Senators accused by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, of collecting contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have rebutted the allegation and told the minister to stop deflecting attention from the demand to give an account of how the commission spent N81.5 billion.
In separate reactions yesterday, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and his predecessor, Senator James Manager, said they did not take any contract from NDDC between 2017 and 2019 as claimed by the minister.
Nwaoboshi, while reacting to Akpabio’s allegation that he was awarded contracts for 53 NDDC projects, challenged the minister to send the list to anti-graft and other security agencies if he can substantiate the allegation.
“The unsubstantiated allegation is in line with Mr. Akpabio’s well-known agenda to continuously blackmail me so as to keep diverting public attention away from the serious mismanagement of the NDDC by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) under his supervision and under the guise of a phantom forensic audit that has no operating timeline,” he added.
He advised the minister and members of the IMC to explain to Nigerians how they spent N81.5 billion within five months.
The IMC spending, Nwaoboshi stated, included 12 questionable expenditures namely: “refreshment/logistic for project verification paid to IMC and staff in the sum of N58.5 million; expenses paid to IMC for 2019 and 2020 budget defence, respectively at the National Assembly totalling N370.1 million; out of which N l43 million is for 2020 budget that is yet to be defended or approved by the National Assembly; reckless expenses paid to IMC and staff to commission only one road, Ogbia-Nembe road for N50.5 million, an amount that is enough to construct a fresh one kilometre road; conflict resolution in Delta State in the sum of N148 million, when there was no conflict known to me or my other colleagues in the National Assembly representing Delta State that was resolved by NDDC; reckless payment of COVID-19 relief to IMC and staff in the sum of N1.5 billion with the IMC members getting N10 million each and expenses incurred by IMC during a courtesy visit to River State Governor in the sum of N41.9 million.”
He listed other IMC spending to include expenses incurred by IMC and staff in not-too-young-to-run programme for N46.6 million; expenses for sponsorship campaign against electoral violence paid to IMC and staff in the sum of N43 million; staff medical checkup in the sum of N4.9 billion; welfare package to Niger Delta youths for N270 million paid to IMC and staff.
He, however, added that the youths have denied receiving any welfare payment.
Nwaoboshi also listed payment to Clear Point Consultancy on rebuttal of media attack against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, in the sum of N39.4 million, describing the payment as incredible and unbelievable expenditure that is currently fueling the media blitz and misinformation by Akpabio and the IMC using Nigerian’s taxpayers funds and payment of N51.8 million monthly allowances to the MD IMC and N18 million monthly for each member of the IMC.
He added that “the above revelations are just a tip of the mind-boggling and reckless payments running into billions of naira paid by the IMC members to themselves and expended with the approval of Akpabio on mundane and useless projects that have no developmental impact on the life and livelihood of the Niger Delta people as envisioned by the founding fathers of the NDDC.
“Mr. Akpabio and his IMC should apologise to the Niger Delta people in particular and Nigerians in general for this grand wastage arising from their crass incompetence. As a realist, I am confident that a day will come when Mr. Akpabio and his IMC will have a date with the law,” Nwaoboshi said.
Also reacting, Manager denied benefitting from NDDC contracts during and after his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs.
Manager, in a statement issued yesterday said his tenure as chairman of the committee ended in 2015.
He said: “Ever since then I have never visited NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt or any of its branches.
“That NDDC never awarded any contract to any company owned by me. That I do not know of any company owned by me that has ever gone into bidding for government jobs anywhere in the world. (This may come to many as a surprise but that is the gospel truth).
“Those who are alleging to defame me must be aware of the consequences.
“That in the interest of the gullible innocent public, the authors led by the said Dr. Cairo Ojougboh or any other person should provide among other things, the following: ‘detailed description of the said jobs; names of companies; payments already made and to whom; job performance; and the Directors as they appear in the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)”.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, described the allegation by Akpabio, that some federal lawmakers received contracts from the NDDC, as unfounded and sheer blackmail.
Akinyelure, whose committee was last week saddled by the Senate to probe the alleged involvement of some senators in NDDC contracts, told reporters yesterday that most of the contracts alleged to have been taken by the listed federal legislators at different times, were constituency projects appropriated for them in the national budget without them collecting a dime to execute them as lawmakers.
According to him, the submission of Akpabio is cheap blackmail which cannot be tenable anywhere in Nigeria.
He said: “Senators are representatives of the people in the legislature and we have the power of appropriation. Projects allocated to us are put in the various ministries and agencies of government where they can be fully executed.
“Those of us from the Niger Delta region can lobby for some of the projects to be put in their various constituencies. That does not mean that the money for their execution was given to senators. We don’t touch money here but influence projects to be executed in our constituencies. When that is done, the executive arm of government will advertise for contractors to bid for them, and award them, following due process.”
Also, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said the current National Assembly was not involved in the NDDC contract scandal.
The clarification, he explained, clearly negated the erroneous impression created about involvement of the majority of present National Assembly members in the contract scam.
Deji Elumoye, ThisDay