by Segun Odeleye
Worried by a petition before it alleging that Petroleum minister Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke has spent a cumulative sum of N10 billion in two years to maintain a private aircraft, the House of Representatives has initiated a probe against her.
A group called the Concerned Aviation Professionals (CAP) raised the alarm last week that the minister spent the N10b through a wet lease agreement.
Before the House decided to embark on the probe, the usual politicking ensued where a PDP House of Reps member from Edo state, Friday Itulah, attempted to counter it. House speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, however stopped him by relying on the relevant orders of the House to put the motion to voice vote to determine whether an investigation into the matter should be allowed or not.
The private jet which is raising all the issues, is reportedly being used exclusively by the minister’s immediate family. Nigerians still do not know the whereabouts of the alleged $20b unaccounted for in the NNPC’s books, but the NNPC is said to be the agency bankrolling the maintenance of Allison-Madueke’s jet.
The minister however appears unmoved by all the allegations against her. She has not responded to the allegations.
The House of Representatives, acting on a motion moved by Hon. Babatunde Adejare (APC, Lagos), mandated its committee on Public Accounts to commence a probe into the matter and report back in three weeks.
Leading a debate on the motion, Adejare said he had reliable information that the minister allegedly sank the sum of N3.120 billion into the maintenance of a private jet that is reserved for the use of her “personal needs and that of her immediate family” and not for official functions.
He explained that the sum of 500,000 Euros (N130 million) is spent every month on the maintenance, meaning that, over the last two years, a total of N10 billion has been expended on payments of allowances to the plane’s crew, hangar parking and rent based on a lease agreement.
Adejare was alarmed that an official of government could be “bankrolling this waste in the face of ever dwindling public resources which amounts to a misplacement of priority, impudence and breach of public trust”. He noted that her action contravenes the Fiscal Responsibility Act “and all other laws on fiscal discipline”.
Part of the petition against Allison-Madueke by the group led by Abdul Malik Masaya and John Obande Anihinru, chairman and secretary respectively, reads thus:
“We have details and impeccable records which confirm that the ‘Super Minister’ has been frittering away scarce Nigerian resources in maintaining the Challenger 850 aircraft at one of the private hangars in Nigerian airports in the last two years.
“The incontrovertible evidence we have is that the minister has been committing 500,000 euros (N130 million), monthly, to maintaining the aircraft in the last two years. Thus, in two years, the minister has committed the sum of N3.120 billion to keeping the jet, which is for personal and family use alone.”