From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
A major is brewing in the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee investigating the alleged fraud in the award of Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 to Malabu Oil and Gas, with lawmakers from the South-South, poised to thwart moves to have ex-president Goodluck Jonathan appear before it.
The Razak Atunwa-led committee had on July 5, written Jonathan to explain his part in the deal, particularly as his name had been mentioned a number of times in relation with the matter, which saw the country fraudulently losing huge revenues.
But the former president is yet to respond to the letter even as the House of Representatives prepares to resume next week.
Signals that inviting Jonathan would divide the committee along zonal and party lines came to fore months back as it took the committee two days of extensive meetings before it could issue the July statement on its decision to investigate the role played by the ex-president on the award of OPL 245, which covers a large area of 1,958 square kilometers including two deep water fields and is reckoned to hold an estimated 9.2 billion barrels of crude oil.
Despite his silence on the invitation from the committee, Jonathan has rejected claims of guilt on the Malabu deal through his media aide, Ikechukwu Eze.
Daily Sun investigations showed that members of the committee, especially those from the South-South, are unhappy that the committee went ahead to write the former president, insisting that it was a great embarrassment to them.
“Whenever we meet, the meeting is going to be contentious and any attempt to indict the former president may be hotly contested,” a member of the committee who pleaded anonymity in a follow-up phone chat revealed.
“You could see a lot of political interests at play over the issue. Many members will be asking if this was the same treatment given to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, during the power sector probe by this same House. They will want to know what has changed and why Jonathan’s case is different,” a source in the committee told Daily Sun.
Regardless, Atunwa, in a phone interview with Daily Sun over the weekend, said members of the committee will decide on the next line of action with regard to the former president. The lawmaker had explained before the annual vacation of the National Assembly that there is a need to bring to a close the probe and that the testimony of the former president was the only missing item in the report.
“The committee is going to call for a meeting immediately the House resumes. The opinions of members is going to shape the committee’s decision on the matter,” he said.