Romanus Ugwu, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa, Joe Effiong, Uyo and Chukwudi Nweje
The House of Representatives has handed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, a 48-hour ultimatum to publish names of members of the National Assembly that are beneficiaries of contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila gave the ultimatum while ruling on a matter of privilege raised by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, at plenary yesterday.
Elumelu had told the House that he had been inundated with calls from his constituents following allegations by the minister that federal lawmakers were major beneficiaries in the NDDC.
The minority leader prayed the House to invite Akpabio to name federal lawmakers who allegedly got contracts from the NDDC.
Akpabio, while speaking at a public hearing of the House Committee on NDDC on Monday, alleged that majority of contracts in the interventionist agency were handled by members of the National Assembly.
However, Gbajabiamila, who accused the minister of being diversionary, directed the Clerk of the House, Patrick Giwa, to write Akpabio, giving him 48 hours to publish names of members of the ninth Assembly who were given contracts in the NDDC.
The Speaker said the minister should also publish the contracts they were given, and the names of the companies through which the contracts were obtained, among others. He said, if Akpabio failed to comply, the House would bring the full weight of the law to bear on him.
“I am going to take this matter and this allegations very seriously. I am giving the minister 48 hours to publish the names, the contracts so given, the dates, the companies, that were given to members of the National Assembly, members of this ninth Assembly. Names, contracts, companies every single detail, failing which this House will bring full wrath of the law (on him).
“It is important that we set this record straight; the Honourable Minister owes it to himself. He owes it to the people of Niger Delta. He owes it to Nigeria to publish those names and the details of those he has given this contracts to,” Gbajabiamila declared.
PDP desperate to sabotage, frustrate NDDC forensic audits – APC
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of plotting to sabotage and frustrate the forensic audit of the NDDC.
The party, in a statement by Yekini Nabena, warned the opposition party that there would be no sacred cows in the fight against corruption: “The PDP in its self-indicting statement speaks of the ‘weight of corruption’ bedevilling the operations of the NDDC. Nigerians can now understand that the PDP is not interested in the current moves by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to reposition the NDDC, but the PDP is dead-scared of the outcome of the 2001 to 2019 forensic audit and legislative inquests of the NDDC’s operations.
“The PDP is doing everything to sabotage and frustrate the audits. In recognition of the ongoing forensic audit and legislative inquest into the operations of the NDDC, as a party, we have no intention to trade words on how successive PDP administrations and their cronies institutionalised a culture of contract fraud and other corrupt practices, which have robbed the Niger Delta region of badly-needed development.
“We will rather monitor and await the findings of the ongoing audits. However, one thing is clear, no vested interest will continue to turn the NDDC into an automatic teller machine (ATM) while multi-faceted development eludes the Niger Delta region.
“We must support the forensic audit of the 19 years of the NDDC, which includes the first four years of the President Buhari administration as well as well-meaning legislative inquests, for the benefit of the Niger Delta region.
“As a party, we totally align and support the resolve of President Buhari to audit and reposition the NDDC. As with all institutions of government, we must continue to entrench transparency and accountability.
“The commitment of the President Buhari administration remains the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta region. Hence, the audit must be seen as a decisive move to clear any stumbling block undermining the development of the Niger Delta region.
“Has the President Buhari administration demonstrated its zero-tolerance for corruption? An emphatic yes! The administration’s fight against corruption is total, unsparing and there are no sacred cows.
“Public records show that officials of past administrations, members of the opposition, APC, cabinet members, appointees, private sector, among others, have been given ample opportunity by this administration to defend corruption allegations when they arise.
“The PDP’s tales of unbridled treasury looting, illusionary fraud and other fictitious allegations are part of their tired, baseless and tactless attempts to get public reckoning, cover past fraud and play the role of opposition which it has shockingly failed at.”
We’re consulting, say Ijaw youths
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has said it is consulting other stakeholders on the ongoing probe involving the commission.
Spokesman for the organisation, Ebilade Ekerefe, assured that IYC, under the leadership of Peter Timothy Igbifa, would not fold their arms and watch the on-going drama over the NDDC and other interventionist agencies established to have positive impact on the people of Niger Delta region.
He said the IYC would consult with critical stakeholders from the region and take a firm and decisive position on the drama going on in the NDDC and the Presidential Amnesty office.
Ekerefe assured all Ijaw people that, moving forward, their leadership would not tolerate fifth columnists conniving with external forces to short-change collective Ijaw interests.
The spokesman, while calling on the international oil companies operating within the region to be ready for robust engagements, as it would not be business as usual, appealed to everyone in the region to cooperate with the new leadership and assured them of the readiness to mobilise Ijaw youths for the task ahead.
On the peaceful election that produced new executives, Ekerefe commended ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, for hosting the IYC convention in his community, Oporoza, in Gbaramatu kingdom.
NDDC: Annang express support for Akpabio
Members of Annang ethnic nationality of Akwa Ibom State have threatened that they would not take it kindly if any harm befalls Akpabio.
Afe Annang Foundation, in a statement by Prof. Akpan Ibanga Akpan, stated that they had watched with utter dismay and discomfiture the ongoing brickbats in the NDDC that Akpabio supervises as minister.
“As a true son of Annangland and Akwa Ibom State, we wish to register our unalloyed support for Senator Akpabio, especially as he is poised to reposition the NDDC through forensic audit, which, when completed, will bring the much-needed glory to the commission.
“We are fully in support of the forensic auditing of the NDDC, hence, we call for an end to the ongoing controversies rocking the commission to give room for the much-needed cleansing of the agency and reposition the NDDC for better productivity and efficiency without distraction.
“Senator Akpabio should be allowed to carry out his duties without any intimidation or harassment. We are proud of him, his achievements and his efforts so far in repositioning the NDDC.
“Accordingly, we, the Annangs, will not take it kindly if anything happens to our most treasured son, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio. Those hounding him should tread with caution, else they overstep their bounds and draw the ire of his kinsmen.
“We throw our weight behind him even in this troubling times, and urge him to remain fervent and undaunted in his quest to uncommonly develop the NDDC as is his wont.”