The National Assembly committees probing the expenditures made by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have been urged not to be distracted by the allegation of Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and members of the IMC.
Giving the advice in a statement, Godknows Sotonye of the National Coordinator of Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group said the committees should be guided by their oaths of office and present reports that will address the misconduct in the NDDC and prescribe due punishment for anyone indicted in the investigation.
The group advised the probe committees not to be swayed by Akpabio and the IMC claims at the House of Representatives Committee Public Hearing, saying that by blaming the National Assembly members of taking NDDC contracts, Akpabio was trying to pass the buck when he should accept responsibility.
‘We have stated previously, and we make bold to repeat again, that the unsubstantiated accusations of Akpabio and the IMC against the National Assembly lawmakers are escapist since they have failed to report any alleged excesses of such lawmakers to the anti-graft and law enforcement agencies. It is gratifying that House Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila has challenged Akpabio to publish the names of such lawmakers and the contracts linked to them within 48 hours.’
The group said it was instructive that Akpabio cleared House Committee Chairman, Hon. Bunmi Tunji-Ojo, of the earlier allegation when he told the House committee:
‘I only said the NDDC had awarded a contract for the place of Hon Tunji-Ojo. I don’t think NDDC has given a contract directly to Hon Tunji-Ojo. Before you can say that, you must be sure that such a contract was awarded to the company of Hon Tunji-Ojo.’
Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group said Akpabio and the IMC cannot sit in judgement over their own matter as ‘they are at liberty at any time to report to the police, ICPC and/or EFCC any NASS member who they think has committed any crime in the NDDC. They cannot be allowed to throw wild and unsubstantiated allegations against members of the National Assembly to detract them from their constitutional duty of oversight as guaranteed by section 88 of the Nigerian Constitution.’
The group said the alleged breach of the Public Procurement Act in the engagement of a consultant and the contract for the purchase of vehicles are clear offences, which should attract punishment.
It said the public hearing has revealed that N3.4 billion was spent as COVID-19 expenditures, “including N1.5 billion paid to themselves as COVID-19 palliative.”
The group added: ‘Aside from that, some of the nauseating expenditures that have come to light include N1.3 billion on community relations, N122.9 million on condolences, N83 million on consultancy and N3.14 billion on COVID-19, N48 6million Duty Travel Allowance, N790.9 million as imprest, N1.956 billion on Lassa Fever, N900 million on Legal Service, N220 million on maintenance, N85.6 million on foreign travels, N1.121 billion on public projects communication, N744 million on security, N8.8 billion on staffing-related payment and N248 million on stakeholders’ engagement from February 18 to May 31, 2020.’
It said with these revelations, ‘what remains is what the National Assembly and President Buhari make of this gross abuse of office.’