Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, on Monday appeared before the House of Representatives Committee investigating the fraudulent activities in the NDDC.
Akpabio while being probed by the lawmakers revealed that huge percentage of the contracts awarded by the NDDC were awarded to members of the House of Representatives.
“I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given to members of the National Assembly but you (Boma) don’t know about it. The two chairmen (Senate and House) can explain to you,” – Akpabio said.
The minister who spoke while defending the huge expenses recorded by the NDDC during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, said;
“We cannot close down the Niger Delta because of the security implication in the region. We cannot close down the NDDC because of the fact that we are doing forensic audit. The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region, and 90 per cent or more of the resources of the country, on a monthly basis, comes from there. If you close it in totality, all you will have will be chaos.
“It is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it. Who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people. If you look at your chairman, your chairman…”
To apparently stop him from speaking further and exposing the lawmakers, the leadership of the committee interrupted Akpabio, saying “its okay, its okay, its okay”.
Another lawmaker, Goodhead Boma, who was also in the committee however dared Akpabio to mention the names of the lawmakers benefiting from the NDDC contracts.
In his response, Akpabio said; “are you asking me the beneficiaries in the National Assembly? I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given to members of the National Assembly but you (Boma) don’t know about it. The two chairmen (Senate and House) can explain to you. I was a member of the NDDC committee. I know what was going on.”
Boma further asked if he (Akpabio) as a member of the 8th National Assembly was awarded a contract by the NDDC.
“You were a member of the NDDC committee in the 8th Assembly. Are you telling me that a lot of jobs were awarded to you as a member?” she asked.
In his response Akpabio said; “That is why we have to change the modus operandi. You must not allow the two chairmen to hijack the budget every year. You are like me. I was a member like you. I did not know what was going on.”
Another lawmaker, Shehu Koko, however stated that Akpabio alleged that the chairman was given contract in April 2019, but he was only appointed in November 2019.
“You were on air. You said they (NDDC) gave contracts to the chairman of the committee (Tunji-Ojo) in April 2019. And the chairman was appointed in November. He was not a chairman of the committee. He was not even a member of the House,” Koko said.
In his reponse, Akpabio said; “I think I must correct myself. I was giving an example of a contract of N10.9bn in the chairman’s place. I am saying that contracts are split to a point where it comes below the threshold of the minister’s approval. The contract is not for the chairman, but for the chairman’s state (Ondo).”
Koko however insisted that Akpabio should state whether the Chairman of the Committee, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, was awarded contracts.
However, Akpabio stated that it was not Tunji-Ojo because he wasn’t even a member of the House at the time.
Another member of the committee, Kolade Akinjo, also asked Akpabio why he recommended Caira Ojuogboh, a medical doctor by profession, to become the Executive Director of Projects, against Section 12(1)(a) of the NDDC Act?
“How do you reconcile a person who is a medical doctor to become an Executive Director of Projects?” Akinjo asked.
In his response Akpabio said; “You are asking of the qualification for the office of the executive director. I agree with you. That person should be somebody who is vast in project execution. The greatest project today in the world is medical, and that is COVID-19.”
His response was however not good enough for the lawmakers. Boma consequently, asked Akpabio if there was pandemic when Dr. Ojuogboh was appointed?
Disagreeing with Akpabio, Koko, said; “I listened to you very attentively through all your submissions. But I just want to tell you: You came here to mislead the parliament and you are under oath. That is what you have done deliberately. I have my argument and it should be in line with Section 20 of the Public Procurement Act. This is your report; this is what you have presented to the committee.
“You said you had no link on any contract between yourself and the NDDC, that your job was just to supervise. But correspondences show that they are giving you approvals for forensic auditors, between you and the BPP,” he added.
Ogbodo ThankGod is currently the Managing Director/CEO/Group Chief Editor at Naija Buzz News Network. He was the Chief Editor at NaijaBuzz.News before his new top leadership role. Ogbodo has years of experience in the Nigeria Media Industry and has co-founded some media companies. He is the founder of Ogbodo Solution Nigeria and 1Push.Ng. He loves playing football and is a strong supporter of Lionel Messi who he describes as the greatest footballer of all time.