OrderPaperToday – The Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Sen. Peter Nwaoboshi is the second senator to be probed by his colleagues in the 9th National Assembly.

Senator Elisha Abbo was the first to be investigated after reportedly assaulting a woman physically at an adult toy shop in Abuja.

Although the investigation commenced, the probe Committee did not submit a report to the chamber.

The last action was on the 17th of July 2019, when the Chairman of the Adhoc committee, Samuel Egwu, requested more time from the chamber because the matter was in the court.

In Nwaoboshi’s case, he has been copiously named in the corruption scandal currently rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The imminent probe of the ranking lawmaker is part of the resolutions approved by the red chamber on the 23rd of July, 2020 after its ad-hoc committee set up to investigate the alleged financial recklessness by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, presented its report.

The Senate’s probe of its own is as result of several indicting allegations against Nwaoboshi as part of the alleged financial improprieties in the Commission that have surfaced in the last few weeks.

The allegations…

The NDDC management accused the Delta-born lawmaker of using 11 companies as fronts to secure for himself N3.6 billion worth of contracts in September 2016.

Acting Executive Director, Projects of the NDDC, Cairo Ojougboh, at one of the investigative hearings in the federal parliament, claimed that the budgets of the commission since 2001 “have always been hijacked by the leadership of the committee on NDDC from both chambers for their personal gain.”

Similarly, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, in a rather sensational manner at an investigative hearing by the House of Representatives, also stated that lawmakers get contracts from the Commission, a claim he later modified to exempt the 9th national assembly.

All of these have inevitably placed Mr. Nwaoboshi in the eyes of the storm. It has become expedient to profile Nwaoboshi and examine his track record since his assumption of office as senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Who is Peter Nwaoboshi?

Born in 1958 in Delta State, Nigeria, Nwaoboshi attended St.Thomas Teachers College and got his West African School Certificate in 1976. In 1986, he graduated from University of Benin after studying law and did his Master of Laws at Delta State University.

His sojourn in politics started in 1979 as an aide to the late Samuel Ogbemudia, who was then a Governor of the defunct Bendel State.

Thereafter, he was made Chairman of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

In 1999, he was appointed a Political Adviser to Governor James Ibori; and the following year got appointed as Commissioner for Agriculture and Special Duties in Delta State, a position he remained on till 2006.

From 2008 till 2014, he served as the State Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party in Delta State before running for the Senate.

In 2015, he got elected to represent Delta North senatorial district in the National Assembly and served as Chairman, Senate committee on Niger Delta. He retained the committee position upon his reelection in 2019.

His first four years in senate…

In his first legislative term in the red chamber, Nwaoboshi sponsored 7 bills. Four of those bills passed third reading; one stalled at second reading; and two others were read for only the the first time, according to records from the National Assembly.

The bills are: Public Officers Protection Act CAP P41 LFN 2004 (Amendment) bill, 2016 (first reading); Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2016 (third reading); Code of Conduct Act CAP C15 LFN 2004 (Amendment) bill, 2016 (second reading); and Local Government (Repeal) bill, 2016 (First reading).

Others were the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act 2000 (Amendment) bill, 2017 (third reading); Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act 2000 (Amendment) bill, 2017 (third reading); and the Federal Polytechnic Kwale, Delta State (Est, etc) bill 2018 (Third reading).

Interestingly, the two bills which sought to amend the NDDC act focused on how to improve the revenue generation capacity of the Commission to enable it embark on more developmental projects in the Niger Delta region.

It is worthy of note that before the amendment of the principal act, gas companies were excluded from the three percent statutory contributions companies operating in the region were required make. The inclusion of gas companies in the payments to diversify the sources of funding for the commission is a credit to Nwaoboshi.

The other was on representation in the NDDC such that one member from oil producing area of the state will be a member of the Commission.

While the bill granting more revenue to the Commission was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, the one on representation was neither signed into law nor vetoed.

Apart from those 7 bills, notable motions the senator moved in his first four years included one on the ‘monumental’ challenges facing the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) due to paucity and delayed release of funds by the Federal Ministry Finance. He had argued that the delays were threatening “the well-conceived programme as the Amnesty Office is extremely finding it very difficult to meet its obligation to its workers and beneficiaries of the programme.”

A resolution approved from this motion directed the then Minister of Finance to release the balance sum of N15 billion in the 2016 Appropriation Act for the funding of the Amnesty Programme.

Another motion by him resulted in a probe by the red chamber on an allegation that senators were given $50,000 bribe to stop plans to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 on the controversial sequence of elections.

Troubles with EFCC…

In March 2017, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) revealed it was investigating the purchase of “used equipment” as opposed to new equipment that was reportedly supplied by Nwaoboshi and his brother to the Delta State government.

According to the EFCC, Nwaoboshi was said to have used his company, Bilderberg Enterprises Limited, to secure a N2.1billion contract and the sums of N1,580,000,000 and N474,936,000 were respectively paid to to the company. Interestingly, 48 hours before the EFCC made this information public, Nwaoboshi had raised a point of order at senate plenary in which he accused the now suspended EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu of “terrorizing” senators for not confirming him as substantive chairman.

In another charge, the EFCC claimed the senator purchased a 12-story building with N805 million from the Delta State Government using his company, Golden Touch Construction Project Limited. The anti-graft agency claimed Nwaoboshi used the proceeds of the equipment fraud to make the purchase. The commission also alleged that a warehouse was also purchased by him at Apapa Wharf, Lagos for the sum of N800 million.

More findings from the EFCC discovered that Nwaoboshi’s Bank Verification Number (BVN) was registered on some 23 bank accounts which were undeclared and therefore, a breach of the Code of Conduct Act. The accused replied that his brother, Augustine, was the sole signatory to some of the accounts in question.

These issues resulted in litigation at different courts in Abuja, Lagos and Delta states.

The last hearing was at an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court in July 2019. It approved an interim forfeiture of Nwaoboshi‘s 14 properties and 22 bank accounts to the Nigerian government.

Track record in one year of 9th Assembly…

Having been been reappointed as chairman of the committee on Niger Delta, one major duty performed by the committee was the screening of the President’s nominees into the board of NDDC which was supposed to be led by Mr. Pius Odubu.

The screening was conducted vide the ‘bow and go’ tradition which many analysts have criticized.

Also, within one year of 9th Assembly, Nwaoboshi did not sponsor any bill from June 2019 to May 2020, according to bills record obtained from the National Assembly.

Trial by colleagues…

In about a month’s time, the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges which has been mandated to probe Nwaoboshi on the NDDC allegations would have completed work and it’s report considered by the chamber once it resumes from its annual recess in September. How will it end for the controversial senator? Will the probe die a natural death the same way as Abbo’s? Time will tell.

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