Friday, June 20, 2014

A Case of Political Witch Hunt?: Diezani Alison Dares House Of Representatives

Diezani Alison Madueke
Petroleum Minister
Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, embattled Minister of Petroleum Resources, has yet again stated that she would not honor the invitation by the House of Representatives to probe her.
The House Committee on Public Accounts is probing the Minister’s alleged expenditure on chartered private jets which NNPC and its subsidiary, Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, PPMC estimated at N10 billion.
Among other allegations, Mrs. Allison-Madueke is also being accused of using the jets for personal trips, even though they were officially chartered and paid for with tax payers’ money.
This ongoing standoff between the Minister of Petroleum Resources intrigues all to say the list. We expect this kind of investigation to be non-partisan with equal representation from both political parties on this committee.  While we do not know the composition of this committee, news reaching us has confirmed that the Minister had appeared before the same committee severally in the past for one form of investigation or the other.
In a politically charged environment like in Nigeria and in a run up to 2015, the veracity of these charges is very much in question. It is highly suspicious that the notoriety of the investigation of the Minister and her ministry is gathering momentum and relentless. 
If the Federal Government has hired an outside Independent Investigators to review the accounts of NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, of what use is this investigation by the House of Representatives? 

The 5th. Amendment (United States)

The United States revision of the Bills of Rights to include the 5th Amendment. 
The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights relevant to both criminal and civil legal proceedings.  In criminal cases, the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to  a grand jury,  forbids 'double jeopardy," and protects against self-incrimination.  It also requires that "due process of law" be part of any proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property” and requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use.  The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from being forced to incriminate themselves. Incriminating oneself is defined as exposing oneself (or another person) to "an accusation or charge of crime," or as involving oneself (or another person) "in a criminal prosecution or the danger thereof."

At Center for Modern Nigeria, we wish the Minister could appear before this committee and plead the 5th. The 5th. Amendment allows the persons under investigation the rights to refuse to incriminate her/himself or answer any question posed by the investigating committee. We may not have the 5th amendment in the Nigerian Constitution at this time, but our forefathers in their wisdom already guaranteed the 5th amendment for generations. Out forefathers had often stated that 'you can force a horse to the river, but you cannot force the horse to drink the water".  This is the ultimate 5th. amendment. 
The Minister should honor this invitation, as a mark of respect for the legislative office and the Nigeria Constitution, at least one more time and plead the 5th this time around.  Going to court to forestall this investigation is surely bringing the three tiers of government into a collision.  This is unprecedented and could trigger a constitutional crisis if allowed to continue in our young democracy. 
Also, the general public will monitor and scrutinize any investigation of the Minister by this committee to ensure fairness and non-partisanship.
The general public will stand up to this committee and defend the Minister should there be any evidence of victimization and or any calculated attempt to smear or embarrass this presidency to score political points.

Again, there is an ongoing investigation of the NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources by an outside Independent Agency, therefore this investigation by the House Committee may be irrelevant and a duplication of effort. 

We call on the House of Representatives to avoid any connotation of partisan politics and political witch hunt.  

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