Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has finally picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the National Assembly to name lawmakers who got contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The minister, in a document attached to his response to the threat by the House of Representatives to sue him over the allegations that federal lawmakers were the major contractors of NDDC, listed four senators as receiving 74 contracts from the commission between 2017 to date.
Akpabio also accused the Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, of inserting 19 contracts worth N9 billion into 2019 NDDC budget.
House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, last week gave Akpabio a 48-hour ultimatum to name the lawmakers that benefited from NDDC contracts, according to his allegation while testifying before the House Committee on NDDC.
However, a few hours after the expiration of the ultimatum, Gbajabiamila had signified the House’s readiness to head to court to seek the prosecution of the minister for criminal defamation.
He was to later read a letter from Akpabio, in response to the one written to him by the House Clerk, in which the minister reportedly denied making the allegations.
However, facts have emerged the Speaker did not disclose the full content of the letter written by Akpabio, leaving out the part that contains the beneficiary legislators.
Akpabio’s list contains the name of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, who allegedly executed 53 NDDC projects from 2017 to date.
He also accused three other senators namely: Matthew Urhoghide, James Manager, and Sam Anyanwu of executing a total of 21 NDDC contracts during the period under review.
But Nwaoboshi has denied the allegations by Akpabio. He made the denial via a statement he issued on Monday, with the title:
“Re: Allegations of NDDC Contract Award to Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Chairman: Senate Committee On Niger Delta) by the Hon. Min of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.”
He challenged Akpabio to provide details of the projects listed against his name to the anti-graft agencies in the country if he was sure of his facts.
“I wish to state unequivocally that this allegation has no bearing with the truth and challenge Mr Akpabio to send the so-called list to anti-graft and other security agencies if he can substantiate the apparently baseless allegation.
“Indeed I would have made further comments but for the fact that the matter is currently before two competent courts of law.”
But in the bulky document with a three-page covering letter entitled: “Some Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Contracts Allegedly Given to some Members of the National Assembly – Senate and House of Representatives,” Akpabio also fingered the Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC in 19 contracts worth N9 billion inserted into the 2019 NDDC budget.
The contracts listed against Nwaoboshi’s name included Emergency Repairs of Asue Street, Owa Phase 2; Emergency Repairs of ldumuogbe Road via Ojemaye; Emergency Repairs of Otolokpo College Road, Otolokpo; and Emergency Repairs of Police lshu Ani Ukwu Road, Issele Uku in Delta State.
They also included Emergency Repairs of old Sapele Agbor Road, Obiaruku; Emergency Repairs of Ehwerhe Obada Road Agbarho Road; Emergency Repairs of Hon. Ifeanyi Eboigbe Street, Boji Boji Owa/Goodwill Street, Owa Alero; and Emergency Repairs of Ahiama Okwu to Obuocha Okwu among others, all in Delta State.
Meanwhile, Senator Nwaoboshi has been mentioned in a fresh N3.4 billion procurement scandal at the NDDC. He was alleged to have awarded NDDC Contracts worth ₦232, 209,600 each to 15 Companies belonging to him without due process
If the provisions of Sections 24 and 27 of the Public Procurement Act No. 65 of 2007 and the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari-led administration is anything to go by, the Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District, Senator Peter Noeluka Nwaoboshi, who is also Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Delta Affairs should have been arrested, tried and charged to court by now, following the mammoth allegations of fraud, contract inflation, violation of Public Procurement Act, flagrant abuse of office and embezzlement of public funds worth ₦3,483,144,000 (three billion, four hundred and eighty-three million, one hundred and forty four thousand naira), meant for the production of plastic desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in 9 (nine) oil-producing states in Nigeria in the 2016 appropriation.
This is not the first time the Anioma-born controversial Senator and his companies will be involved in criminal cases, money laundering and misappropriation of public funds running into billions of naira. Recall that in 2007, a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the temporary forfeiture of “Guinea House”, a Delta State-owned property in Lagos illegally acquired by Senator Nwaoboshi through one of his proxy companies to the Federal Government. This followed a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the senator by the Anti-Corruption Group and Integrity Forum, a group interested in promoting good governance, transparency and sustenance of the rule of law in Nigeria.
Since April, 2017 when these fresh allegations against Senator Nwaoboshi were brought before the EFCC and Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions over the illegality and fraud in the process leading to the award of contracts by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via separate petitions, alleging how Senator Nwaoboshi used his position to unlawfully influence and manipulate award of contracts worth ₦3,483,144,000 (three billion, four hundred and eighty-three million, one hundred and forty-four thousand Naira) to his companies and cronies.
In all these, the Tenders Board of NDDC was not consulted before the contracts were awarded, neither has Senator Nwaoboshi been apprehended to initiate criminal proceedings against him and his criminal allies, made to return the mobilization fee he received for the contracts into the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria nor relieved of his Chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs to enable him to answer the numerous allegations of fraud and corruption raised against him in the various petitions.
Our investigations reveal that contrary to section 24 (1) of the Public Procurement Act which states that except as provided by the Act, all procurement of goods and works by procuring entities shall be conducted by open competitive bidding and Section 27 (1) of the same Act which provides that all bids in response to the invitation to open competitive bidding must be submitted in writing, in addition to any other format stipulated in the tender documents, signed by an official authorized to bind the bidder to a contract and placed in a sealed envelope, there was no open competitive bidding in line with the provisions of the law.
Senator Nwaoboshi awarded the contracts worth ₦3,483,144,000 (three billion, four hundred and eighty-three million, one hundred and forty-four thousand Naira) to15 (fifteen) companies registered in the names of his relatives and proxies, some of which are not even registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for the production of plastic desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in 9 (nine) oil-producing states.
The 15 (fifteen) companies are;
Benchmark Construction & Projects Limited;
Milestone Allied Builders Limited;
Edendoma Stars Int’l;
Isumabe U.K Global Ventures;
Nelpat (Nig) Company;
Antlers Construction & Allied Works Limited;
NOAN Integrated Services Limited;
De-Towers Construction & Allied Services;
Eastern Wrought Iron Limited;
Franstine Nig. Enterprise;
Omozuabho Global Resources and
Investigations reveal that out of the above companies, all believed to have links with Senator Nwaoboshi, Benchmark Construction & Projects Limited got the contract for the production of plastic desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in Abia State at the cost of ₦232,209,600 (Two Hundred and Thirty-Two Million, Two Hundred and Nine Thousand, Six Hundred Naira); Milestone Allied Builders Limited and Edendo
Other lawmakers that Akpabio listed projects against are, Senator Mathew Urhoghide (six projects), Senator James Manager (six projects); former Senator, Sam Anyanwu (19 projects), and others simply identified as Ondo and Edo representatives while the project cost was not supplied by the minister.
Also listed by Akpabio is one Mutu, against whose name 74 projects were listed. These included various emergency road projects in Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Rivers States.
While accusing Tunji-Ojo of padding the 2019 budget of the NDDC with 19 contracts worth N9 billion, Akpabio declared that “in the 2019 budget, the Executive Director in charge of projects forwarded to me the attached list of 19 Nos. old contracts amounting to almost N9billion after tax, that the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on NDDC, Honourable Tunji-Ojo, insisted that the IMC of NDDC must pay before 2019 budget details could be released to the commission.”
In his letter to Gbajabiamila, Akpabio also claimed that: “It has always been known that the two chairmen of the committees on NDDC in both chambers yearly exhibit unusual influence to the exclusion of committee members and even the management of the NDDC in appropriating funds to details embellished in the budget after the passage of line items at the plenaries.
“To show you some typical examples, herewith attached are documents showing nature of contracts amount of such contracts (in some cases), date of awards and beneficiaries. Some were awarded to the two chairmen of both committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, serving at the period of the awards (Annexure ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’). However, due to the 48 hours’ notice, the forensic auditors could not sift through the thousands of files in their possession to provide more.
“The investigating Committee on NDDC refused and/or neglected to give me the opportunity to explain that reference to most NDDC contracts yearly being awarded since 2001 from the records allegedly to members of the National Assembly in both Chambers were done without the knowledge of the alleged beneficiaries.
“However, the two chairmen of the Committees in both Chambers had adequate knowledge;
“I never referred to members of the 9th National Assembly as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts as NDDC is yet to fully implement any NDDC budget since the commencement of the 9th National Assembly. In fact, the 2019 budget passed in February and harmonized between the 4th and 5th of March 2020 was received by the commission in the middle of April 2020, when same was designated to expire on the 31st of May, 2020.
“However, it is pertinent to point out that the Clerk of the National Assembly forwarded a letter Ref. NASS/CNA/115/VOL.38/1175, dated March 20, 2020, without attaching the budget details indicating that the 2020 budget of the NDDC passed into Law was being forwarded (copy of the letter is attached as Annexure ‘A’). This anomaly was brought to the attention of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee investigating a purported financial recklessness by the management of the commission in July 2020, though the first outcry was on allegation of missing N40bn which was totally untrue.”
The NDDC saga took a new twist over the weekend, when the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) told Gbajabiamila, to make public the list of federal lawmakers, who benefitted from the contracts awarded by the NDDC, as contained in a letter sent to him by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, last week.
The group asserted that the Speaker did not declare the full content of Akpabio’s letter to him.
“Mr. Speaker did not do us justice when he did not disclose to the National Assembly that the list of the beneficiaries he demanded had been disclosed and attached to the letter sent to him,” said Mr Solomon Adodo, the group’s president.
He said the speaker’s decision to cover up his colleagues is unfair to the fight against corruption, the quest for transparency, and to the commonwealth of the nation.
: “We, therefore, urge Mr Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, to rise up and expose the lawmakers, who were awarded contracts but failed to execute them.
“All the National Assembly members who benefitted from the contracts without executing them should be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to those who may want to follow a similar path. It is a clear case of organized crime to have individuals who benefitted from illegality now rising to probe the fact that their illegality is being exposed.
“We call on all the anti-graft agencies and security agencies to, in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, immediately proceed and go ahead with their investigation of the matter.”