This is coming against the backdrop of last week revelation by Akpabio, stating that Nigerian lawmakers have been beneficiaries of contracts awarded by the NDDC. He said this while responding to a probing by the House Committee on the Niger Delta.
Put off by Akpabio revelation, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said he should release the names of the lawmakers involved in 48 hours or risk a legal action against him.
After 48 hours, with the Minister not submitting the names, Gbajabiamila ordered the NASS clerk to meet the legal representatives of the NASS and sue Akpabio for perjury and defamation of parliament.
However, Akpabio had released the names of the lawmakers involved, in response to the call by the Speaker but the House went hush on the names of those involved.
The former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC, Nicholas Mutu, representing the Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency of Delta State, is among those listed by the minister with contracts.
The minister mentioned Mutu’s name as being beneficiary of 74 projects, including various emergency road projects in Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers states.
Mutu had been arraigned by the EFCC earlier in the year for mismanagement of funds in the region of N320m.
Akpabio also linked the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta-North), with 53 projects, which included emergency repairs of Asue Street, Owa Phase 2; ldumuogbe Road via Ojemaye; Otolokpo College Road, Otolokpo; and the Police lshu Ani Ukwu Road, Issele Uku.
Others listed by the Minister are; Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Edo-South), six; James Manager (Delta-South), six; Samuel Anyanwu (Imo-West, 8th Senate), 19; and others simply identified as Ondo and Edo Reps.
Akpabio had stated in the letter 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.”
“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.”
Chairman of the House Committee on the NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has since denied the allegations by Akpabio. In an interview with This Day, he described the allegations as ‘spurious’ and said they are attempts to divert attention from the main issues.
“He didn’t say I padded the budget; what he wrote in his letter that was read which I heard was that the Executive Director in charge of Projects told him that I said they should pay for 19 old contracts before we could pass their 2019 budget. That is what he said, not that I padded the budget, they are two different things.
“I have never made such request and I have challenged them to bring evidence that I told them to do that. These are just spurious allegations as usual. And again, thankfully, he did not say the contracts are my contracts; he said 19 old contracts; that is, they are already existing contracts, not new contracts.”