Injunctional Bias: Like Sanusi, Like Diezani?

 

With conflicting media reports, it is unclear whether or not the minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke actually did it. However, there was news of her obtaining an injunction against the federal house of representatives, restraining them from investigating allegations that she spends considerable sums of state funds maintaining private jets for her personal use.

 

Now, mainstream social media (perhaps mainstream Nigeria, even) has a slight but very palpable anti-federal government bias. This may or may not be justified, but that is hardly the point. So, news of her having obtained this injunction has been greeted with derision at Diezani and frustration at the Nigerian judiciary. Watchers on the pro-government side of things have however pointed out what they perceive to be inconsistent criticism, as ousted/suspended/retired governor of the Central Bank, Mallam Lamido Sanusi, was congratulated when he obtained a similar injunction a few weeks ago. Are the Sanusi and Allison-Madueke injunctions one and the same? I do not think so. Why?

 

Well, according to information on its own website, the FRC “is a federal government agency established by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria Act, No. 6, 2011.  It is a federal government Parastatal under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. The FRC is responsible for, among other things, developing and publishing accounting and financial reporting standards to be observed in the preparation of financial statements of public entities in Nigeria; and for related matters.” The enabling Act also suggests that the FRC is strictly concerned with developing, setting and enforcing accounting financial reporting standards.

Does the FRC have the power to investigate for financial misappropriation? [CORRECTION] Hmmm. The enabling Act entitles the FRC to investigate “any complaint or dishonest practice, negligence, professional misconduct or malpractice, made against any professional.” The FRC also has the power to summon the professional being investigated. Who then is a “professional” for the purposes of the FRC Act? The Act seems to use “professional” interchangeably with “professional accountant” (see the sections on registration), so I would suggest that the FRC’s power to investigate is limited to professional accountants who have not conducted themselves properly in their audit/financial reporting. I do not think its powers of investigation of the FRC, as drafted, extend to investigating financial misappropriation. In any event, the courts will rule on whether the CBN governor’s suit against the FRC on the 12th of May.

 

So, in my opinion, Sanusi’s injunction was ostensibly to stop a federal agency from arrogating questionable powers to itself or overreaching itself. At the very least, the FRC’s power to investigate a CBN governor is questionable. Agreed?

 

On the other hand, the constitution establishes, unequivocally, that Houses of Assembly have the power to investigate (a) any matter over which it has power to make laws; (b) the conduct of affairs of any person or agency charged with administering its laws or disbursing money it has appropriated.

 

But the constitution does not stop there. It goes on to say that the foregoing powers are only exercisable for the purpose of enabling the National Assembly to (a) make or amend laws; and “(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.”

 

Dear friends, does the National Assembly have the power to investigate allegations of corruption or misappropriation of funds against a minister of a federal government ministry in respect of which the Assembly makes laws and appropriates funds? I think so.

Is there any basis for courts to grant an injunction to restrain the National Assembly from investigating a minister? Oh yes! If their investigation is neither for the purpose of aiding the legislative process nor for exposing corruption, etc., then yes, the National Assembly would be acting outside its constitutional bounds.

 

Is this investigation concerned with exposing corruption and waste? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind…

 

 

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