Blackmail won’t stop Akpabio, others’ probe, says Senate

The Senate has accused the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, of instigating confrontation between the National Assembly and Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC).

The National Assembly said no one could blackmail them into abandoning the probe into the alleged misappropriation of N40bn belonging to the NDDC.

The two chambers of the National Assembly are currently investigating the NDDC Interim Management Committee over the allegation.

But the IMC acting Managing Director, Keme Pondei, and Executive Director (projects), Dr Cairo Ojougboh, in separate interviews this week, levelled a series of allegations against the National Assembly, faulting the probe.

They alleged that the lawmakers were frustrating the IMC’s efforts to finalise its forensic investigation, because the report would expose some lawmakers.

Pondei on Tuesday alleged that the National Assembly injected over 500 projects into the 2019 budget.

Pondei claimed the “overbearing stranglehold” of the National Assembly panel was responsible for the delay in the passage of the 2019 budget in March.

He said the reason the NDDC applied to the National Assembly for the virement of its 2019 budget was “because the commission only got the letter of approval of the budget on March 20, 2020, after the NDDC was coerced by some lawmakers to pay 20 contractors”.

Ojougboh alleged that some senators got over 1,000 contracts.

However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, at a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja dismissed the allegations, insisting the probe into the finances of the NDDC by both chambers of the National Assembly would continue.

He said, “We are responding to the allegations of the IMC to correct the misrepresentation. If they claim that some 1,000 jobs were given to any Senator, we challenge the IMC team to compile the list of this contracts and publish them.

“Also, the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), police or the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission) should be reached to investigate those claims instead of blackmailing anybody.”

He added, “If members of the IMC know that their hands are clean they don’t need to panic or resort to blackmail which would not in any way deter the already mandated investigative committees of the National Assembly from carrying out their legitimate assignments.

“Their lies have short legs and unfortunately cannot run fast or fly. The IMC must be ready to submit itself for thorough investigation by the committees already assigned for that by both chambers of the National Assembly.

“The allegations of balkanisation of the budget just came because the IMC members were asked to appear before the ad hoc committee to answer questions.

“The National Assembly has the right to appropriate and carry out oversight functions on the Niger Delta Ministry, and the NDDC.

“So, no amount of intimidation or blackmail will stop us.”

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