The House of Representatives has called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, not to dishonour the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), by shunning the invitation to appear before its panel on Monday.
The House said based on the marching orders issued by Buhari on Thursday that heads of ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government must cooperate with the National Assembly in the ongoing investigation of the Niger Delta Development Commission, there is the need for Akpabio to obey the President.
The House based its summons on the revelations in the ongoing investigation by the House Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission into the alleged illegal expenditure and mismanagement of resources, saying it was necessary for the minister to account to Nigerians.
The House Committee on NDDC is especially probing the illegal spending by the Interim Management Committee of the commission totalling N81.5bn between January and July 2020.
The panel had on Friday summoned Akpabio, asking him to appear before it on Monday.
The lawmakers also summoned the acting Managing Director of NDDC, Prof Daniel Pondei, who earlier on Thursday led members of the IMC to stage a walkout on the lawmakers, following which the panel issued a warrant of arrest on him.
However, the committee asked Pondei to reappear on Monday.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, on Saturday, in an interview with TVC, which was monitored by our correspondent, said the House expected the minister to obey its summons.
He said, “We have not indicted anybody, we are gathering facts. And I’m sure that at the end of the day, we will have a direction of what has happened to the money that belongs to the Niger Delta region.
“We expect the minister to honour Mr President the same way the Minister of Works (and Housing, Babatunde Fashola) honours Mr President whenever he is invited; the same way the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (Boss Mustapha), a very humble, thorough man honours Mr President when the House invites him; the same way the Accountant General and the Auditor General (of the Federation) honour Mr President when they are invited.
“That is the same way we expect him to honour Mr President and attend in person. We don’t want to see the Permanent Secretary on Monday. We don’t want to see his representative, we want him to appear before the institution. He is not appearing before Tunji Ojo or the committee; he is appearing before Nigerians on Monday.”
The House spokesman, who is also a member of the panel, hinted that Akpabio and Pondei, who is heading the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, might be made to have a face-off on Monday.
The lawmaker also hinted that part of the questions to be asked was why the IMC failed to comply with Buhari’s order to start and supervise the audit of the NDDC 10 months after.
Kalu said, “When he (Akpabio) appears, there are few questions that we are going to raise and we don’t want to preempt them at the moment. There are certain things that have been done by the minister and the supervising ministry which we believe are not in order. We are going to ask for explanations.
“Why it is going to be beautiful is because the (acting) MD is going to be there, the IMC and the minister are going to be there, and their words must tally with one another. And if there are practices that took place outside the required rules of public service, we will discover that. If there are certain things that were done that were not supposed to be done, we will also discover that.
“On this whole issue of ‘the National Assembly is trying to protect themselves by avoiding this forensic audit,’ we will be out and he will answer certain questions on whether or not, the audit has actually started 10 months after the Federal Government under the President gave the mandate. Remember that it was on the 29th of October that he (Buhari) gave the mandate and said your (IMC’s) duty is to conduct this forensic audit.
“The question Nigerians should ask is, ‘Has this auditing started?’ If it has started, is there any evidence? Our records have shown that it was just recently, in May, that they approached FEC (Federal Executive Council) to give them approval for them to hire auditors. We know that there are rules that have to be followed, by virtue of Section 36 (of the Constitution).”