President Muhammadu Buhari has been called upon to end the arrogance of members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by directing them to appear before the National Assembly committees investigating their activities.
According to Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group, in a statement by Comrade Godknows Sotonye, National Coordinator, the incident at the Public Hearing of the House of Representatives Committee probing the NDDC, where the Acting Managing Director, Prof Keme Pondei, walked out on members of the committee should not be ignored, as it sends wrong signal about the Buhari government.
“This is unprecedented in the history of this country that the head of an MDA would walk out on a legislative committee carrying out its oversight functions,” the group said
Pondei had objected to Chairman of the Committee, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, presiding over the investigative hearing, insisting he cannot preside over a matter in which he is an accused.
Members of the Committee, told the Acting MD that he was constitutionally bound to answer their queries, to which Pondei said he and the team were not prepared to make any presentation before the committee and asked for permission to leave and did.
The group said the NDDC IMC is trying to “sit in judgement over their own case. They are trying to avoid having to account in public for the expenditure they have incurred as outlined by the Office of the Accountant General and the CBN which appeared before the Committee the day before.
“This cannot be allowed in any sane society, as the committee rightly stated. This conduct by the NDDC acting MD and his IMC team is an affront to the President’s anti-corruption stance.”
Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group said by virtue of Section 88 of the Nigerian Constitution, the National Assembly is empowered to oversight ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) such as the NDDC.
“In particular, Section 88 (1) of the constitution (as amended), confers on the National Assembly the power to “direct or cause to be directed investigation into – (a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws, and (b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for – (i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly, and (ii) disbursing or administering money appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.’ This is why the National Assembly has a responsibility to investigate the books of NDDC.”
The group said the IMC has more than enough outlets to report any lawmaker or official who they think has committed a crime, insisting: “They have no right to take the laws into their hands and decide not to appear before a duly constituted committee of the National Assembly.”
Saying that evidences from the Senate and House of Representatives committees’ Public Hearing have exposed happenings in NDDC under IMC, the group noted the revelation that N1.5 billion was paid as COVID-19 pandemic relief to topshots of the commission..
It urged President Buhari to call the members of the NDDC IMC to order and direct them to appear before the House and Senate committees to answer the relevant queries.
“The National Assembly committees must be allowed unfettered exercise of their lawful powers to investigate the NDDC and unravel the activities going on at the Commission.”