Kenneth Udeh, Abuja
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has said that a cordial working relationship between members of the executive and legislative arms of government will enhance the development plans of the Niger Delta region.
Akpabio made this assertion on Tuesday while addressing the press during his visit to the National Assembly. The former senator, now Minister, was at the offices of the acting Clerk to the National Assembly, Olatunde Ojo and the Chairman of the House Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, where he met with them separately behind closed doors.
The Minister spoke on the need for both arms of government to work in harmony in order for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to attain optimum performance.
In his words: ‘As Governor of my State (Akwa Ibom), whatever achievements we made were collective efforts,through the cordial and close working relationship of the House of Assembly with my administration.
‘Whatever achievement we shall make in the Niger Delta Development Commission by implication will require the cooperation of the entirety of the National Assembly.
‘As a Minister, it’s important I ensure that the cooperation comes on board so that it can benefit the Niger Delta.’
Speaking further, he said: ‘My presence here today is part of my support for the President’s decision that there must be a much more cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature.
‘In fact, the President recently set up a tripartite committee made up of the party, the National Assembly and the executive to ensure oneness because we are all running one government. We also committed to leaving a lasting legacy for Nigerians but we can’t achieve that if certain arms of the Government are not cooperating.’
Speaking on the NDDC probe, Akpabio clarified a statement wherein he had accused members of the National Assembly of fraud in regard to contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The Minister had during an investigative hearing at the House of Representatives over the probe of N81.5 billion alleged irregular expenditure by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC alleged that 60 percent of NDDC contracts went to federal lawmakers.
However, as the House threatened to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury and explore the possibility of a civil defamation suit against him, Akpabio denied he had referred to members of the 9th House of Representatives as beneficiaries of contracts in NDDC.
He clarified that the NDDC was yet to fully implement any budget since the commencement of the 9th National Assembly.
Mr Akpabio, responding to questions after a visit to the acting Clerk of the National Assembly, Olatunde Ojo, said the misunderstanding between him and lawmakers was caused by mischief-makers.
On the peace talks being initiated and whether he had resolved to exonerate the lawmakers who allegedly received 60 percent of the NDDC contracts, Mr Akpabio said: ‘No no no, you are wrong.
‘That was not what the Speaker demanded. The Speaker wanted to know whether there was undue influence from any section of the National Assembly in respect of contracts in the NDDC.
‘He (Speaker) did not say whether they were contractors. So, I’m hearing it from you.’
On why he was at the National Assembly complex, Akpabio explained: ‘I am a Senator. Seeing me in the National Assembly should not be a surprise as a former Minority Leader and a Senator, and I believe that I’m a Senator for life.
‘So, nobody will refer to me as Governor Akpabio, but they refer to me as Senator Akpabio. This is like homecoming and the National Assembly ought to have resumed today (Tuesday). But they postponed it; so I intended that as soon as the resumption takes place, I am here
‘It’s part of my effort to support the President’s decision that there must be a much more cordial relationship between the Executive and Legislature.
‘In fact, the President recently set up a tripartite committee made up of the party (APC), the National Assembly and the Executive to ensure oneness because we are running one government.
‘It is important that we all remember that whatever we do, we want to leave a legacy for Nigeria and we cannot do this if all the arms of government are not cooperating.
‘So far, I believe that whatever disagreement that could have occurred between my own ministry and the National Assembly must have been as a result of mischief and that mischief must be put to rest so that we can work in one accord for the sake of the nation.’
After meeting with the acting CNA, Akpabio also met with the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo.
The meeting, which lasted for over three hours, was held in Suit 3.10 in the House of Representatives new wing and had in attendance the chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu.