The dust is yet to settle over claim and counterclaim on the list of lawmakers in the eighth and previous assemblies who benefitted from contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) claims the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs actually listed the names of the lawmakers involved.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila had in a statement last week informed the public that the Green Chamber would institute defamation suit against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Goodswill Akpabio over what he claimed to be the latter refusal to name lawmakers who benefitted from contracts from the NDDC.
At a press briefing at the weekend, National President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Solomon Adodo, however, accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives of trying to shield indicted lawmakers.
Comrade Adodo told newsmen that Senator Akpabio actually attached a document which detailed the list of over 30 senators and House of Representatives members who took contracts, the sum and names of their companies.
A copy of the memo was sighted by Nigerian Tribune signed by the Minister of Niger Delta dated July 23, 2020 with reference number, MNDA/HM/04/IV/158 titled, “Some Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC Contracts allegedly given to some Members of the National Assembly Senate and House of Representatives.”
Senator Akpabio in his response to the ultimatum exonerated lawmakers in the ninth National Assembly, as he noted that the intervention agency was yet to implement any budget since the commencement of the current assembly.
The Minister of Niger Delta, however, insisted in his response that since 2011 chairmen of both committees in the National Assembly with oversight functions on the NDDC benefitted from contract awards.
His letter read in part: “May I extend to Mr Speaker the compliments of my office and those of the staff of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
I never referred to members of the 9th National Assembly as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts as NDDC is yet to fully implement any NDDC budget since the commencement of the 9th National Assembly. In fact, the 2019 budget passed in February and harmonised between the 4th and 5th of March 2020 was received by the Commission in the middle of April, 2020, when same was designated to expire on the 31st of May, 2020.
“However, it is pertinent to point out that the Clerk of the National Assembly forwarded a letter Ref. NASS/CNA/115/VOL.38/1175, dated 20th March, 2020, without attaching the budget details indicating that the 2020 budget of the NDDC passed into Law was being forwarded (copy of the letter is attached as Annexure ‘A’). This anomaly was brought to the attention of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee investigating a purported financial recklessness by the management of the commission in July 2020, though the first outcry was on allegation of missing N40 billion which was totally untrue;
“It has always been known that the two chairmen of the committees on NDDC in both chambers yearly exhibit unusual influence to the exclusion of committee members and even the management of the NDDC in appropriating funds to details embellished in the budget after passage of line items at the plenaries. In the 2019 budget, the Executive Director Projects forwarded to me the attached list of 19 Nos. old contracts amounting to almost N9bn after tax, that the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on NDDC, Honourable Tunji-Ojo, insisted the IMC of NDDC must pay before 2019 budget details could be released to the commission (see Annexure ‘A1’).
“To show you some typical examples, herewith attached are documents showing nature of contracts amount of such contracts (in some cases), date of awards and beneficiaries some were awarded to the two chairmen of both committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, serving at the period of the awards (Annexures ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’). However, due to the 48 hours notice, the forensic auditors could not sift through the thousands of files in their possession to provide more.”
Flanked by other members of the NYCN, Comrade Adodo challenged the Speaker of the House of Representatives to provide the details of the letter addressed to him by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to the public.
He said: “Mr Speaker did not do us justice when he did not disclose to the National Assembly that the list of the beneficiaries he demanded for, had been disclosed and attached to the letter sent to him.
“His decision to cover up his colleagues is unfair to the fight against corruption, quest for transparency, and to the commonwealth of our nation.
“We therefore urge Mr Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to rise up and expose the lawmakers who were awarded contracts but failed to execute them.
“All the National Assembly members who benefitted from the contracts without executing them should be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to those who may want to follow a similar path.
“It is a clear case of organised crime to have individuals who benefitted from illegality now rising to probe the fact that their illegality is being exposed
“We call on all the anti-graft agencies and security agencies to, in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, immediately proceed and go ahead with their investigation of the matter.
“We wonder why the Speaker failed to inform his colleagues that the list of the contractors was attached. The list featured prominently, the names of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
“Why did Mr Speaker not read the list of lawmakers who benefited from contracts? They should attempt self-cleansing and not constitute themselves into wheel of progress by joining forces against the IMC.
“If the list was made available to the Speaker, why was he silent on this? This list is with the EFCC, the ICPC and even the DSS. Why did he not read it out to lawmakers? In shielding this information from the members of the House of Representatives, he should even do the honourable thing by resigning.
“There are individuals that the list exposes, we are calling on the Speaker since the letter was addressed to him, should deal with the matter in the interest of Nigerians. ”
The group spoke in support of the ongoing forensic audit of the agency as they noted that it has instigated contractors to return to sites.
“We appreciate the fact that the forensic audit has instigated a return to construction sites in the Niger Delta. That’s a positive development. ”