By Bayo Adegoke (Reps Correspondent)
Still smarting with fury over the allegation against its members as major beneficiaries of the controversial NDDC contracts, the Nigeria’s House of Representatives, on Thursday, resolved to drag the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, before a Court of law, for making indicting comment against it.
Akpabio had on Monday, during a House of Representatives Committee probe on funds mismanagement in the NDDC, told the Committee that a greater chunk of total contracts at the NDDC were awarded to members of the National Assembly.
The lawmakers however passed a resolution the next day, giving Akpabio 48 hours to make public, the names and details of such lawmakers who were beneficiaries of the contacts.
At the expiration of the 48-hour ultimatum, Speaker of the House, Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, in his opening speech at the plenary, ordered that the Minister be sued for making such “indicting” comment, which he has failed to substantiate.
Gbajabiamila recalled issuing a 48-hour ultimatum to Akpabio to substantiate his allegation that over 60 percent of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) went to members of the National Assembly.
“I said then that the Honourable Minister owed it to himself and the country to provide evidence to support these serious allegations. The Honourable Minister has failed to respond to my request.
“Therefore, I must conclude that his statement intended solely to gaslight the nation to avoid accountability for the evident maladministration and malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“In my time in the House of Representatives, I have held every leadership position from Minority Whip, through to Minority Leader, Leader of the House and now Speaker. I recognise that the House has not always lived up to the high expectations of the Nigerian people.
“As much as we still have a lot to do in that regard, I refuse to sit here in good conscience and allow anyone to assassinate the character of the House in an attempt to deflect accountability for their conduct in office. Such mendacity as was witnessed at the public hearing will not be tolerated from anybody no matter how highly placed.
“This morning, I asked the Clerk of the House of Representatives to engage the services of legal counsel, and instruct them to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury against the Minister. At the same time, we will instruct counsel to explore the possibility of a civil defamation suit against the Minister.
“The House of Representatives is a public trust placed in our care for the duration of our term in office. We must prove ourselves worthy of this public trust or risk the censure of history.
“Therefore, we will resist every attempt to undermine this institution, whether such attempts come from within or from outside. This House will live up to the highest expectations of the Nigerian people. This is our commitment, and we will not fail.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio has denied that he never alleged that 60 per cent of contacts in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) were awarded to lawmakers.
Akpabio clarified his position in a letter he addressed to the House of Representatives and read by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabimila, at the plenary on Thursday.
NAN reports that Gbajabimila on Tuesday July 21, 2020 issued a 48-hour ultimatum for Akpabio to publish the names of legislators and details of contracts awarded to them by the NDDC.
Gbajabimila had during an investigative hearing on the alleged financial malfeasance amounting to N40 billion in the NDDC, Akpabio had under oath alleged that 60 per cent of contracts in the commission were awarded to lawmakers.
In the letter, Akpabio explained that the investigative committee did not allow him explain what he meant when he made reference to 60 per cent contracts in the NDDC.
“As to the reference to 60 per cent of contracts, the investigative committee refused and neglected to give me opportunity to explain that; I was responding to a question by a member of the committee
“Permit me to explain that any reference to 60 per cent during the investigative hearing was in answer to a question by a member of the committee as to whether or not, a medical doctor could act as Executive Director project which I answered in affirmative.
“That the greatest project in the world today is COVID-19, which is medical in nature; further more, I am made to understand that 60 per cent of NDDC yearly budget are medical in nature, therefore is better for a medical doctor to serve as the Executive Director Projects,” it reads.
“I never referred to members of the 9th House of Representatives as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts as the NDDC is yet to fully implement any NDDC budget since the beginning of the 9th National Assembly.
“The Director Projects forwarded to me 19 old contracts amounting to nine billion naira which the NDDC Chairman in the house insist the IMC pay for,” he said.
Akpabio said that as a former Minority Leader of the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he shall forever hold the ideals of the National Assembly.
He said that will not make the entire document on the old contracts public as he got it from the lead forensic auditor in confidence.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Speaker had earlier directed the Clerk of the House to engage the services of a egal counsel to sue Akpabio for perjury, following his failure to respond to ultimatum about two hours before Akpabio’s letter was read on the floor.
Gbajabimila, however, forwarded the letter to the House Committee on Ethics and Privilege for further scrutiny and legislative actions. ( source: NAN). NNL.