Diezani’s N10bn jet charter: Court fines House of Reps N21,000

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Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja yesterday slammed a N21, 000 fine on the House of Representatives in the suit filed against the lower chamber of the National Assembly by Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Deziani Alison Madueke and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The court axed the House of Representatives for what it called “want of diligent prosecution.”
The House of Representative said that their hands are tight following the court injunction stopping them from probing Alison-Madueke.

Chairman House Committee on Information, Zakari Mohammed, briefing House press corps, said the House will keep on hold its investigation on the alleged N10bn government funds squandered on the charter and maintenance of a Challenger 850 aircraft for unofficial use by the minister.

Justice Mohammed ordered the House to pay the fine following the failure of A.B Mahmud (SAN) lawyer to House of Representatives, to respond to Alison Madueke’s application to amend the Originating Summons in the suit.

Though Justice Mohammed noted that the legislative House breached the rules of the court by filing the said process seven days outside the stipulated time, he, however, admitted the counter-affidavit after the House yesterday agreed to pay the necessary penalty as provided in the Federal High Court Civil Procedure rules.

He held that his decision not to discard the late process that was filed by the House was anchored on his resolve to serve the interest of justice on the matter.

Etigwe Uwah (SAN), representing Alison Madueke and the NNPC had filed an amendment to the court processes on June 9, 2014, seeking to “perpetually restrain the House of Representatives and the Senate from investigating the plaintiffs.”

The court held that as required by the Federal High Court’s Civil Procedure Act, the defendant’s counsel filed their response out of time which necessitated the fine.

At the last hearing, the court had temporarily restrained the House from probing Diezani and the NNPC pending the hearing of the substantive.
It would be recalled that Justice Mohammed had ruled that the House should halt its proposed probe by its Public Accounts Committee scheduled to commence on June 25, pending the determi­nation of the substantive suit.

The court, however, said the interim order would subsist till July 3 when the substantive matter would be heard.

Ruling on an application filed by Alison-Madueke’s lawyer, EtigweUwa (SAN) seeking a preservative order restraining the House from going ahead with its planned probe, pending the hearing of the suit, Justice Mohammed said the Committee on Public Accounts had no cogent rea­son to continue the probe on June 25, 26 and 27, 2014, hav­ing been aware of the pend­ing suit seeking an order to restrain them from carrying out the investigation.

The court posited that the filing of the suit by Dezi­ani and the NNPC did not amount to usurping the leg­islative power of the National Assembly as the House Com­mittee on Public Accounts had submitted in its letter.

“The court has inherent power and the duty to inter­vene to protect its integrity in determining its processes; and the second defendant is bent on interrupting the pro­cesses filed in this suit. I here­by direct parties to maintain status quo in the matter from today till the next adjourned date when the matter will be heard,” Justice Mohammed stated.

The trial judge said the court was created by Section 6(1) of the Constitution and given the judicial powers in Section 6(6) (b) of the same Constitution to determine “disputes between persons or between governments and between governments and persons”.

Earlier, Deziani through her counsel had urged the court to make the order claiming that the said letter dated May 23, 2014, by the House Com­mittee on Public Accounts inviting her for probe, consti­tuted disrespect to the court.

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