over the controversial expenditure of about N10 billion on private jet for the minister.
The House had commenced the probe following a motion on March 20 presented by a lawmaker, Samuel Adejare, accusing the minister of committing about 500,000 Euros (N130 million) monthly to maintain an aircraft for her personal needs and those of her immediate family.
Not wanting to appear before the lawmakers to explain the controversial expenditure, Mrs. Alison-Madueke approached the court seeking for “an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents whether by themselves, their members, committee, or agents from summoning or directing” her appearance.
The judge was reported to have on April 14 granted an order, one that was made public on Monday.
An infuriated Justice Ahmed Mohammed, however, told journalists and all those present in court on Tuesday that he never granted the specific order sought by the minister.
“As far as I am concerned, and as the judge presiding over this case, no such order was made,” the Punch newspaper quoted the judge as saying.
A journalist present in court described Mr. Mohammed’s reaction as ‘very angry’.
The journalist told PREMIUM TIMES that the judge first called the court reporters and asked them why they misinterpreted the order.
The judge was then told by the journalists that it was the House of Representatives leadership that address journalists to say it was in possession of the order barring the probe.
While addressing journalists on Monday, the House spokesperson, Zakary Mohammed, had said the house had received the court order and would stay action on inviting the minister.
“As a law abiding arm of government, we will tarry a while and of course take a legal opinion as far as issues are concerned,” Mr. Mohammed said.
It is not clear if the House misinterpreted the order granted by the judge just like some major Nigerian newspapers, including PREMIUM TIMES.
The petroleum ministry, through the NNPC spokesperson, Ohi Alegbe, had also said it got such injunction barring the minister’s probe and served it on the House.
In the order, Justice Mohammed had said, “It is directed that the respondents shall be served with the motion exparte dated and filed on 11th April, 2014 for interim orders of injunction.”
PREMIUM TIMES had also interpreted the judge’s statement to mean that Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s request was granted; but the judge has now said that was not the case.
The judge, therefore ordered the House of Representatives to appear before it on May 5 to explain the order it said it got stopping the probe.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke is accused of spending billions of naira for the services of private jets she deployed for mostly personal trips. The state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, supervised by the minister, has absolved the minister of wrongdoing.
As petroleum minister, Mrs. Alison-Madueke has been repeatedly investigated by the National Assembly. Multiple reports have blamed the minister for either maladministration, corruption or violation of the law.
Amid the charges, Mrs. Alison-Madueke has also drawn praise for ensuring a year-round availability of petrol, a significant achievement in Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt oil sector. Yet, that achievement recently ebbed with fuel shortage across the country lasting months.
In his March 20 motion, Mr. Adejare said preliminary investigations showed government funds were used for financing the deal.
Preliminary investigation by the House public accounts committee showed more than one aircraft was involved.
Some lawmakers on the committee have spoken of pressure on them to suspend the investigation and a planned public hearing that has already been delayed by the minister’s refusal to attend.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke has also refused to submit required documents related to the spending, ahead of a public hearing.
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