Abuja - An Abuja Federal High Court on Wednesday set aside House of Representatives’ invitation to Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke to appear before it for allegedly hiring jet for N10 billion.
The minister and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, had approached the court to stop the lawmakers from probing the allegation.
Delivering judgment, Justice Ahmed Mohammed held that although the lawmakers had the power to summon the minister, they did not follow due process in doing so.
Mohammed also held that the House of Representatives ought to have presented before the court a journal or gazette of the resolution of the meeting where it agreed to invite Madueke.
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"None of the defendants produced the published resolution where it was said that the plaintiffs should be invited.
"The defendants ought to have brought before the court the resolution of its meeting wherein the plaintiffs were invited to appear before it.
"There is no evidence before the court that there was a resolution to invite the plaintiffs and 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 journal,’’ he said.
The court, however, faulted the submission of the plaintiffs’ counsel that the lawmakers lacked the power to summon them without the President’s consent and refused to grant the prayer.
"The National Assembly in the discharge of its duty does not need any presidential consent to invite a public officer to come and defend how he managed a public property such the aircraft in his/her care.
"What the House is asking for is not a confidential document that needed the consent of the President before it would be released, but rather a public property placed in care of a public servant", the court held.
Etigwe Uwa (SAN), the plaintiff’s counsel, had in the originating summons, argued that the lawmakers lacked constitutional power to carry out an oversight function on Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Uwa contended that the consent of the president must be sought first before any summons could be issued out by the House or request for any documents or papers.
The counsel argued that such summon must first be published in the gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and must also be published first in the journal of the National Assembly in line with sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution.
He had urged the court to set aside the summons because the defendants did not comply with sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution and so did not follow due process.
Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), and Abubakar Mahmud (SAN), counsel to the Senate and House of Reps respectively, prayed the court to dismiss the argument of the plaintiff.
They argued that the plaintiff had approached the court because she was panicky about the outcome of the probe.
They also submitted that the vote of proceedings for that day could be used as a journal and, therefore, prayed the court to allow the probe.