Court voids House of Reps’ invitation to Alison-Madueke, NNPC


 • Says it did not follow due process

 • Affirms power of lawmakers to summon minister, others

FOR failing to comply with constitutionally defined procedure for issuing summons or invitation, the Federal High Court, Abuja Division yesterday set aside the letter of invitation sent by the House of Representatives to the Petroleum Minister, Dieziani Alison-Madueke and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to appear before its investigative panel over allegations that they spent N10 billion hiring a private jet.

Determined not to honour several invitations extended to them by the House, the minister and NNPC had besieged the court, praying it to restrain the legislature from probing allegations that they spent over N10bn on a chartered aircraft.

In his judgment, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed, held that the House of Representatives has the constitutional and statutory power to summon any public officer irrespective of his or her position to appear before it to render an account of how he or she has managed public property in his or her care.

The court said it was wrong to argue that the House could not summon the minister without the consent of the President on matter relating to a private jet, stating that the issue of private jet is not of such confidentiality and therefore not among issues that she needed to obtain permission from the President before responding to.

The judge, however, held that the legislature, in exercise of its power to summon, must comply with its own rules, else its summons becomes invalid and nugatory.

The judge held that the House did not follow due process in inviting the plaintiffs in this instant case

The court also held that the House of Representatives ought to have presented before the court the resolution of the meeting published in a gazette or a journal where it agreed to invite the minister and NNPC.

Justice Mohammed held: “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 as 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 is a public property placed in care of a public servant.”

On the invitation of the plaintiffs, the court held that the National Assembly is given power to direct investigation but the burden of proof is on the House of Representatives to show that there is a resolution that directed such invitation.

“None of the defendants has produced the published resolution where it was said that the plaintiffs should be invited.

“The defendants ought to have brought before the court, resolution of its meeting wherein the plaintiffs are invited to appear before it, published in a gazette or house journal.

“There is no evidence before the court that there was a resolution to invite the plaintiffs. By this act, it renders the summons invalid. Therefore, the letter of invitation served on the plaintiffs is hereby set aside because of the failure of the House of Representatives to produce the resolution as duly published in the gazette or its house journal.

“Had the House of Representatives published the resolution in a gazette or a house journal and presented it before this court, the plaintiffs would not have any business coming to this court. This decision does not imply that the House of Representatives does not have the power to summon anybody no matter how highly placed to investigate him.

“However in this instant case, the House of Representatives has not followed the due process of inviting the plaintiffs. It is on that note that I advise the plaintiffs to submit themselves to any invitation to show their respect to constituted authorities,” the judge held.

At the argument stage, the  plaintiffs, through their counsel, Etigwe Uwa (SAN) submitted that  the National Assembly had no constitutional power to carry out an oversight function on Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government and can not hold hearing to adjudicate on petitions against them.

Uwa contended that before any summons could be issued out by the House or request for any documents or papers made, the consent of the President must be first sought, adding that the defendants never followed such process.

He also submitted that before the summons could be issued on his client, such summons must first be published in the gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and must also be first published in the journal of the National Assembly in line with sections 88 and 89 of 1999 Constitution.

The plaintiffs added that the defendants, without complying with Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, could not summon them. The plaintiffs therefore prayed the court to set aside the invitation.

Opposing the argument, the defendants, through their counsel, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) and Abubakar Mahmud (SAN) for the  Senate and the House of Reps respectively prayed the court to dismiss the argument of the plaintiffs.

They submitted that the National Assembly had not issued any summon on the minister but rather an invitation. They further submitted that the plaintiff has approached the court because she was panic of what the outcome of the probe would be.

On publishing the summons in a gazette, the defendants submitted that the vote of proceedings for that day could be used as a journal. They therefore prayed the court to allow the probe.


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