Court Orders Reps to Pay Fine Over Alleged N10b Aircraft Charter Probe of Minister, NNPC

The Federal High Court, Abuja Division, Thursday ordered the House of Representatives to pay N21,000 as fine for want of diligent prosecution in the matter involving the alleged spending of N10 billion by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on chartered aircraft.

Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed ordered the House to pay the fine following the failure of its counsel, Mr. A.B. Mahmud (SAN), to respond to Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s application to amend the originating summons in the suit.

Counsel to the plaintiffs (Alison-Madueke and the NNPC), Mr. Etigwe Uwah (SAN), had filed an amendment to the court processes on June 9, 2014, seeking an order to “perpetually restrain the House of Representatives and the Senate who are second and third respondents respectively from investigating the plaintiffs.

But the defendant’s counsel, Mahmud (SAN), filed out of time, which necessitated the fine.

At the last hearing, the court had temporarily restrained the House from probing the minister and the NNPC pending the hearing of the substantive suit yesterday.

Mahmud had opposed the plaintiffs’ application to amend the originating summons.

He said: “It will set the process back and alter the course of proceedings.”
Subsequently, Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter to July 9 for hearing of the substance of the matter.

Meanwhile, the court had earlier issued a restraining order on the House Committee on Public Accounts ahead of its plan to carry out the probe on June 25, 26 and 27, 2014.

The order followed an application by the counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Etigwe Uwa (SAN), who asked the court for a preservative order pending the hearing of the suit.

He had urged the court to make the order, alleging that a letter dated May 23, 2014 by the House Committee on Public Accounts inviting his clients for the probe, constituted disrespect for the court.

The plaintiffs, through their substantive suit, are asking the court to declare that the Senate and the House of Representatives, which are the two defendants in the suit, lacked the power to summon them without the consent of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The judge in his ruling said the committee had no genuine 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.

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