Godswill Akpabio, minister of Niger Delta affairs, says his statement on national assembly members being beneficiaries of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was misunderstood.
In a letter read by Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, on Thursday, Akpabio said the house panel probing the alleged mismanagement of N81.5 billion in the commission did not give him the opportunity to clarify his statement.
Akpabio’s letter was read almost an hour after the speaker said the lower legislative chamber would sue the minister for defamation — after he failed to name the lawmakers who got the contracts.
While appearing before the panel probing the NDDC on Monday, Akpabio said most of the contracts awarded by the commission went to federal lawmakers.
In his letter, the former Akwa Ibom governor still accused Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, chairman of the committee on NDDC, and Peter Nwaoboshi, his counterpart in the senate, of misconduct.
“I hereby respond as follows, the investigating committee refused or neglected to give me the opportunity to explain the reference to ‘most NDDC contracts awarded since 2001 from the records allegedly to members of the national assembly was done without the knowledge of the alleged beneficiaries’. However, the two chairmen of the committees in both chambers have adequate knowledge,” Akpabio said.
“I never referred to members of the ninth national assembly as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts as NDDC is yet to fully implement any NDDC budget since the commencement of the ninth national assembly. In fact, the 2019 budget passed in February and harmonised on 5th of March 2020 was received by the commission in the middle of April 2020 when the same was designated to expire on 31st May 2020.
“However, it is pertinent to point out that the clerk forwarded a letter dated 20th of March without attaching the budget details, this anomaly was brought to the attention of the senate investigating purported financial recklessness by the management of the commission in July 2020.
“It has always been known that the two chairmen of the committees on NDDC in both exhibit unusual influence to the exclusion of committee members and even the management of the NDDC appropriate funds projects after passing of line items at plenary.
“May I assure you Mr Speaker that as a former minority leader in the eight senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I shall forever promote the ideals of the national assembly as an institution, hence I will not make the attached documents public since I obtained the documents from the lead forensic auditors in confidence.
“Permit me to explain that any reference to 50 or 60 percent during the investigative hearing was an answer to a question by a member of a committee as to whether or not a medical director could act as a director projects within the confines if the NDDC act 2000, I answered n the affirmative pointing out that the greatest project in the world is COVID-19 pandemic which is medical in nature.
“I am made to understand that 50 to 60 percent yearly budgets are medical in nature. Therefore it is fitting for a medical doctor to act as executive director projects in those trying times.
“Please accept Sir, the assurance of my esteem regards and do pass my explanation to my colleagues in the ninth assembly who probably misunderstood my assertion.”
After reading the letter, the speaker did not say whether the house will still sue the minister.