The House of Representatives said the letter of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio to the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has fully exonerated the 9th Assembly.
Akpabio while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta alleged that 60% of contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are gotten by Members of the National Assembly.
Irked by this, the House gave the former Akwa Ibom State Governor 48 hours ultimatum to publish the names of the lawmakers who benefitted from NDDC contracts but instead, he sent a letter to the Speaker denying what he said.
In the letter read on the floor of the House Akpabio said: “I never referred to members of the ninth national assembly as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts as NDDC is yet to fully implement any NDDC budget since the commencement of the ninth national assembly. In fact, the 2019 budget passed in February and harmonised on the 5th of March 2020 was received by the commission in the middle of April 2020 when the same was designated to expire on 31st May 2020”.
But at the weekend Akpabio released the list of some lawmakers who have been awarded contracts by the NDDC, including the former Chairman, House Committee on NDDC, Nicholas Mutu, the present Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta-North), James Manager, Senator representing (Delta-South), Samuel Anyanwu (Imo-West, 8th Senate) and others simply referred to as Ondo and Edo Representatives
Even though most of the lawmakers have denied the list released by the former Senate Minority Leader, the House Spokesman, Benjamin Kalu emphasizing that in paragraph 7 of the letter to the Speaker, the Minister completely withdrew his previous statement about 60% of the NDDC projects being awarded to members of the 9th Assembly.
Kalu in a statement on Tuesday said:
“It is also instructive for Nigerians to note that the total number of projects in the 2019 NDDC budget was 5959 out of which 5416 projects were rolled over from 2018, which the 9th Assembly obviously had no influence or control over.
“Therefore, unable to prove his claims, the Minister presented an ineffectual spreadsheet of only 266 projects out of which about 20 projects were attracted by past members of the National Assembly as constituency projects, not as contractors, but in furtherance of their representative mandate.
“The projects presented in the Minister’s letter are not within the scope of the investigation and do nothing to address the leadership’s ultimatum for him to publish the list of names of the members who he claimed took 60% of NDDC projects from January to May 2020.
“Also, contrary to the mischievous narrative being peddled on the internet, the only mention of the Chairman of the NDDC Committee of the 9th House of Representatives, Rep. Tunji Ojo in that letter, was as to his alleged request for the complete payment of 19 contractors who had approached him with complaints about NDDC’s non-payment for their services. This is, however, an allegation that has been completely refuted by Rep. Ojo and for which there is no evidence linking him.
“The one member of the House mentioned in that letter only attracted the project to his federal constituency, in the same manner, that the NDDC MD, EDFA, EDP, Chairman, etc applied to the Commission for attention to the needs of their people and were obliged. This attraction of projects does not in any way mean that contracts were personally awarded to them.
“Additionally, the letter also listed the names of contract awardees with no evidence linking them to those who attracted the projects to the beneficiary communities. It makes lifting the corporate veil for the directors to be seen and the Corporate Affairs Commission is there to establish who the real owners of the companies are. Until then, it is wrong to attempt to establish a nexus that currently does not exist. The document remains a mere spreadsheet of people who attracted projects to their communities in furtherance of their representative functions.
“Furthermore, the directive to press charges against the Minister has not been lifted by the House as the leadership is busy considering the weight of the Honourable Minister’s letter. If it does not clear the doubt and wrong perception, it will be sent to the court for clearance as the Speaker stated.
“Once again, the letter’s annexures showing 2018 projects have no relevance to what was requested from the Minister because it was outside the scope of his claims, it was also not comprehensive but selective by mentioning only one current member for attracting projects to his constituency and not for receiving contracts. The House is mindful of a letter currently before it where the Minister also applied to attract several projects to his Senatorial Zone during his time at the Senate, does it mean the contracts were awarded to him?
“Nigerians are encouraged to ignore the deflections of the Honourable Minister and continue to ask the right questions as to what happened to the money of the region which has led to a gross disservice to Niger-Deltans. Nigerians should start asking the right questions and demanding the right answers; and the right question remains, “What happened to Nigeria’s ₦81.5 billion under the charge of NDDC in the space of 6 months?”.