OrderPaperToday – The corruption crisis which led to a presidential order for a forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) seems to be having a ripple effect in the National Assembly as the House of Representatives has distanced itself from allegations of a N3trillion contract awards scam.
It was a rash of reactions from the green chamber as both its spokesman and committee chairman in charge of the NDDC spoke on the same issue within hours.
The spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Mr. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) in a statement made available to pressmen in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed all allegations, saying: “The attention of the House has been drawn to certain statements by Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Executive Director, Projects and member of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (“NDDC” or the “Commission”), in what can only be described as an unhinged television interview on Arise News.
“The House of Representatives understands that the spurious and defamatory claims made in that interview by Dr. Ojougboh were engineered to cast aspersions on its integrity and credibility. Therefore, while we cannot speak to the activities of the previous assemblies, it has become imperative for the 9th and present House of Representatives to issue the following rebuttal.”
Shortly after the statement from Mr. Kalu was released to the media, Chairman of the House Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo (APC, Ondo), addressed a press conference where he described as spurious and untrue the allegations of contract awards.
Mr. Tunji-Ojo during press briefing on Tuesday said it was a move to blackmail the legislature and turn attention away from a probe of the affairs of the IMC after threats by militants had failed.
According to him, “it is unfortunate that these allegations are coming. Obviously, this is share blackmail and we expected this from the onset when the investigation process started. The bottom line is that we are not going to be deterred. This is coming after threat to life by militants and different text messages which has failed.”
The lawmaker also pointed to the fact that National Assembly did not have powers to award contracts and therefore wondered why it would be accused of awarding contract that was not in the budget.
“In the first place, the National Assembly does not award contracts. So, I am surprised that anybody will award a job that is not in the budget. I have gone through the 2019 budget as approved and I can tell you that there is no provision for emergency training and so, I don’s know what he is talking about,” he said.
The lawmaker dismissed alleged claims by the NDDC official his Committee was involved in budget padding, saying the lawmakers only performed their roles as provided for in the constitution.
He also said that “not a single project was removed” as alleged, stressing that “all these allegations are coming because the National Assembly decided to institute a probe after calls and different petitions. Threats has been used as a weapon to stop the National Assembly and that has not worked and the latest one is this issue of blackmail and we have told them that if they have any document against us, please release such document or approach the relevant security and anti corruption agencies.
“But the National Assembly will not be deterred from doing its work. We owe our loyalty to the Nigerian people and as a committee, we owe our loyalty to the people of the Niger Delta that has been deprived over the years. This time, we must have a commission that will work not just for the people, but for everybody in the Niger Delta”.
He also informed that apart from contribution from the federal government, the monies being donated to the commission from other agencies were not been accounted for by the commission.