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N81.5bn Fraud: NDDC Top Officials Walk Out On Reps Panel

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Top officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) including the Acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemebrandikumo Pondei Thursday walked out on members of the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, which is currently investigating alleged misappropriation of the sum of N81.5bn within six months.

The period under review of the alleged fraud is between January and July, 2020.

After the committee took the roll call of invitees and confirmed that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, was absent, it called on the NDDC to make its presentation.

Trouble started after Prof Pondei, who led members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) demanded that the House Committee Chairman, Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, should step down as he had also been indicted of various “crimes” against the commission.

Pondei said:

“Let just say that we are not comfortable with the Chairman of this committee presiding over a matter which he is an accused party. The NDDC has over the time accused Honourable Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC and its people, and he has responded in the press. He is an interested party and we do not believe that the NDDC can have justice because he cannot sit on his own case.

“We have no issues with appearing before the committee because we appeared before the Senate committee. And as long as he is the Chairman of this committee, the NDDC will not make any presentations here.”

The request was dismissed by some members of the committee. A member, Shehu Koko, who repeatedly screamed “point of order” before Pondei concluded his speech, said, “Before the chairman rules on what the Acting MD NDDC said, I want to state categorically that – and this is the stand of the parliament – if you have anything against the Chairman of this committee, there are many ways you can report your matter.”

Koko asked the NDDC to petition the Nigeria Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission or the Department of State Services for any infraction allegedly committed by Tunji-Ojo.

He stressed that the rule of the parliament is that nobody can come and dictate to members that the Chairman ‘’cannot sit because this is not the matter in question now.

Another member, Benjamin Kalu, referred the committee and the invitees to the provisions of Section 60 of the Constitution, which allows the parliament to regulate itself.

Kalu said, “The House has decided that this is a committee affair and not a personalised affair. Since it is not about the Chairman of the committee, and there is no petition or official document before the House, and the motion that called for this probe by this committee has not been rescinded by the House, I think it is out of order for an invited guest to instruct us on how to regulate the activity of the House.

“I’m praying that the Chairman sustains this point of order.”

Another member, Ben Igbakpa, noted that Sections 88 and 89 give the lawmakers express powers to summon and seek for information to avoid waste, corruption and inefficiency, and that was what they were doing.

Igbakpa said, “Nobody has come here to discuss your allegation because it is not an allegation before us; there is no document before us. Whatever allegation you have made us in the air and it remains in the air. And you cannot come here to dictate to us, subject to Section 60.

“Obey that part of the Constitution and listen to what we have to do. Nobody is indicting you. You have the right to fair hearing and that is why you are here. But if you feel that fair hearing is not good for you, then it is sad as a nation.”

Immediately Igbakpa ended his remarks, the IMC team rose and walked out on members and out of the venue.

After, Kalu asked the House committee to put it on record that Pondei and others walked out on the panel.

Following the action, the Committee calls for a warrant of arrest to be issued on NDDC Interim management committee (IMC)members. 


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