Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions Thursday threatened to issue warrants of arrest on the Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, over their continued refusal to appear before the committee to assist in resolving the dispute between Capital Oil Plc and Coscharis Motors Limited.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Hon. Uzo Azubuike, who gave the order at the resumed investigative hearing, said the two personalities had shunned the invitation of the committee twice and their absence was frustrating the investigation.
In spite of the absence of the two personalities, the public hearing went on yesterday with the appearance of the two gladiators namely: Chairman of Coscharis Group, Mr. Cosmas Maduka, and Mr. Ifeanyi Uba, Managing Director, Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited.
In response to the excuse that Okonjo-Iweala was absent because of the kidnap of her mother, Azubuike said the invitation was not for the minister as a person but for the Federal Ministry of Finance to put up an appearance and supply the information requested by the committee.
He warned that if the ministry was not represented at the next sitting of the investigative panel, the committee would be left with no other option but to issue a warrant of arrest on the head of the ministry.
Aig-Imokhuede had, through his counsel, Mr. Tope Omotosho, informed the committee of his absence on legal grounds in a letter.
In the letter, he pleaded that whereas the committee invited him as Chairman, Presidential Committee on Verification of Subsidy Payments, he had since discharged his role in that committee and submitted a report to the Federal Government.
According to him, there was, therefore, no more legal grounds for him to function in that capacity.
Aig-Imokhuede also pleaded that the issues for which he was being invited were already before different courts in Nigeria and abroad, hence discussing them would amount to contempt of the courts.
In a brief testimony, Maduka said he would have loved to provide answers to all the issues raised in the petition of Capital Oil but for the fact that the matter was already before the courts. Subsequently, Maduka’s counsel, Mr. Osita Mbamalu, also tendered evidence to show that the issues were before the courts.
However, counsel to Capital Oil, Mr. Ben Nwosu, disagreed that the matter was subjudice.
Nwosu urged the House to prevail on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to effect the payment of Capital Oil’s Sovereign Debt Note of N2.1billion which he claimed had long been approved by the Debt Management Office (DMO) in view of the fact that the maximum time allowed for the payment was 45 days.
He also urged the presidential committee to grant the company fair hearing with a view to facilitating prompt payment of her outstanding subsidy claims totalling about N20 billion.
Nwosu asked the House to set aside the report of the Aig-Imoukhuede-led Presidential Committee on the grounds of conflict of interest and prejudice. Nwosu said Aig-Imoukhuede should not be allowed to be a judge, jury and prosecutor in a matter he has interest and has benefitted.
In addition, Nwosu urged the House to ignore the report of the police on the matter since the police officer that handled the investigation on behalf of the Nigeria Police, Mr Tunde Ogunmshakin, was a member of the Presidential Committee that wrote the petition against Capital Oil.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) yesterday said Capital Oil imported various quantities of petroleum products into the country in 2011 and qualified for the payment of its subsidy claims.
The Officer-in-Charge of the Import and Export Unit, Nigeria Customs Lagos, Mr. Jubril Musa, who gave the testimony, said the company imported 20,000 metric tonnes of kerosine, 222,800 metric tonnes of petrol and 20,000 metric tonnes of diesel during the period covered by the investigation.