Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Posted in: Man in the News
By Chukwudi Nweje
Assistant Features Editor
Allegations had been rife that the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke had never travelled on a commercial aircraft since she was appointed to that office in April 2010. Rather, it is said that she has reportedly been going on chartered private jets at the expenses of tax payers. In fact, they say she has about two or three of them and the average cost per trip of the chartered private jets is put at about $300,000. Recently, a motion endorsed by the House indicated that Alison-Madueke allegedly spent N10b to run the jet for her personal trips within the country and abroad. It had also been said that it costs about $500,000 per month to maintain the jets. Some pertinent questions analysts have been asking since these information started trickling out many months ago included how does she pay for the services of these jets? Is there a budgetary provision? Who approved it? As a minister of the Federal Republic, is she entitled to a private jet funded by public resources?
It is in the light of this that the decision of the House of Representatives to probe the estimated N3.120b the Minister allegedly spent on the maintenance of these private jets is a welcome development. The decision followed a motion by Babatunde Adejare, (APC) Lagos State, who informed the House that maintaining the jet alone, gulped N3.120b in the last two years and that the minister reportedly spent N130m monthly to keep the jets.
Apart from the fact that the legislators would be exercising their oversight functions, especially their power and control over public funds as enshrined in Chapter 5 Part 1E of the 1999 Constitution, the probe would also throw more light on some of the alleged misconducts of the minister.
The Ministry of Petroleum Resources is arguably the pillar of the country’s economy. Parastatals like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and all other agencies operating in the oil sector of the country’s economy fall under the purview of the Ministry. Incidentally, the ministry is also one of the government departments where analysts allege the most irregularities go on.
The decision to probe the minister has attracted public interest. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) backed the proposed probe even as it also expressed outrage over the reckless spending by some public officers. A statement signed by its president, Mr. Abudulwaheed Omar, described the probe as a welcome idea.
“We support the move by the National Assembly to probe Mrs. Allison-Madueke and the probe should equally be extended to the Governors and other public office holders involved in this national shame. Indeed, what is further required is a holistic, transparent and result-driven probe of the entire financial recklessness of public resources on adventures that contribute nothing to the development of our country… the lifestyles and greedy thirsts of our public officers are completely deceptive and inconsistent with our collective reality as a country with a non-performing economy, high unemployment rate, mass poverty and near total infrastructural collapse,” the statement said.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) also condemned the actions of the Minister and called for her suspension and prosecution. In a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Independent, Debo Adeniran, the group’s executive chairman argued that allegations of financial recklessness have been rife against the minister long before the current saga. He demanded that the minister be investigated and prosecuted for spending N10b to charter and maintain a jet for her personal use within two years and her involvement in the N58.9tr illicit oil deal that allegedly short-changed the oil-producing communities in Delta State.
Analysts argued that the use of the private jets by the Minster violated the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. The Fifth Schedule Part I of the Constitution listed the Code of Conduct for Public Officers to include that “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.” According to the analysts, the minister spending such huge amounts of money on a private jet at a time the country suffers from serious infrastructure challenge was unacceptable.
In fact, the NLC said this much that: “In a country in urgent need of development infrastructure that are capable of lifting up our local industries, create real employment, deliver quality social services; it is not only sad that our public officers are shamelessly enmeshed in financial recklessness, it is equally condemnable that so much public funds are being expended on acquisition and hiring of private jets even to destinations conveniently plied by commercial airlines.”