The probe into alleged financial impropriety in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) advanced yesterday, throwing up new twists.
It started with the House of Representatives issuing the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, 48-hour ultimatum to publish names of lawmakers he accused of taking up contracts at the NDDC.
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabimila, who gave the ultimatum to the minister at plenary on Tuesday, asked Akpabio to publish names of companies, contract amounts, location of projects and payment details.
Gbajabiamila warned that failure to publish details of the alleged contracts would attract the full weight of the law.
The Speaker’s ruling followed a point of order raised by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta).
The House was deliberating on the alleged misappropriation of funds amounting to N40 billion in the NDDC.
Akpabio had, while appearing before the House committee investigating suspected financial impropriety at the NDDC on Monday, claimed that 60 per cent of contracts in the commission were awarded to lawmakers.
Gbajabiamila alleged that Akpabio was just playing one of the oldest games in the book by throwing a baseless accusation to cause distractions.
“This is my fifth time in the House and I have never benefited from any contract and it is so for many of us here,” he stated.
He recalled that ahead of the probe, the Chairman of the Committee on NDDC, Olubumi Tunji-Ojo (APC-Ondo), was accused of having contracts without documents to back it up, and that Tunji-Ojo stepped aside as a result of the allegation.
He noted that Akpabio denied knowledge of any of contract Tunji-Ojo was accused of, stressing that such a situation would not be allowed to stand in the parliament.
A source in NDDC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, insisted that some lawmakers were contractors to the Commission.
He told The Guardian that companies linked to some National Assembly members were among the 212 contractors whose payments were recently published in national dailies.
He alleged that when the NDDC 2019 budget was passed, the lawmakers refused to release the budget to the Commission until they were paid for jobs allegedly done. According to him, it was after payment was made for 20 of the jobs between 17th and 19th of March, 2020 that the lawmakers released the budget copy to the Commission
“They wanted to be paid N3.7 billion as 60 per cent of the work done for a N6.4 billion (skill acquisition in Niger Delta). The problem is that none of the work was done. An employee of the Commission had raised a memo that the jobs were not executed and should not be paid for,” he said.