OrderPaperToday – The Senate was on Tuesday thrown into a rowdy session following an exchange of words between two Senators over the headship of an investigation of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over an alleged mismanagement of N40 billion.
Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers) in a motion expressed concern that the development envisaged by the NDDC establishment act has not actually impacted on the region, 20 years after its establishment.
According to him, the operators of the commission’s policies and programmes are “neither focused or have completely abandoned the initial desire of the people of the area and used the commission’s funds on programmes and policies that did not commensurate with funds so far transmitted to it by the federal government and other donors.”
It was as a result of this that President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 disbanded the former management of the commission following allegations of misused funds and being a “financial conduit pipe”.
An IMC was created by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to carry out a forensic audit of the past administrations. It was endorsed by President Buhari who later sent another set of nominees to the red chamber for approval to become the new management of the commission.
This however caused bad blood between the senate and Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, causing Buhari to withdraw the nominees he had sent.
In Sekibo’s motion, he however alleged that the IMC has been more “bedeviled with the same financial misuse, misapplication, misappropriation or outright fraud in the management of the funds of the commission.”
The Senator informed that the IMC has “inundated itself with undue gross misconducts in fraudulent contracts award without due recourse to due process and flagrant disobedience to the provisions of the sections 19, 25, 41 and 42 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.”
He stated that the IMC in the last three months “has spent over N40 billion of the commission’s fund without recourse to established processes of funds disbursement which has open up further suspicion among stakeholders of the Niger Delta region.”
Sekibo also accused the IMC of “arbitrary use of executive power in the alleged wrongful sacking of management staff of the commission without recourse to established civil service rules and practice with the aim of concealing the fraudulent financial recklessness they have committed.”
In his prayers, he asked that the senate committee on Niger Delta affairs carry out a holistic investigation on the misappropriation of N40 billion by the commission as well as all procurements and financial transactions of the commission in the current fiscal year, and any other matter that is not in accordance with the provisions of the NDDC establishment act 2000.
But Senator Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi) disagreed with the prayer of the motion, urging that an ad hoc committee be in charge of the investigation, an amendment that was eventually adopted by the red chamber.
In apparent anger, Sen. Peter Nwabaoshi who is chairman of the standing committee, raised a point of order tackling his colleague for implying that his committee was not living up to its responsibility of oversight of the commission.
He said: “It will be necessary for me to place on the record because this is the house of record and whatever you say here, will always come out and you may be held responsible for that. My learned colleague in the bar, Senator Na’allah raised a point of order and in the process, he said that the committee failed to perform its duties and it is on record. When the issue was raised again, he went over to say again that Sekibo did not bring it on behalf of the committee.
“First, Senator Sekibo is a member of the committee on Niger delta affairs and everything he did here was in consonance and approval of the members of this committee. For him to say that the committee is not part is a misnomer. When motions are not brought in the names of a committee, it has never happened in this senate unless a report is brought in the name of a committee.
“Secondly, he went further to say I have ‘stopped’, that we have relegated on our powers or our functions. That is what it means. That is not correct. The period under the investigation is three months. If you can follow the motion. Within the period of investigation, we have been, the chamber has been locked and this is first time we are taking motion on the floor of this senate.
“To say that a member of the committee brought a motion and it was debated and you say that the committee has relegated on its powers, it is an affront on the integrity and personality of some of us in the committee. He is a lawyer, I am 31 years in the bar, and you cannot make such a derogatory statement about me.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan replying Nwaboashi stated that “it is not strange to have an ad-hoc committee when we have a standing committee.”
Lawan assured Nwaboashi that it was not the intention of the senate to take away the responsibility of investigating the commission from his committee.
He said: “We believe that you have been doing your work. I know personally that you have been involved together as the NDDC is concerned. This is something that was put to vote. It is not strange to have an ad-hoc committee when we have a standing committee.
“We in this 9th senate set up Adhoc committees. I recall that in 2011, I headed a committee to investigate privatization. There was a committee on BPE so this is just the workings of the senate. All that we need to do is to ensure that our committees whether the adhoc or the standing or special committees do their work. I want to assure you that nothing affects the integrity of the committee. It is just to ensure that there is sanity in the NDDC.”
The ad-hoc committee will be headed by Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi (APC, Ekiti North). The following are members: Senators Jika Haliru (APC, Bauchi Central), Tanko Almakura (APC, Nasarawa South), Abdulfatai Buhari (APC, Oyo North ), Chukwuka Utazi ( PDP, Enugu North), Ibrahim Hadeija (APC Jigawa North East ) and Degi – Eremienyo Biobarakuma (APC, Bayelsa East ).