Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison- Madueke’s flamboyance attracted attention yesterday at the House of Representatives.
The lawmakers described her movie star lifestyle, including the maintenance of a chartered Challenger 850 aircraft at N3.1billion, as “wasteful”. The House mandated its Committee on Public Accounts to investigate “this financial recklessness of the Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources” and report back to the House within three weeks.
The resolution of the House followed the adoption of the prayers of a motion brought before it by Hon. Samuel Babatunde Adejare ( APC, Lagos).
Adejare, presenting the argument of the motion titled: “Urgent need to investigate the waste of resources on the arbitrary charter and maintenance of a Challenger 850 aircraft for non-official use”, said the minister has spent N3.1 billion of public funds so far to maintain the aircraft.
He said: “In these days of scarce national resources where public finance is shrinking in the face of ever increasing national needs, such as roads, health, education and power, amongst others, an official of government could waste public funds on such luxury as chartering a Challenger 850 aircraft for extra official use.
“In recent times, most states of the Federation have been facing acute shortage of allocations due to the dwindling national revenue, which has reduced the quality of governance and deprived the people of dividends of democracy.
“Based on reliable evidence, the Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, has been committing 500,000 Euros (N130 million) monthly to maintain the Aircraft, thus in two (2) years, the Minister had committed at least N3.120 billion in maintaining the private jet, which is used solely for her personal needs and those of her immediate family, which is an appalling act.”
The lawmaker said there were strong indications that the expenditure is only a tip of the iceberg “as several other billions of naira have been allegedly wasted on flying the Jet all over the world, obviously for the leisure of the Hon. Minister and her immediate family on trips that were of no benefit to the country.”
Adejare said: “This colossal waste is currently estimated at N10 billion, which includes the payment of allowances to the crew for the trips, hangar packing and rent, based on the lease agreement.”
He expressed concern 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, an action that offends the Fiscal Responsibility Act and all other – laws on fiscal discipline.”
Adejare enjoined his colleagues to take cognizance of the provisions of Section 88 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution which empowers the National Assembly to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated.
The motion, which was not debated, was overwhelmingly supported by members of the House when Speaker Aminu Tambuwal called for a vote. Tambuwal referred the matter to the Public Accounts Committee for further investigation. But Hon. Uche Ekwunife defended the minister.
According to her, what should be of focus is the benefit of her trips on the Nigerian economy. She added that there was no evidence that Mrs. Alison-Madueke had been carrying members of her family on the jet.
She said she had flown on the jet with her locally and internationally and never saw her family members on board. Mrs. Ekwunife said: “What about governors who fly the whole state to collect awards?”