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NDDC Probe: PDP Reps accuse Gbajabiamila of shielding defaulting lawmakers

.. Ask Buhari to probe Akpabio's contracts allegations against NASS members

 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Repesentatives has accused Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila of shielding some members alleged to be beneficiaries of contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC).

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio while appearing before the House Committee on Niger Delta Affairs’ probe into the financial malfeasance in the NDDC alleged that most contracts in the Commission are awarded to members of the National Assembly.

Consequently, the House gave Akpabio 48 hours ultimatum to publish the names of members involved in his allegations and at the expiration of the ultimatum threatened legal action against the Minister.

The former Akwa Ibom State Governor sent a letter to the Speaker denying that he did not meant the present Assembly but later named the concerned lawmakers through the Nigerian Youth Council.

To this end, the opposition legislators called on Gbajabiamila to as a matter of urgency halt what they described as: “a slide into a new low” in terms of credebility and integrity of the House in the eyes of the public.

In a letter signed by Leader of the PDP Caucus, Kingsley Chinda (Rivers) addressed to the Speaker, the Caucus expressed concerns over recent happenings in the House, particularly as they concern the NDDC probe and other similar endeavours undertaken by the House under Gbajabiamila.

A copy of the letter which was seen by Correspondent also made reference to the allegations by Akpabio against some members of the National Assembly at the NDDC public hearing, wherein the presiding Chairman was heard telling the Minister to stop making any further revelation as a way of covering up wrongdoings by lawmakers.

The Caucus further accused the Speaker of reading just a part of Akpabio’s response to the 48-hour ultimatum given to him, thereby leaving out portions containing the list of contractor-lawmakers who have allegedly benefitted from NDDC contracts.

The letter reads in part: “We are burdened to write this open letter of appeal to you to take urgent steps tp address the eroding cedibility of the House of Reprsentatives. Of course, as one of the longest serving legislators, you are aware that the Hous of Representatives has faced several challenges since 1999, chief among them is getting the public to repose confidence in it and believe in the integrity of its members and leadership.

“Recent developments, especially following hard on the heels of the investigative hearings empanelled by your leadership, suggest that the House of Representatives has descended into a new and unprecedented low. Sadly, in the eyes of many Nigerians who are our constituents, we have become Doppelhangers of members of the executive arm the House of Representatives set out to investigate in the first place. The similitude is telling, sir. However, as conscientious members, we fear and justifiably so, that the House will continue to plumb the depth of the new low, if you don’t find the courage and firmness to halt the slide, and quickly too.

“The sound bites from the investigative hearings undertaken by the Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC), have not only undermined the House of Representatives, but have also posed bad portents to the institution of the National Assembly. As you are aware, damning allegations, albeit falsely, were made before and during the hearings against some Committee members, notably the Chairman of the Committee.

“Recall that videos which went viral in the social media showed the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio making allegations against some members of the National Assembly. Recall too that the Minister was stopped by some Committee members who were heard saying, ‘its okay, its okay. Off your mic’, and ‘in your interest’; and thus setting off widespread jocular and caricature performances among citizens in the public spaces of our country and indeed globally. If anything undermines the sense of selfworth of members of the House, this is it”.

While noting that allegations by MDAs under probe against the House are not new or strange, as they are often tactics deployed by the executive to divert attention from the subject of investigation, the Caucus however expressed concerns that accusations arising from the probes have been handled with levity despite their grievous nature.

“We are worried that after the Minister responded to your 48-hour ultimatum, you only read part and not the entire content of his letter to the House. The version of the letter published in the social media was much longer; and it specifically mentioned names including some members of the National Assembly. The letter does not exonerate all members of the House as we were told. In fact, it directly mentioned some members in different conflicting and problematic situations with the NDDC.

“The Minister’s letter showed that emergency contracts awarded by the NDDC running into billions of Naira were never executed but were fully paid for. The allegation also fingered some members as allagedly musculing the NDDC into paying for some of these contracts. He also accused some members of collecting some of these emergency contracts in the later part of 2019 through proxies and causing the NDDC to backdate award dates to fit into the 2019 budget that had lapsed at the time. These allegations are damning in the main and should not be swept under the carpet”, the letter read further.

The PDP Caucus therefore urged the Speaker to subject the allegations to further scrutiny, saying that accused persons cannot investigate themselves.

“As a senior lawyer you understand the maxim “nemo judex in causua sua”. Can a Committee of the House in the circumstance truly turn out reports thst the public can take seriously and believe in? You have by this action opened room for the public to continue to disbelieve the House of Representatives”, it said.

The Caucus called on the Speaker to allow President Muhammadu Buhari to set up an independent investigative panel made up of Justices of the high bench, to probe allegations levelled by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs against some members of the National Assembly as that would be the only credible and objective thing to do now.

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