The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions has said the information at its disposal is not sufficient to commence the probe of senators indicted in the alleged contract scam at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The ad hoc committee set up to unravel the alleged financial recklessness by the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC had recommended an internal mechanism to investigate lawmakers indicted by the agency to have secured multi-billion naira projects without executing them.
There has been an outcry over the billions of naira stolen from the commission, even as a member of the NDDC Forensic Audit Committee, Prof Isa Sadiq Raddah, said recently that no fewer than 12,000 projects, some of which were partly paid for, had been abandoned.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the Network for Justice on Budget Monitoring and Tracking in Sokoto, Raddah, who is a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, said 1,700 contractors took mobilisation fees and disappeared.
He said, “NDDC for 20 years has got over $40bn. And when you convert $40bn to naira, we are talking of N116tn.
“The entire money was taken away by their young people, leaders, agitators, activists and now the Niger Delta is as bad as many of the rural areas you find in Northern Nigeria.”
But the chairman of the senate panel saddled with the responsibility of carrying out the probe within four weeks, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that the ad hoc committee did not provide relevant details that could assist him in carrying out the task.
Akinyelure also said the probe of a fresh petition against the Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof Daniel Pondei, would wait till September when the National Assembly resumes its current annual vacation.
He said his committee members, who would need sufficient time to study all the allegations contained in the petition, were currently not available following the adjournment of legislative activities till September 15.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, had said during an investigative hearing by the House of Representatives in July that some lawmakers were beneficiaries of NDDC projects.
He subsequently released a list of the contractors, including a senator from Delta State, who allegedly had 53 projects against his name; another senator from the state with six projects against his name; a senator from Edo State, who also had six projects against his name; and a former senator from Imo State, who had 19 projects against his name.
Others were a former chairman of the Reps committee on NDDC, who had 74 contracts against his name; a former Delta State governor and another former governor of Abia State.
While the identified persons denied the allegations, the NDDC Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, said in a statement that the Interim Management Committee of the commission stood by the list released by the minister. It said the names emanated from files in the possession of the forensic auditors.
The statement added, “It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list; the list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors. The ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts.”
But in his interview with one of our correspondents, Akinyelure argued that the information at its disposal at the moment from the ad hoc committee on the senators accused of failed contracts, could not allow his panel do justice to the issue.
He said, “We have yet to receive detailed information from the ad hoc committee. Before my committee can entertain any petition, there must be specific allegations against certain sets of people and the allegations must be clear.
“We must have details of the contracts collected. There must be sufficient details about specific contracts, the level of execution, period of award, contract sum and amount collected. All these are not in the recommendations of the ad hoc committee.
“The ad hoc committee has not given details of the one they want my committee to sit on. We are still expecting them to supply us with information about the specific allegations against the affected senators. We need to have their identity.”
He explained that the committee needed to know the contract the senators collected without execution, adding that there must be specific allegations for the committee to verify and that the minister who made the allegation would need to supply more information.
He added, “I am aware that senators don’t award contract but if it is the ones they facilitated for their constituencies, we would investigate their links to the contractors.
“We will find out the procurement process they went through before the contracts were awarded, those who paid the contractors, and to whose account was the money paid to, was the contract executed or not?
“It is when we have these details that we could ask questions. So, we are still expecting the details of the petition to be forwarded to my committee. The minister (Akpabio), who made the allegations, will also need to supply adequate details.
“We want to know the senators who allegedly collected contracts and those who allegedly demanded bribe. It is when we get all the facts that we could do justice and present our report and recommendations.”
On the fresh petition against Pondei, Akinyelure said, “We will start the investigation when we resume plenary in September. We have to take our time to find out those behind the petition and other details that would guide us on who to invite to come and give evidence.”
“If we don’t have all these details, we cannot do anything. Moreover, most of my committee members are now on vacation. I cannot sit alone as chairman and claim that I’m conducting public hearing.”
He assured the public that the Senate would do justice to the issue.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Senate ad hoc committee that probed the alleged reckless spending at the NDDC between October 2019 and May 2020, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, has said his committee has no further details on the issue apart from the ones already provided in its report.
He said his panel did an explicit job based on submissions of all stakeholders who were requested to provide both written and oral submissions while the exercise lasted.
He said, “I have done the work that was given to me. My report was explicit about the recommendations. I have yet to see details of what Senator Ayo Akinyelure’s committee was asked to do.
“All the information before us were considered and we have written our report. I don’t have any other information apart from what is contained in the report which the Senate had considered, approved and acted upon.” – Punch.