27th July, 2020
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has finally taken up the challenge thrown at him by the National Assembly to name lawmakers who got contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Akpabio had on Monday, while appearing before the House Committee on the NDDC during an investigative hearing on the alleged illegal spending and mismanagement of funds, alleged that members of the National Assembly were awarded 60 percent of contracts by the commission.
House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, however, gave Akpabio a 48-hour ultimatum to identify the lawmakers.
Akpabio initially recanted, denying he said National Assembly members were awarded 60 percent of NDDC contracts.
However, a few hours after the expiration of the ultimatum, Gbajabiamila signified the House’s readiness to sue the minister for criminal defamation.
However, at the weekend, the minister responded to the threat, listing the contractor lawmakers in a document titled “Some Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Contracts Allegedly Given to some Members of the National Assembly – Senate and House of Representatives.”
The list, however, contained the names of four senators as receiving 74 contracts from the commission between 2017 to date.
Top of the list was the Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.
He was listed to have executed 53 NDDC projects from 2017 till date.
The contracts listed against Nwaoboshi’s name included Emergency Repairs of Asue Street, Owa Phase 2; Emergency Repairs of ldumuogbe Road via Ojemaye; Emergency Repairs of Otolokpo College Road, Otolokpo; and Emergency Repairs of Police lshu Ani Ukwu Road, Issele Uku in Delta State.
They also included Emergency Repairs of old Sapele Agbor Road, Obiaruku; Emergency Repairs of Ehwerhe Obada Road Agbarho Road; Emergency Repairs of Hon. Ifeanyi Eboigbe Street, Boji Boji Owa/Goodwill Street, Owa Alero; and Emergency Repairs of Ahiama Okwu to Obuocha Okwu among others, all in Delta State.
However, Nwaoboshi quickly reacted to the list by describing Akpabio as a confused individual.
Nwaoboshi challenged Akpabio to publish the names of the directors and shareholders of the companies that executed the said 53 NDDC contracts.
Akpabio also accused the Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, of inserting 19 contracts worth N9 billion into 2019 NDDC budget.
The minister revealed that “in the 2019 budget, the Executive Director in charge of projects forwarded to me the attached list of 19 Nos. old contracts amounting to almost N9billion after tax, that the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on NDDC, Honourable Tunji-Ojo, insisted that the IMC of NDDC must pay before 2019 budget details could be released to the commission.”
In the letter addressed to the House speaker routed through the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Akpabio further stated, inter alia: “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 the passage of line items at the plenaries.
“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 (Annexure ‘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.
He stated: “The investigating Committee on NDDC refused and/or neglected to give me the opportunity to explain that reference to most NDDC contracts yearly being awarded since 2001 from the records allegedly to members of the National Assembly in both Chambers were done without the knowledge of the alleged beneficiaries.
“However, the two Chairmen of the Committees in both Chambers had adequate knowledge;
“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 March 20, 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 N40bn which was totally untrue.”
Rising in his own defence, Tunji-Ojo described the Akpabio’s allegation as spurious and diversionary.
He insisted that the allegation made by NDDC was a ploy to divert the attention of Nigerians from the real issue, which has to do with the mismanagement of NDDC resources by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) from January to date.
The committee chairman denied padding the budget and even challenged the IMC to provide evidence to back the claims.
Akpabio also accused three other senators Matthew Urhoghide, James Manager, and Sam Anyanwu as NDDC contractors.
He stated that Urhoghide was awarded six projects, James was given six as well while Sam Anyanwu was awarded a total of 21 NDDC contracts during the period under review.
Other lawmakers that Akpabio listed projects against were simply identified as Ondo and Edo representatives while the project cost was not supplied by the minister.
Akpabio also listed one Mutu’s name against 74 projects which included various emergency road projects in Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and the Rivers States.