By Ameh Ejekwonyilo, Kawu Yaqoob Mahmoud and Hannah Adiya Egbodo, Abuja
Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of an Abuja Federal High Court yesterday set aside the letter of invitation sent by the House of Representatives to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to appear before its investigative panel over alleged spending of N10 billion on private jet for unofficial purposes.
The minister and the NNPC had approached the court seeking to stop the House from probing allegations that they blew over N10 billion on a chartered aircraft.
Delivering judgement in the suit, the trial judge, Justice A.R. Mohammed, held that the House of Representatives has the power to summon anybody irrespective of his or her position to appear before it to give explanation on how a public property entrusted to him is being managed.
The court, however, noted that this was contrary to the submission of the plaintiffs that the House of Representatives lacks power to summon them without the consent of the of the President.
The court consequently held that the House of Representatives did not follow due process in inviting the plaintiffs.
The court further held that the House of Representatives ought to have presented before the court the resolution of the meeting where it agreed to invite Deziani and NNPC published in a gazette or house journal.
It said: “The National Assembly in the discharge of its duty does not need any
consent to invite a public officer to come and defend how he managed a public property such the aircraft in his care.
“What the House is asking for is not a confidential document that needed the consent of the President before it would be released rather it a public property placed in care of a public servant.”
On the invitation of the plaintiffs, the court held that the National Assembly was given power to direct investigation, but the burden of proof was on the House of Representatives to show that there was resolution that directed the invitation.