Senator representing Delta South, James Manager, his counterpart Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North) and many of their other colleagues in the Senate have moved against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, over his controversial claim that Federal lawmakers were awarded 60 per cent of all contracts by the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Ayo Akinyelure (Ondo Central) told journalists that the allegations were unfounded and sheer blackmail.
According to him, “As a matter of fact, the submission of Senator Akpabio is cheap blackmail, which cannot be tenable anywhere in Nigeria. Senators are representatives of the people in the legislature and we have the power of Appropriation. Projects allocated to us are put in the various ministries and agencies of government, where they can be fully executed.
“Those of us from the Niger Delta region can lobby for some of the projects to be put in their various constituencies. That does mean that the money for their execution was given to senators. We don’t touch money here but influence projects to be executed in our constituencies. When that is done, the Executive arm of government will advertise for contractors to bid for them, and award them, following due process.”
Last week, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had asked the Akinyelure-led Committee to probe the allegations and alleged blackmail against the Senators by the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission that they were awarded contracts and report back in four weeks.
Akpabio, in a document attached to his response to the 48 hour ultimatum by the House of Representatives, claimed four senators received 74 contracts from the commission between 2017 and 2020.
The minister had alleged that about 53 NDDC contracts were executed by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi between 2017 and 2019.
He also accused three other senators, including Matthew Urhoghide, James Manager and Sam Anyanwu of executing a total of 21 NDDC contracts during the period under review.
Akpabio, however, did not state if the lawmakers were directly awarded the contracts or they nominated the projects under their Zonal Intervention Projects, also known as constituency projects.
The minister, also failed to provide the cost of the projects listed against the lawmakers’ names, while the cost of contracts given to non-lawmakers had costs of various projects attached to them.
It was also observed that contracts listed against the names of the lawmakers were not up to 60 per cent of the 266 on the list provided by Akpabio.
Akpabio had made the allegations in a letter sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Akpabio, while testifying before the House Committee probing alleged illegal spending and funds mismanagement at the NDDC last week, had claimed that Federal lawmakers benefited up to the tune of 60 per cent of all contracts awarded by the NDDC, an allegation Gbajabiamila has described as an attempt to malign lawmakers, mess up the investigation by the National Assembly and “assassinate the character of the House in an attempt to deflect accountability for their conduct in office.”
Also, Senator Manager, representing Delta South Senatorial District in the National Assembly, on Monday, faulted Akpabio’s claims, saying NDDC never awarded any contract to any company owned by him.
He also said that he was not aware of any company owned by him that had ever bided for government job anywhere in the world.
The lawmaker said the allegations came to many as a surprise, but it was “the gospel truth.”
Manager had spoken in reaction to Akpabio, who had on Sunday named him as one of the members of the National Assembly, who got contracts from the NDDC.
NDDC Executive Director of Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, had also accused the lawmaker of benefiting from contracts of the NDDC.
Senator Manager in a statement on Monday threatened to sue the NDDC Executive Director of Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, for defamation if he failed to name the companies through which he allegedly collected the contracts.
He said, “I sincerely wish to react as follows: That My tenure as chairman of Niger Delta committee in the senate effectively ended in 2015.
“That ever since then, I have never visited NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt or any of its branches.
“NDDC never awarded any contract to any company owned by me. That I do not know of any company owned by me, that has ever gone into bidding of government job anywhere in the world. (This may come to many as a surprise many but that is the gospel truth).”
While challenging Ojougboh to back his claims with for proofs, Manager noted, “That those who are alleging to defame me must be aware of the consequences.
“That in the interest of the gullible innocent public, the authors led by the said Dr Cairo Ojougboh or any other person should provide among other things the following please;
“(A) detailed description of the said jobs. (B) names of companies. (C) payments already made and to whom?. (D) job performance. (E) The Directors as they appear in the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
“That I sincerely in the name God request for proof of evidence. This is a very simple minimum demand.”
In his own response to the allegations, Senator Nwaoboshi accused Akpabio of being “extremely mischievous” in his alleged attempt to drag his reputation in the mud.
Nwaoboshi, who spoke through one of his legislative assistants, Awele Onokwai Snr., said that Akpabio and his acolytes planted in the NDDC’s IMC had overtime made “the unsubstantiated allegations” without showing any prove of how the said contracts are linked to him.
He, however, challenged the Minister to liaise with the Corporate Affairs Commission to publish, for public consumption, the names of shareholders, as well as Board of Directors of the companies that executed the 53 contracts he claimed were purportedly awarded to him.
He said that his response was to disabuse the minds of Nigerians, who would want to believe the “several lies constantly churned up by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs in an attempt to ridicule and undermine the NDDC’s probe by the National Assembly.
Nwaoboshi’s statement read, “We make bold to state categorically, the following:
“Since his election into the Nigerian Senate as the Senator representing the good people of Niger Delta, Distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi has, at no time whatsoever, executed any contract on for or on behalf of the NDDC.
“The 53 contracts allegedly listed to have been executed by Distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi were awarded to different companies and we believe these companies must be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), a federal parastatal charged with the responsibility of overseeing the existence of corporate entities in Nigeria.
“As a matter of fact, he who alleges must prove and it is on this sacred maxim that we are challenging the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to liaise with the Corporate Affairs Commission to publish, for public consumption, the names of Shareholders as well as Board Of Directors of the companies that executed the repairs of the purportedly 53 contracts awarded to Distinguished Senator
“As far as Senator Peter Nwaoboshi is concerned, his hands are clean. He is neither a staff of the NDDC nor is he saddled with the responsibility of paying contractors and it becomes extremely mischievous of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to try and drag the reputation of the esteemed Lawmaker in negative lights.
“On several instances, Distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi has publicly challenged his detractors to publish their facts for the general public and up till this very moment, none have been able to provide water-tight prove or evidence in their failed attempts to implicate the Distinguished Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.
“It is highly instructive for the general public to be wary of the incoherent nature of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and his acolytes planted in the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC. Initially, these inglorious liars told Nigerians and the world that a seating Senator was awarded 1,000 contracts in the NDDC and when pressed to shed some light on such weighty accusation, they recanted to 350 contracts and when further quizzed, it suddenly became 53 contracts. The level of inconsistency of the Minister and his stooges at the IMC is quite alarming and legendary and Nigerians can see the desperate but failed attempt by them to cover their tracks but then, lies have short legs, they don’t travel far.
“We challenge Senator Godswill Akpabio to Account for the over N81bn he has so far misappropriated at the NDDC and stop diverting the attention of the general public. If Senator Godswill Akpabio feels there are incriminating issues which need to be addressed, we urge him to go to the relevant security agencies.
“Senator Peter Nwaoboshi as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta is absolutely committed to discharging his legislative and oversight functions as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) much to the admiration of his constituents and Nigerians at large and no amount of paid media campaign of calumny against his person or Office will take his feet off the gas as he is determined to serve Nigerians distinctly.”