The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Reps Caucus in the House of Representatives has accused the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila of covering up for some members alleged to have benefited from the emergency contracts by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
This came days after the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio appeared before the House Committee on NDDC probing an alleged disappearance of N81. 5 billion and accused the members of benefiting from the commission’s contracts.
In another development, the NDDC, described as baseless, claims by Chief Sobomabo Yackrich that the Expanded Interim Management Committee, EIMC, embezzled the N6.25 billion fund approved for the procurement and distribution of Covid-19 palliatives for Niger Deltans.
The PDP caucus in a strong-worded open letter by its leader, Kingsley Chinda (Rivers), dated August 2, 2020, a copy of which was sighted by our correspondent, wondered why some members of the committee probing Akpabio would be heard during the exercise, asking the minister to stop making further revelation.
The letter read,
“We are burdened to write this open letter of appeal to you to take urgent steps to address the eroding credibility of the House of Representatives.
Of course, as one of the longest-serving legislators, you are aware that the House 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 heard on the heels of the investigative hearings empanelled by your leadership, suggest that the House of Representatives has descended a new and unprecedented low.
“Sadly, in the eyes of many Nigerians who are our constituents, we have become doppelgangers of members of the executive arm the House 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 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.‘‘
Director, Corporate Affairs, NDDC, Mr Charles Odili, in a statement, yesterday, said the commission did not work with Jackrich’s committee after it was constituted because state governors rejected the committee.
“Chief Jackrich approached the commission to work with it in different ways. He was then chosen to oversee the committee involved in the distribution of the Covid-19 palliatives to communities in the Niger Delta. The committee was put in place to ensure transparency in the process.
“Immediately the constitution of this committee was announced, some of the state governors reached out to the commission that they would have nothing to do with it. Instead, they demanded that the palliatives meant for their states be given to them.
“In fact, one particular governor declined to give the permit to move the items during the Covid-19 lockdown unless the commission directly deal with his government in the matter.
“The Education, Health and Social Services Directorate, EHSS, which oversees the Covid-19 response raised a memo, advising management to accede to the demands of the governors.
“The memo dated May 22, 2020, argued that in view of the need to collaborate with state governments in the Niger Delta, the management should grant approval for state directors to liaise with their respective state governments, on behalf of the commission in drawing up a programme for the flag off and donation of the COVID-19 Palliative items in their respective states.
“On May 23 2020, management approved the request of the EHSS directorate. As a result of this approval and the change in policy, the task of the Chief Jackrich Committee became redundant.
This meant the chief was no longer and could no longer be involved in the direct distribution of the palliatives. This also meant he could not have accurate information on the exercise.
“As at today, none of the nine state governments has denied receiving its own share of the food items for distribution under the COVID-19 palliatives programme.
“The bulk of Mr Jackrich’s petition dwelt on the refusal of the IMC to pay him a humongous amount of money for being chairman of the committee. This has led to this blackmail.”
“Jackrich’s petition is another false claim orchestrated by the same forces, who have been waging a campaign of falsehood against the Commission and its management since President Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Commission in the past 19 years.