The refusal of the Federal Government to probe Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke does not indicate that President Goodluck Jonathan will cover up any case of embezzlement or mismanagement of public funds exposed in his administration, the Presidency has said.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe gave the assurance on Sunday while reacting to media interpretations of his statement on the ongoing Federal House of Representatives probe of allegations of wasteful spending of public funds against the petroleum minister.
Punch Newspaper had quoted Okupe as saying that the Federal Government cannot set up a probe panel just on things that have not been substantiated as such.
“The information I have is that the House of Representatives is looking into the matter and they want to invite the honorable minister”, Okupe, according to Punch, said. “Definitely, the right thing is to wait for the outcome of such an interaction before anybody can decide to do anything”.
But the presidential spokesman hit back at the newspaper on Sunday, saying his words had been deliberately used against him.
“We wish to reiterate emphatically that President Goodluck Jonathan has never and will never condone any act of corruption no matter from which quarters such may come from”, he said.
“This clarification has become necessary as a result of a mischievous publication by a National Daily (The Punch), which suggested falsely that my response to the planned probe by the House of Representatives on the hiring of a private jet by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) implied that the President was encouraging corruption.
“The true fact of the matter is that it is the House of Representatives that claimed to be in possession of certain documents relating to the leasing of private jets for which they decided to institute a probe. The Presidency is NOT in possession of such papers, neither has any petition relating to such issue been received by the Presidency. Therefore the Presidency is not in any position to investigate a matter that it has no fact or presentation on”.
Okupe explained that the Presidency has, therefore, chosen to await the outcome of the ongoing investigation by the House of Representatives before undertaking any reasonable action.
But he described the front page story of the Punch of Saturday 29th March 2014 as “absolutely detached and totally disconnected” from his telephone interview with the paper’s correspondent.
“The said publication is, to put it mildly, patently misleading and unprofessional. It will be recalled that just recently, Mr. President endorsed and directed that an alleged non remittance of about $10bn into the national coffers by the NNPC be subjected to a forensic audit by reputable international audit firms as suggested the Hon Minister of Finance”, he said.
“This is a clear indication that President Goodluck Jonathan upholds integrity, openness and accountability in the affairs of government and will never tolerate a cover up of any act of corruption by any person or agency of government”.
Minister Allison-Madueke is an ever-present face in media spotlighting of allegations of financial recklessness, the latest being the accusation that she spent N3.120bn in two years on the maintenance of a private jet.
Although the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has jumped in to support of the minister, the jet maintenance allegation has sparked public calls for a proper probe from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), whose president, Abdulwahed Omar demanded a “comprehensive inquest” because the recent allegation against the minister “is one too many in a litany of financial imprudence”.