By Daniel Dafe, Delta
The House of Representatives have dragged the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to court over his inability to show proof that its members were beneficiaries of contracts awards fro the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The lawmakers particularly accused the minister of committing perjury while testifying before the committee probing into alleged malfeasance in the finances of the NDDC.
Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila who made this known via a tweet, disclosed that he had instructed the Clerk of the House to engage the service of lawyers to initiate perjury proceedings against Akpabio after he failed to heed to the House request to publish the list of members who got contracts from the NDDC.
He continued: “Last Tuesday I issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to substantiate his allegation that over 60% (sixty per cent) of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) went to members of the @nassnigeria.
“I said then that the Honourable Minister owed it to himself and the country to provide evidence to support these serious allegations. The Honourable Minister has failed to respond to my request.
“Therefore, I must conclude that his statement intended solely to gaslight the nation to avoid accountability for the evident maladministration and malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).”
He added: “I have held every @HouseNGR leadership position from Minority Whip, to Minority Leader, Leader of the House (Majority Leader) and now Speaker. I recognise that the House has not always lived up to the high expectations of the Nigerian people.
“As much as we still have a lot to do in that regard, I refuse to sit here in good conscience and allow anyone to assassinate the character of the House in an attempt to deflect accountability for their conduct in office.
“The House of Representatives is a public trust placed in our care for the duration of our term in office. We must prove ourselves worthy of this public trust or risk the censure of history.
“Therefore, we will resist every attempt to undermine this institution, whether such attempts come from within or from outside. @HouseNGR will live up to the highest expectations of the Nigerian people. This is our commitment, and we will not fail.”
Recall that at the hearing on Monday while justifying payments of debt to contractors in breach of the budgetary provision, Akpabio said such contracts were usually split to a point where it comes below the threshold of the minister’s approval notwithstanding the fact that Tunji -Ojo was not a beneficiary of the largese.
“If we close down NDDC in totality, all we will have will be chaos and you will have a lot of, not just militancy, but a lot of insurrections. So it is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for those jobs,” Akpabio told the House committee.
“So for me, I am not against it because of course who are even the greatest beneficiaries, it is you people (NASS members).”
When grilled by Boma Goodhead (Rivers: APC) and Shehu Koko (Kebbi: APC) at the hearing to name beneficiaries, Akpabio said: “I just told you that I don’t have a record to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly. But you don’t know.”
“I think I must correct myself. I was saying an example of a contract of N10.9 billion in the Chairman’s place. I am saying that contracts are split to a point where it comes below the threshold of the Minister’s approval. The contract is not for the chain but for the chairman’s state (Ondo).”
The minister, who incurred the wrath of the lower legislative chamber, is yet to come forth with the identities of beneficiaries of the contacts in line with the 48-hour ultimatum given to him on Tuesday.
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