Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, appears to be at loggerheads with the Senate over its probe of N40 billion allegedly misappropriated in three months by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The move by the National Assembly to probe the IMC’s financial management of the NDDC has been met with some criticisms by Nigerians and the IMC’s allegations of N6.4 billion graft against the legislators.
Acting managing director of the NDDC, Kemebradikumo Ponde, on Tuesday, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, alleged that the National Assembly inserted over 500 projects in the 2019 budget of the agency and prevented the IMC from carrying out the forensic audit that President Muhammadu Buhari ordered, while the agency’s executive director for projects, Cairo Ojougboh, alleged, among other things, that some Senators got more than 1,000 contracts from the NDDC.
However, the Senate, yesterday, reacting to allegations of graft and witch-hunting, said no amount of blackmail would stop it from auditing the N40 billion spent in three months by the IMC of the NDDC.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Peter Nwaoboshi, at a press briefing yesterday, dismissed Pondei and Ojougboh’s allegations against the National Assembly as fabrications. He said it was the probe of the finances of the commission by both chambers of the National Assembly that had triggered the attacks against the National Assembly.
The Senate also accused Akpabio as fuelling the crisis between the National Assembly, the NDDC and efforts to probe the N40 billion expenditure.
The minister, however, has responded to the allegation, expressing the confidence in the outcome of the forensic audit in the NDDC settling all contentious issues in the finance of the agency.
“We stand by our earlier position that the ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC would reveal those who have plundered the agency and are fighting hard to scuttle the probe to hide their misdeeds. We believe leaders should learn to elevate public interest above their personal interests, which have plunged the region into the present state of underdevelopment. This has to change,” Akpabio’s media aide, Aniete Ekong, said, on behalf of his principal.
Vowing that both the Senate and the House of Representatives committees would forge ahead with their separate investigations on the N40 billion, Nwaoboshi said: “What we are seeing is a case of a man sent to catch the thief, but instead of catching the thief, he starts stealing too. If members of the IMC know that their hands are clean, they don’t need to panic or resort to blackmail, which would not in any way deter the already mandated investigative committees of the National Assembly from carrying out their legitimate assignments.”
According tothe senator, Akpabio, as a member of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, with oversight over the NDDC in 2017, requested for N500 million worth of projects to be captured in the agency’s capital votes for the fiscal year and was now surreptitiously instigating the IMC members of the agency against the National Assembly.
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“We are responding to the allegations of the IMC to correct the misrepresentation. If they claim that some 1,000 jobs were given to any senator, we challenge the IMC members to compile the list of these contracts and publish them. Also, the EFCC, police or ICPC should be reached to investigate those claims, instead of blackmailing anybody. IMC must be ready to submit itself for thorough investigation by committees already assigned for that by both chambers of the National Assembly. The allegations of balkanisation of budget just came because the IMC members were asked to appear before the ad hoc committee to answer questions,” he said.
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