The Senate on Sunday called on the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to submit to its lawful probe rather than throwing tantrums in the media.
Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, in a statement in Abuja, said the probe instituted against the IMC by the National Assembly was borne out of concern about alleged poor management or outright fraud in the agency.
Basiru described the IMC’s accusation of corruption against members of the NDDC Committee in the Senate and House of Representatives as cheap blackmail.
He wondered why the NDDC’s IMC has not deemed it fit to challenge the powers of appropriation and oversight of the National Assembly over the agency in court instead of making wild allegations in the media.
He insisted that notwithstanding the IMC’s campaign of calumny against members of the National Assembly, the agency has failed to take an appropriate step to lodge a formal complaint against those it has accused of fraud with the anti-graft agencies.
Basiru’s statement reads: “The attention of the Senate has been drawn to a statement credited to Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, the Executive Director (Projects) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the Interim Management Committee (IMC) that Senators and Members of House of Representative are behind the fraud in NDDC.
“Ordinary, while we are still at a loss as to why Dr. Ojougboh has repeatedly made such allegations at a time when the NDDC is under scrutiny of forensic audit and investigation by the National Assembly, the Senate is even more surprised considering the fact that the allegations are baseless and unsubstantiated.
“Apparently Dr. Cairo Ojougboh is ignorant of the constitutional mandate of the National Assembly to carry out oversight function over all agencies expending government resources with a view to exposing and preventing corruption and abuse.
“It stands logic in the head to claim that by invoking its constitutional power of oversight to investigate the activities of the IMC, the National Assembly intends to scuttle forensic audit. The outlandish claim is illogical.
“What is the adverse relationship between oversight function of the National Assembly and a forensic audit?
“While the National Assembly is committed to reposition the NDDC to address the challenges of the Niger Delta through facilitating the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta however, it is naturally concerned about the allegations of poor management or outright fraud in the management of the funds and operations of the commission.
“The setting up of the investigation is predicated on the above concern and not to victimise or witch hunt anyone.
“It was also in this regards that the National Assembly has accorded the executives the necessary cooperation that will facilitate the completion of the forensic audit.
“Dr. Cairo Ojougboh as a former member of the House of Representatives should know that the National Assembly is vested with the powers of appropriation for all government ministries, departments and agencies including the NDDC.
“It will appraise the budget and its operations of the Commission like other agencies to entrench a culture of transparency and accountability.
“Therefore, on the allegations in respect of the budget, one wonders whether this it is not a ruse as to why is it being brought up in the wake of exercise of oversight function by the National Assembly.
“It clearly smacks of cheap blackmail predicated on falsehood. Also, one would have expected an organisation of integrity to have formally made complaints to the anti- corruption agencies of the purported allegations against Senators and Members of House of Representative of the NDDC committees if there are facts to substantiate same.
“The Senate and indeed the National Assembly is also committed to exercising it constitutional mandate and will not be cowed by spurious allegations of the likes of Dr. Cairo Ojougboh.
“This is a very disturbing trend and the Senate will not tow this path. The proper avenue to challenge exercise of power of the National Assembly is the court of law not spewing falsehood on pages of newspapers and electronic media.
“The National Assembly will not succumb to cheap blackmail from any quarters and is committed to ensuring probity and accountability of all agencies of government no matter whose ox is gored.”