Akpabio Must Publish Names Of Lawmakers Who Got NDDC Contracts, Reps Insist

The Minister of Niger Delta appeared before a House of Representatives committee on July 20, 2020.
A file photo of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, during his appearance before a House of Representatives Committee on July 20, 2020.

 

The House of Representatives has asked the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, to publish the names of the members of the National Assembly who got contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Spokesman for the House and Committee Chairman on Media Affairs and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu, said this in a statement on Tuesday.

He noted that the minister had alleged that 60 percent of all the NDDC projects were awarded to members of the lawmakers between the months of January and May 2020.

Kalu explained that following the claim, the leadership of the 9th House issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Akpabio to publish a list of the lawmakers.

He decried that rather than doing as instructed, the minister wrote to the Speaker of the House, adding that the content of the letter was irrelevant to the issues raised.

The House spokesman revealed that the lawmakers were already evaluating the minister’s letter and the directive to press charges against him have not been lifted.

He said if the letter does not address the issues raised, it would be sent to the court for clearance as the speaker had stated.

Kalu, therefore, urged Nigerians to continue to ask the right questions as to what happened to the N81.5 billion said to have been mismanaged by the NDDC in six months.

Read the full statement below:

SEN. AKPABIO’S PERSONAL LETTER TO THE SPEAKER EXONERATES THE 9TH HOUSE BUT FAILS TO MEET THE ULTIMATUM, THE MINISTER IS INVITED TO PUBLISH THE LIST AS INSTRUCTED

Following a motion unanimously adopted by the House, an investigation was ordered into the activities and financial malfeasance of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and its Interim Management Committee (IMC) between the periods of January to May 2020.

In a coordinated and calculated attempt to distract Nigerians from the ongoing investigation, the Minister of NDDC and the leadership of the IMC raised spurious allegations against members of the National Assembly.

The Minister claimed under oath that 60% of all the NDDC projects under investigation were awarded to members of the House between the months of January and May 2020.

Following this disturbing allegation, the leadership of the 9th House issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Minister to publish a list of the legislators allegedly awarded 60% of the entire projects of NDDC between January and May 2020.

Instead of publishing the list for the world to see in the interest of transparency, the Minister in his usual diversionary tactics, chose to send an irrelevant 8-paragraph private letter to the Speaker regarding projects of 2018 which pre-date the 9th House of Representatives and had little to do with the bogus claims he made.

The House, therefore, reiterates that the Minister was given an ultimatum to publish names and not to write a personal letter to the Speaker. The Honourable Minister is hereby cautioned to desist from spinning tales and is invited to go public as instructed.

Nevertheless, it will interest Nigerians to know that paragraph 3 of the Minister’s letter fully exonerated the 9th Assembly. Also, in paragraph 7, the Minister completely withdrew his previous statement about 60% of the NDDC projects being awarded to members of the 9th Assembly.

It is also instructive for Nigerians to note that the total number of projects in the 2019 NDDC budget was 5,959 out of which 5,416 projects were rolled over from 2018, which the 9th Assembly obviously had no influence or control over.

Therefore, unable to prove his claims, the Minister presented an ineffectual spreadsheet of only 266 projects out of which about 20 projects were attracted by past members of the National Assembly as constituency projects, not as contractors, but in furtherance of their representative mandate.

The projects presented in the Minister’s letter are not within the scope of the investigation and do nothing to address the leadership’s ultimatum for him to publish the list of names of the members who he claimed took 60% of NDDC projects from January to May 2020.

Also, contrary to the mischievous narrative being peddled on the internet, the only mention of the Chairman of the NDDC Committee of the 9th House of Representatives, Rep. Tunji Ojo in that letter, was as to his alleged request for the complete payment of 19 contractors who had approached him with complaints over NDDC’s non-payment for their services.

This is, however, an allegation which has been completely refuted by Rep. Ojo and for which there is no evidence linking him.

The one member of the House mentioned in that letter only attracted the project to his federal constituency, in the same manner that the NDDC MD, EDFA, EDP, Chairman etc applied to the Commission for attention to the needs of their people and were obliged.

This attraction of projects does not in any way mean that contracts were personally awarded to them.

Additionally, the letter also listed the names of contract awardees with no evidence linking them to those who attracted the projects to the beneficiary communities. It takes lifting the corporate veil for the directors to be seen and the Corporate Affairs Commission is there to establish who the real owners of the companies are.

Until then, it is wrong to attempt to establish a nexus which currently does not exist. The document remains a mere spreadsheet of people who attracted projects to their communities in furtherance of their representative functions.

Furthermore, the directive to press charges against the Minister has not been lifted by the House as the leadership is busy considering the weight of the Honourable Minister’s letter. If it does not clear the doubt and wrong perception, it will be sent to the court for clearance as the Speaker stated.

Once again, the letter’s annexures showing 2018 projects have no relevance to what was requested from the Minister because it was outside the scope of his claims, it was also not comprehensive but selective by mentioning only one current member for attracting projects to his constituency and not for receiving contracts.

The House is mindful of a letter currently before it where the Minister also applied to attract several projects to his Senatorial Zone during his time at the Senate, does it mean the contracts were awarded to him?

Nigerians are encouraged to ignore the deflections of the Honourable Minister and continue to ask the right questions as to what happened to the money of the region which has led to a gross disservice to Niger-Deltans.

Nigerians should start asking the right questions and demanding the right answers; and the right question remains, “What happened to Nigeria’s ₦81.5billion under the charge of NDDC in the space of 6 months?”

Signed

Rep. Benjamin O. Kalu

Official Spokesperson

Reps Ask Committee On Police Affairs To Investigate Invasion Of Joy Nunieh’s Home

Some members of the House of Representatives during plenary  Photo: Twitter- @HouseNGR

 

The House of Representatives has mandated its committee on Police Affairs to investigate the circumstances surrounding the invasion of the home of the former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh.

The resolution was reached during plenary on Thursday following a matter of urgent public importance raised by the Deputy Majority Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who queried the motive behind the invasion.

The lawmaker believes the action was done to prevent her from giving her testimony before the House committee on the NDDC.

Armed security operatives surrounded the home of Joy Nunieh, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital at about 4 a.m on July 16, 2020, in an attempt to break into her apartment for hours without success.

 

A file photo of former acting NDDC MD, Dr Joy Nunieh, defending the agency’s 2019 budget before lawmakers in February 2020 at the National Assembly in Abuja. Twitter: @NDDCOnline.

 

Ms. Nunieh reached out to the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike who swiftly responded to her distress call and came with his aides to challenge and stop the attempted arrest.

Wike eventually asked the operatives to leave the former NDDC MD’s premise, an order which was grudgingly complied with.

Afterwards, the governor asked Ms. Nunieh to get into a vehicle in which she was transported back to the State House where she is currently taking refuge.

Narrating her ordeal to newsmen, the ex-NDDC boss thanked the governor for his intervention, saying Wike is a man of his word.

According to Ms. Nunnieh, the security operatives stormed her residence at about 4 a.m that day with the intent to whisk her away but she refused because they did not have a warrant.

Terrified, she then reached out to Governor Wike but was not able to get through the first time because his number was switched off.

“I tried to reach him but the phones were switched off, so I called some people and they said these people might not be real policemen.

“They said they (security operatives) came to take me away, I said for what? Do they have a warrant for arrest? They said no warrant of arrest, so I left it.

“About 6 a.m they broke the gate and later Senator Magnus Abe now called me that he had reached the Commissioner of Police who said he didn’t know anything about it (the arrest).

“So the CP called, I sent him my address, they told me the CP was downstairs but the CP was not downstairs, it was the Deputy Commissioner who was around; so I opened the door, they wanted to grab me, I now pushed back the door and locked it.

“I got through to my governor, they tried to break the back door, its a security door so they kept hitting for over one hour and they couldn’t get access.

“So my governor came, asked them for their warrant of arrest and why they did not invite me to the police, that I will come, instead of going to take a woman like a criminal.

“So, the governor took me in his car and here I am refuging in the Government House.

“I want to thank his excellency for keeping to his word that nothing should happen to the daughter of Rivers State,” Ms. Nunieh narrated.

Don’t Release Funds For Public Works Programme, Reps Tell Finance Minister

In this photo released by the House of Representatives, some lawmakers are seated during one of the plenaries in the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.

 

The House of Representatives has asked the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed not to release any funds to the Public Works Programme of the Federal Government if it will breach due process.

The House is also asking President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige to follow due process by ensuring that the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) takes charge of the employment progress of the public works programme.

This follows a motion of urgent public importance raised by the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu on Tuesday during plenary.

According to the motion, the President’s directive to Keyamo to go ahead with the implementation of the programme would make it difficult for the National Assembly to carry out its oversight function on the programme.

According to Okechukwu, the Minister of Labour is only mandated to supervise the NDE.

Reps Issue Arrest Warrant After NDDC Boss, Others Walked Out Of Investigative Hearing

 

A team of top officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) walked out on lawmakers on Thursday at an investigative hearing put together by the House of Representatives. 

The Commission refused to make presentations before the House Committee on NDDC.

According to the acting managing director of the NDDC, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, the Commission cannot partake in an investigative hearing which is being presided over by the Chairman of the Committee who has been accused by the NDDC of hijacking the Commission’s projects.

READ ALSO: Armed Security Operatives Surround Nunieh’s Home, Wike Moves In To Intervene

Professor Pondei was of the opinion that the NDDC would not get a fair hearing.

Following the NDDC’s action, the lawmakers resolved to issue a warrant of arrest compelling Professor Pondei to appear before the lawmakers and make a proper submission.

Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Ojo, at an investigative hearing held at the National Assembly in Abuja on July 16, 2020.

 

Meanwhile, armed security operatives on Thursday surrounded the home of former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

The security operatives are said to have stormed the former NDDC MD’s residence in the early hours of the morning.

Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike reportedly moved to intervene in the stand-off and did resolve the issue.

It was gathered that Joy Nunieh was due to appear before a House of Representatives Committee in Abuja today.

Though the stand-off stopped Mrs. Nunieh from making the trip, she will be making a presentation via zoom.

Reps To Investigate Purported Resignation Of Over 356 Soldiers

In this photo released by the House of Representatives, some lawmakers are seated during one of the plenaries in the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.

 

The House of Representatives is to investigate the purported resignation of over 356 soldiers from the Nigerian army.

This follows a motion of urgent public importance raised by the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, and co-sponsored by three other leaders of the house.

According to the motion, a memo from the aggrieved soldiers was sent to the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, dated July 3, with reference number NA/COAS/001, quoting the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Soldiers/Ratings/Airmen (revised) 2017.

READ ALSO: Reps Endorse Ngozi Okonjo Iweala’s Candidacy As DG Of World Trade Organisation

In leading the debate, Monguno stated that the protests by junior officers of the Nigerian army have become a recurring decimal which is a serious source of concern.

He feared that the morale of the officers is at an all-time low which is affecting the outcome of the war against insurgency.

The house has mandated its Committee on the Army to investigate and report back in a week.

Reps Ask Buhari To Allow Unity School Students Write WAEC Exams

In this photo released by the House of Representatives, some lawmakers are seated during one of the plenaries in the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.

 

Members of the House of Representatives have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that students in unity schools participate in this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

The lawmakers made the call during plenary on Tuesday at the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

WASSCE is a standardised test conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for senior secondary school students in the graduating class.

The lawmakers believe no good will come out of stopping the students in Nigeria from writing the exams scheduled to hold from August 4 to September 5, 2020.

They stressed that the authorities of various schools can handle the exams as long as the COVID-19 protocols of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were adhered to.

The lawmakers warned that failure to allow the students to take the exams could send the wrong signal to the international community and investors that Nigeria was unable to handle the pandemic.

In their resolutions, they urged the President to reverse the decision of the Federal Ministry of Education withdrawing the nation from participating in WASSCE and other similar examinations.

Female Candidates Outshine Male As WAEC Withholds 180,205 Results
A file photo of WAEC logo.

 

The House also asked the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to immediately implement the health safety measures outlined by the Federal Executive Council for the conduct of the examinations, as well as provide soap, hand sanitisers and all other requirements stipulated by NCDC.

It, therefore, mandate the House Committees on Basic Education, Healthcare Services, Water Resources, and Legislative Compliance, to ensure compliance and report back to the lawmakers within two weeks.

The resolutions followed a motion on the urgent need to halt the Federal Government’s withdrawal from WASSCE and other common entrance examinations, and to provide enabling environment for students to write their examinations in accordance with NCDC guidelines.

Nnolim Nnaji, who represents Nkanu East/Nkanu West Federal Constituency (Enugu State), sponsored the motion which was supported by about six other lawmakers.

On July 6, the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, announced that WAEC had fixed August 4 to commence this year’s WASSCE.

Nwajiuba, who spoke at a briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, urged states and schools willing to allow their students to take the exams to prepare them ahead.

He explained that as soon as the WAEC examinations were concluded, the government would take up the National Examination Council (NECO) and the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) examinations.

Barely two days later, the Minister of Education said the government would not allow any unity school to participate in the scheduled exams until schools were considered safe.

Adamu had also asked WAEC and the state governments to reconsider their decision to open for the exams.

Reps Begin Probe Of Power Sector 

A file photo of lawmakers during plenary at the House of Representatives chamber in Abuja.

 

The House of Representatives has commenced a probe of the power sector.

This is being carried out by the Adhoc committee led by the majority leader of the house, Ado Doguwa, who says the sector is confronted with the issue of liquidity, with the gas suppliers claiming billions of naira being owed them.

According to him, another major challenge is the fact that tariffs are not cost-reflective.

The committee’s mandate covers the entire privatization process which Nigerians and indeed the lawmakers say has shown no improvement in the power sector, despite billions of naira that have been sunk into it.

Reps Query Home-grown School Feeding Programme

 

The House of Representatives has queried the Federal Government’s home-grown school feeding programme.

The Special Adviser to the President on School Feeding Programme, Dotun Adebayo confirmed this on Wednesday.

Speaking before the Huse of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, he said that states engage the schools and cooks while the Federal Government makes the payments.

The lawmakers are requesting the details of the cooks engaged, as well as the pupils.

Reps Grill PTF Over N22bn COVID-19 Funds

Some members of the House of Representatives during plenary on April 28, 2020. Photo: Twitter- @HouseNGR

 

The House of Representatives on Monday grilled members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID19 over the expenditure of funds allocated and donated for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and the Minister of Health, Professor Osagie Ehanire, were represented by permanent secretaries.

In attendance at the session were the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu and the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu.

This comes as the Permanent Secretary, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adekunle, revealed that over N22billion have so far been released to the PTF for its operations.

READ ALSO: About 60% Of 979 Deaths In Kano Linked To COVID-19 – Health Minister

“The Federal Government has at date released N22,163,130,411 to the PTF Operations Account. N164,929,475 has been utilised for the management of the affairs of returnee evacuees,” he said.

On his part, the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts and leader of the joint committees, Mr Wole Oke, said the PTF members were summoned to give account and clear the air on “insinuations” about COVID-19 funds.

The committee is also issuing a warning to the Accountant General of the Federation, who failed to honour the invitation of the committee, to stop disobeying the summons of the committee or a warrant of arrest would be issued against him.

Reps Will Continue To Engage NLC For Improved Workers’ Welfare – Gbajabiamila

A file photo of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has given an assurance that the House will continue to engage the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to improve the welfare of Nigerian workers.

The Speaker, who commended Nigerian workers for their sacrifices over the years, said the 9th Assembly would not hesitate to promote good ideals that would strengthen their working environment.

Gbajabiamila said he was deeply concerned by the issue of strikes that come up from time to time, which he said would not augur well for the country’s economy.

Speaking at a meeting with the national leadership of NLC led by its president, Mr Ayuba Waba, the Speaker encouraged Nigerian workers to support the government and do what is right at all times.

According to him, since the inauguration of the 9th House on June 11, 2019, the leadership of the House has intervened in several looming strikes in the health, education and power sector but urged the workers to always exercise some high level of patience.

“We’ll continue to strive towards a convenient environment for workers to avoid strikes and we’ll continue to work for the people.

“We’ll also encourage workers to do what’s right. For example, the issue of IPPIS shouldn’t have come up. When such issues come up, we won’t hesitate to be objective enough,” he said.

“In the 9th House, we adopted the mantra of Nation-Building: A Joint Task. This isn’t about any party, men or women, Islam or Christianity. But it’s about Nigeria and Nigerians. So, we’ll work with you. When it comes to national issues, we should all keep our affiliations aside.”

Gbajabiamila said the House considers the issue of casualisation of workers raised by the NLC president as a very serious matter, and that the House would also ensure the amendment of the labour law to accommodate certain concerns.

“The issue of workers’ right to belong to unions can’t be contested. The constitution guarantees such. On the social dialogue, we’re open to it. Try and bring the amendment. When you bring it, we’ll look at it thoroughly,” the Speaker added.

On the issue of climate change also raised by Waba, Gbajabiamila said: “We believe in it. I’m glad you believe in it. Whatever we need to do, we must do it to avert something that affects everybody all over the world. It’s an essential threat.

“You discussed the economy, that’s probably the most important thing in the front burner. We’re already looking at post COVID- 19.

“This government should be and must be given the credit that they’re walking the talk in terms of diversifying the economy, particularly in agriculture.”

On the concern raised in the area of power, the Speaker said the country must vigorously pursue solutions, noting that the House has for a while concluded work on a bill to criminalise estimated billing and has been forwarded to the Senate for concurrence.

Gbajabiamila also said that the solutions to the challenges faced in the oil and gas industry are the passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) and the fixing of Nigeria’s refineries.

Responding to the issue of fuel subsidy, the Speaker said the Appropriation Act should be the reference point, adding that “If there’s no such provision, and something is spent, it’s the responsibility of the National Assembly to look into that. I believe the committees of the National Assembly are doing a good job.”

To address the concerns expressed by Waba on ensuring transparency in spending COVID-19 funds, Gbajabiamila said the House had already constituted a panel headed by Rep. Haruna Mshelia.

He also said Nigeria needs to have a credible database to be able to make certain decisions and make good plans.

He commended the support of the House for the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, in the face of ongoing adversaries against him, saying a resolution was passed on Tuesday in that regard.

Earlier, Waba said they were at the Speaker’s Office as part of NLC’s efforts to continue with their engagements with the National Assembly.

He said it has been part of their tradition to meet with leaders of the National Assembly from time to time, noting that: “It’s heartwarming that under your leadership the House has passed some pro-people legislation. I particularly remember the anti-casualisation bill and the issue of the minimum wage.

“‎I want to assure you that labour will be a partner in progress with the House as it has been from time immemorial. We will continue to commend the synergy between the National Assembly and the Executive on the current fight against COVID-19.

“It is also worthy of commendation that the House had to suspend its break to attend to the national emergency of COVID-19,” he explained.

While commending the Speaker for intervening in the planned strike actions by some bodies of the union, Waba said such leadership of purpose is what is needed.

He raised issues such as casualisation of workers, amendment of the labour law, rights of workers to belong to different unions, climate change, diversification of the economy, challenges in the oil and gas sector, credible data for the country, spending the COVID-19 fund, the politics in AfDB, among others, which the Speaker addressed.

Reps Approve Buhari’s $22.79bn Foreign Loan Request

Some members of the House of Representatives during plenary

 

The House of Representatives has approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to borrow foreign loans to the sum of $22.79bn for the Federal Government.

According to the Government, the loans are part of the 2016–2018 Federal Government External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan laid before the House on March 5, 2020, before the President’s fresh loan request of $5.5 billion on May 28, 2020.

The Senate had approved the loan on March 6 but the House suspended its consideration of the request indefinitely.

Almost two months later, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Tuesday explained why the lawmakers suspended the consideration of the loan request.

While presiding over Tuesday’s plenary, Gbajabiamila stated that the suspension was due to the protest by National Assembly members from the South-East over the exclusion of the geopolitical zone.

Chairman of the Committee on Loans and Debt Management, Ahmed Safana, presenting his report, notified the lawmakers that the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line project had been inserted into the borrowing plan.

In its recommendation, the committee asked the Federal Government to source funding for the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line in the next borrowing plan.

Below is the breakdown of the loans.

• World Bank – 2, 854, 000, 000

• African Development Bank – 1,888, 950, 000

• Islamic Development Bank – 110,000,000

• JICA – 200,000,000

• German Development Bank – 200,000,000

• China Eximbank – 17,065, 496,773

• AFD – 480,000,000

Total = 22, 798, 446, 773

Buhari Writes Reps, Seeks Approval Of $5.513bn Loan

President Muhammadu Buhari at his office in the Presidential Villa in Abuja on March 26, 2020. Photo: Twitter- @NGRPresident

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the House of Representatives, seeking the approval of a  fresh $5.513bn loan. 

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, read the letter at plenary on Thursday.

The President in his letter said the loan was to finance the 2020 budget deficit, finance critical projects of the State and Federal Government.

Senate President, Ahmed Lawan also read a similar letter during plenary on Thursday.

The President further presented a revised 2020 Appropriation Bill and the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper to the National Assembly.

Earlier in May, the House had given approval to the President to borrow N850 billion for the government.

The Senate gave the approval of the said amount in April.