The upper legislative chamber, The Senate has postponed the commencement of its planned investigation into the alleged award of $25 billion worth of contracts in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The Senate had resolved to investigate the matter following the allegation of abuse of due process made by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, against the NNPC Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru. .
The upper chamber also resolved to investigate Baru over alleged insubordination and abuse of office as contained in the leaked Kachikwu’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who announced the postponement during Tuesday’s plenary session, said that the investigation would commence next Tuesday.
The investigative panel headed by former Sokoto State Governor, Aliyu Wamakko, ought to have started work Tuesday, but Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, did not give any reason for the sudden postponement. It was, however, learnt that pressure was being mounted on the Senate leadership from many powerful quarters to abandon the probe.
When Senate President Bukola Saraki constituted the ad-hoc panel last week, following a resolution of the Senate and public outcry over the award of the alleged contracts, the committee was given four weeks to submit its report.
A source said that an earlier meeting scheduled last week by the panel chairman, Wammako, was also called off at the last minute for undisclosed reasons. Wamakko is yet to address the press about the modalities his committee would adopt in conducting the investigation.
After the Senate announced its decision to probe the alleged contracts, the presidency came out to deny their existence. Already, an Abuja-based lawyer, Johnmary Chukwukasi Jideobi, has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to restrain the Senate from inviting Baru over the allegation.
In his suit, Jideobi asked the court to set aside the October 4, 2017 proceedings of the Senate on the ground that its planned investigation was based on the contents of an unconfirmed document of doubtful origin.
According to the originating summons, the counsel to the plaintiff, Ramsey Abuchi Omego, wants the court to determine “whether in view of combined reading of Sections 5 and 88 (2) (a) and (b) of the amended 1999 Constitution, the investigative power of the Senate is extendable to the contents of documents with unconfirmed, doubtful origin forming the basis of a probe into the activities of Baru in his management of the NNPC.”
The plaintiff is also seeking an order declaring the October 4, 2017 resolutions of the Senate as illegal and therefore liable to be set aside.The plaintiff has also asked the court to issue an order restraining the Senate from acting on the votes and proceedings of October 4, 2017.The defendants in the suit include the NNPC, Baru, Saraki and the Senate.