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NDDC probe gets messier

Akpabio, Nunieh absent

The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) yesterday walked out on the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC investigating the alleged corruption and other activities of the commission, including the N81.5 billion frivolous expenses in five months. This is just as the House committee has issued a bench warrant on the acting managing director, Prof. Kemerbrandikumo Pondei.

Trouble started when Pondei declined to make presentation before the committee presided over by the chairman, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, insisting that the lawmaker should recuse himself because he was “an interested party in allegations against the commission.” Pondei said: ”We are not comfortable with the chairman of this committee presiding over a matter in which he’s an accused party.

The NDDC has, overtime, accused Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC. He’s an interested party and we do not believe that the NDDC can have justice because he cannot sit in his own case. “We have no issue appearing, we have appeared before the Senate adhoc Committee. As long as he’s the chairman of this committee, the NDDC will not make any presentation here. There’s no point of order here, we are just stating our stand.” Although, other lawmakers had intervened explaining that the issues raised were personal and there was no petition or any document before the House accusing the committee chairman, the acting managing director led other members of the IMC out of the probe venue. Reacting to this, members of the committee, who described the action of the NDDC IMC as contempt of the parliament, issued warrant of arrest on the team while members passed vote of confidence in the committee chairman, Tunji- Ojo. Earlier, a member of the committee, Shehu Koko, raised a point of order that the MD should not personalize the issues, saying he should not decide how the House should conduct its affairs.

Koko said: ”If you have anything against the chairman, you can go to EFCC, ICPC or any of the security outfits to lay your complaints. But as far as the rule of this House is concerned, you cannot come here and decide how we should conduct our affairs.

The rule of the parliament stands, nobody can dictate to us here because this is not the matter in question.” Moving the motion to issue warrant of arrest on NDDC IMC, House spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu commended the committee members for the maturity exhibited in the face of provocations by the NDDC managing director. Kalu said: ”I want to refer this committee as well as the invited guests to Section 60 which says that, the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have powers to regulate its own procedure. “It is within the parameters of the law that the House regulates its activities, this is a committee affair and not a personalised affair.’

”I want to move that this committee invokes the provisions of Section 89 of the Constitution and invoke our powers on warrant of arrest to compel the agency to come and answer how they have administered the money appropriated to them.”

In a presentation at the hearing, Darlington Nwauju, leader of the Niger Delta Rights Advocates (NDRA) who alleged heavy corruption in NDDC, called for the disbandment of the IMC. He also advocated an amendment to the NDDC Act to compel the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation to submit quarterly reports on the financial activities of the NDDC. Meanwhile, the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who was billed to appear before the committee, failed to honour the invitation just as Ms. Joy Nunieh, the immediate past managing director.

Akpabio had cited his attendance in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting as reason for his absence at the start of the hearing on Wednesday. In the case of Nunieh, her encounter with police who barricaded her residence in Port Harcourt in the early hours of yesterday, before she was rescued by the Rivers state government, may have been responsible.

 

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