By EricJames Ochigbo
Abuja, July 29, 2020
The spokesman for the House of Representatives, Rep. Benjamin Kalu (APC-Abia) has alleged that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, has not proved his allegations against members of the parliament.
In a statement, Kalu challenged the minister to go public with documents to prove that 60 per cent of contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) were awarded to lawmakers.
He recalled that Akpabio had made the allegation at an investigative hearing on the alleged N40 billion financial malfeasance in the NDDC.
He recalled that the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabimila, challenged the minister to publish the list of the members within 48 hours.
According to him, instead of publishing the list for the world to see in the interest of transparency, the minister chose to send an eight-paragraph private letter to the speaker.
Kalu explained that the letter by the minister made reference to projects of 2018 which pre-date the 9th House of Representatives and had little to do with the bogus allegation.
“The House therefore reiterates that the minister was given an ultimatum to publish names and not to write a personal letter to the speaker.
“The minister is hereby cautioned to desist from spinning tales and is invited to go public as instructed.
“Nevertheless, it will interest Nigerians to know that paragraph three of the minister’s letter fully exonerated the 9th Assembly.
“Also, in paragraph seven, the minister completely withdrew his previous statement about 60 per cent of the NDDC projects being awarded to members of the 9th Assembly.
“It is also instructive for Nigerians to note that the total number of projects in the 2019 NDDC budget was 5959 out of which 5416 projects were rolled over from 2018, which the 9th Assembly obviously had no influence or control over,” he said.
Kalu said that Akpabio presented an ineffectual spreadsheet of only 266 projects out of which about 20 projects were attracted by past members of the National Assembly as constituency projects.
He said that the projects were given to the members as contractors, but in furtherance of their representative mandate for the constituency.
According to him, the projects presented in the Akpabio’s letter are not within the scope of the investigation and has done nothing to address the leadership’s ultimatum.
Kalu said that contrary to the mischievous narrative being peddled on the internet, the only mention of the Chairman of the NDDC Committee of the 9th House of Representatives, Rep. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo in that letter, was as to his alleged request for the complete payment of 19 contractors.
The legislator said that the contractors had approached Tunji-Ojo with complaints over NDDC’s non-payment for their services.
He added that the allegation had been completely refuted by Tunji-Ojo and for which there is no evidence linking him.
The spokesman, however, said that the directive to press charges against Akpabio has not been lifted by the House as the leadership was busy considering the weight of the minister’s letter.
“If it does not clear the doubt and wrong perception, it will be sent to the court for clearance as the speaker stated,” he added.