By Reuben Nwankwo (Abuja)

President Muhammadu Buhari

Following the revelation that some members of National Assembly NASS benefited from contracts in Niger Delta Development CCommission, NDDC, a civil society organization CSO, ‘Advocacy for Sanity in Niger Delta (ASIND)’ has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ignore the reports of various committees of National Assembly NASS trying to indict Akpabio or IMC in its on-going probes of NDDC saying NASS has already compromised its position and as a result cannot be a judge in its own case.

This is contained in a press statement issued in Port Harcourt Friday and signed by the National Chairman of the group, Barr Mike Ekelemo stating that the fact that the chairmen of the Senate and House committees on NDDC in previous assemblies were neck deep in NDDC contracts has disqualified NASS from having moral justifications to investigate the expenditure of the commission or to point accusing fingers on anybody as that is viewed as attempt to intimidate and cover up its tracks pointing out that those contract beneficiaries related with NDDC in official capacity as NASS committee heads.

Specifically source from NDDC shows that the former Chairman House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC Hon Nicholas Mutu, who represents the Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency of Delta State is among those linked with contracts in NDDC. The source listed Mutu’s name against 74 projects, including various emergency road projects in Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers states. In fact based on this the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on February 3, 2020, arraigned Mutu before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged abuse of office and fraud involving about N320m.

Another person linked to NDDC contract in NASS is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta-North), with 53 projects, which included emergency repairs of Asue Street, Owa Phase 2; ldumuogbe Road via Ojemaye; Otolokpo College Road, Otolokpo; and the Police lshu Ani Ukwu Road, Issele Uku. Other lawmakers listed with projects against their names are Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Edo-South), six; James Manager (Delta-South), six; Samuel Anyanwu (Imo-West, 8th Senate), 19; and others simply identified as Ondo and Edo Reps.

The statement went further to indicate that for any credible and meaningful probe to be conducted in NDDC, it must be carried out by a neutral and independent body duly insulated from influence of NASS or staff of NDDC which is why Mr President in his wisdom initiated forensic audit to be superintended by an IMC. But it is obvious that since the IMC came on board, myriad of accusation and conspiracy have been concocted to distract or torpedo that primary objective of unravelling the looters of NDDC treasury but it must be accomplished irrespective of whose ox is gored.

“We condemn its entirety the Senate Ad-hoc committee recommendations that henceforth, the NDDC reports directly to President Muhammadu Buhari and that the president dissolves the IMC and set up a board for the commission. They cannot dictate for Mr President how he will do his job as the principle of separation of power is very clear. The president has discretely chosen his ministers to assist him in taking responsibility to various activities of the state and has designated Obong Godswill Akpabio to oversee the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs under which the oversight of NDDC falls” the statement read.

“As obtainable in other democracies, Mr President cannot do everything by himself hence must delegate certain responsibility to other cabinet members the way he has assigned the commission to Akpabio and the IMC.  The fact that some legislators have skeleton in their cupboard in relation to NDDC is not a valid reason to discredit his appointees in the NDDC and seek their sack at whims and caprices. For now, let us allow the forensic audit to be completed and whatever revelation we get from there can be taken further. We must know those who looted the treasury of NDDC” the statement added.

In addition, the statement wondered “why the senate recommendation wants the forensic audit be transferred from the oversight of a neutral body as IMC to Auditor General of the Federation AGF. Is it because NASS has oversight functions on AGF and can influence the outcome? Has AGF office not been there and carrying out its audit function while the resources of the commission was engrossed in massive malfeasance? Or is it now that the president has come up with innovative approach to use independent body as IMC to unearth forensic audit in NDDC that the AGF will wake up from slumber?” The statement queried.

Ever since president Buhari’s idea of carrying out forensic Audit of NDDC was initiated to uncover those perpetrating massive corruption in NDDC and reposition the agency established to develop the Niger Delta region towards fulfilling its mandates, certain individuals have been up in arms against the exercise. As a ploy, no week passes by without bringing up one allegation or another against the IMC or the Minister ostensibly to distract, delay or drop the idea of the audit completely. If it’s not N40 billion, it is N80 billion or even N180 billion. But the minister understands when he said “it is corruption fighting back but it will not succeed. President Buhari is determined to get to the root of the challenge of corruption in NDDC and it must be accomplished.”

It must be noted that few weeks ago both chambers of NASS in an unusual coincidence passed a resolution to probe allegation of N40 billion fraud and other accusations of mismanagements levelled against the NIM of NDDC and the minister of Niger Delta Affairs. The exercise commenced two weeks ago in the senate and later last week in the House of Representatives. In the House of Representatives the panel overtly displayed aggression and intimidation on their invitees that allegedly implied that they were playing out a script. Now the emerging reports from the probes seem directed in stopping IMC which is a battle NASS lost earlier. Will it succeed in this unholy advancement? Only time will tell.

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