Comrade Timi Frank is an internationally acclaimed anti-corruption crusader who is now leading the charge in the call for a probe, and closer look at Diezani Alison Madueke, Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources. Frank wrote an open letter, that SaharaReporters obtained, directed at Nigeria’s Chief Justice, Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, other judicial leaders, elected officials, and policy makers, in what he coins ‘a dangerous trend.’
The current inquiry is over the misuse of public funds in the case of Allison-Madueke that has raised eyebrows across Nigeria. Below is a copy of that open letter that is certain to ‘stir things up’ within Abuja’s civil society.
“This is to draw your attention to a directive by Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), not to execute any warrant by the House of Representatives against the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke.
“Justice Kolawole gave the order last week while ruling on an application for an interim injunction over the likely issuance of a bench warrant by the House against Diezani for having repeatedly failed to honour invitations extended to her in respect of its investigation into her alleged use of N10billion to fly private jets in two years.
“This anticipatory blanket injunction is not only preemptory, but a sinister affront on the rights of the police to carry out their legally assigned duties, and by extension, the House of Representatives who has not issued any such warrant.
“Why should Diezani approach two Federal High Courts on the same issue? Why go before Justice Kolawole, despite the pendency of the substantive suit she filed at another Federal High Court presided over by Justice Ramat Mohammed? Does this not amount to playing one judicial officer against other to evade a lawful summon?
“Why should the court give a blanket order restraining the Police from arresting Diezani, when it is obvious that she has continued to act in breach of Section 88 and 89 of the Constitution, which empowers both chambers of the National Assembly to summon any person in Nigeria to testify before it when necessary?
“The suit filed by Alison-Madueke and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) if anything, amounts to a usurpation of the legislative powers of the National Assembly.
“Therefore the judiciary must insulate itself from manipulation by the Executive now seeking to stop or delay the National Assembly from discharging its statutory functions.
“Your lordship must, with due respect, halt Diezani’s attempt to judicially arm-twist the House of Representatives, and by extension, the National Assembly from carrying out its constitutional mandate on behalf of Nigerians who voted them into office.
“Please permit me to note that since the dawn of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, many Ministers have appeared before the National Assembly without seeking permission from Mr. President.
“If our national parliamentarians have to seek the leave of Mr. President to invite any member of the Executive, where then lays the principle of separation of powers? Can one arm of government stop another arm of government from performing its statutory functions?
“Is Diezani saying that other Ministers and public officials should henceforth engage in this sort of executive rascality, by always seeking undue protection from judiciary?
“I respectfully, urge you therefore to prevail on judicial officers to be mindful of their actions and inactions in the ongoing fight against corruption because one day, they will have to give account to Nigerians. The judiciary must not be seen to support this sort of scandalous perversion of the law and legal process.
“It is inconceivable under the Nigerian constitution for one arm of government to stop another arm of government from carrying out its duties. Your Lordship will agree with me that a court can decide if a constitutional responsibility has been properly discharged and not whether it CAN be discharged. The court order barring the police from arresting Diezani even though the House has not issued any such warrant amounts to putting the cart before the horse.
“It is worthy of note that sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution give the National Assembly power to summon any person in Nigeria to appear before it. Therefore, the National Assembly has the right to invite anybody so long as there are germane issues to be thrashed in the national interest.
“Approaching the court to squelch a lawful summon by National Assembly is a direct and contemptuous breach of section 88 and 89 of the Constitution which empowers both chambers of the National Assembly or their constituted committees not only to investigate any matter with respect to which it has powers to make laws, but to summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence when national interest is at stake.
“My primary concern is the integrity of judiciary, my Lord. If courts give absurd orders, the sane members of society will lose confidence and trust in the judicial system. A National Assembly probe is not a trial and therefore cannot hand out any guilty or not guilty verdict.
“Your Lordship is well aware that the sole aim of a probe is to make findings and recommendations, which perhaps can lead to prosecution. So why is Diezani afraid if she has nothing to hide?
“Since your assumption of office as the CJN, you have left nobody in doubt of your sincere desire to get rid of corruption in the judiciary. Therefore, I call on you to urgently act on this matter to ensure that the Judiciary, which is the last hope of the common man, is not turned into an instrument for aiding and abetting corruption in high places.
“Permit me to say that it is incumbent on your Lordship, to ensure that these political scavengers and economic cankerworms do not further tarnish the reputation of the judiciary. Like Caesar’s wife, the Judiciary and her eminent Justices must be seen to be above suspicion and therefore, it must resist these scurrilous attempts to stifle the fight against official corruption. The Judiciary must not fail to rise in defense of our democracy! Diezani’s multiple suits is a test case for the judiciary. Nigerians expect you to act and ensure that the Temple of Justice does not suffer further indignities from unscrupulous politicians especially in issues that bother on corruption.
Comrade Timi Frank
National Judicial Council
CJ Federal High Court
Senate Committee on Judiciary
House of Representative Committee on Judiciary
Inspector General of Police