By Henry Umoru – Abuja
The Senate has taken a swipe at the Executive Director, Projects of the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, warning that the National Assembly will not succumb to cheap blackmail from him or from any other quarters.
According to the Senate, it was committed to ensuring probity and accountability of all agencies of government no matter whose ox is gored.
The Senate has dared the Commission to provide evidence of alleged corruption claims against lawmakers of the Senate and House of Representatives to anti-graft agencies for investigation.
In a statement by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, All Progressives Congress, APC, Osun Central, the Upper Chamber has vowed that no amount of intimidation or blackmail would stop it from carrying out the probe on the alleged Financial Recklessness to the tune of N40 billion by the IMC of the NDDC.
Lampooning the Commission over allegations of corruption against lawmakers, Ajibola who asked the Commission in view of its recent claims to make same available to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for investigation, said, “Therefore, the allegations in respect of the budget clearly smacks of cheap blackmail predicated on falsehood.
“One would have expected an organisation of integrity to have formally made complaints to the anti-corruption agencies of the purported allegations against Senators and Members of House of Representative of the NDDC committees, if there are facts to substantiate same.
According to the Spokesman, “The National Assembly will not succumb to cheap blackmail from any quarters and is committed to ensuring probity and accountability of all agencies of government no matter whose ox is gored.
“The Senate and indeed the National Assembly is also committed to exercising it constitutional mandate and will not be cowed by spurious allegations of the likes of Dr. Cairo Ojougboh. This is a very disturbing trend and the Senate will not tow this path. The proper avenue to challenge exercise of power of the National Assembly is the court of law not spewing falsehood on pages of newspapers and electronic media.”
Recall that the Senate had on May 5, set up a Six- Member Ad-hoc Committee to probe into alleged Financial Recklessness to the tune of N40 billion by IMC of the NDDC.
The Committee Ad-hoc Committee which has Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti North as Chairman, will carry out a holistic investigation on all issues relating to but not limited to the alleged misapplication and misappropriation of the sum of N4OBillion by the commission and it has four weeks to report back at Plenary.
The Senate Spokesperson while responding to Ojougboh who has been tonguelashing the National Assembly, said, “The attention of the Senate has been drawn to a statement credited to Dr. Cairo Ojougboh the Executive Director of Projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the Interim Management Committee (IMC) that Senators and Members of House of Representative are behind the fraud in NDDC.
“Ordinary, while we are still at a loss as to why Dr. Ojougboh has repeatedly made such allegations at a time when the NDDC is under scrutiny of forensic audit and investigation by the National Assembly, the Senate is even more surprised considering the fact that the allegations are baseless and unsubstantiated.
“Apparently Dr. Cairo Ojougboh is ignorant of the constitutional mandate of the National Assembly to carry out oversight function overall agencies expending government resources with a view to exposing and preventing corruption, abuse and inefficiency. It stands logic in the head to claim that by invoking its constitutional power of oversight to investigate the activities of the IMC, the National Assembly intends to scuttle forensic audit. The outlandish claim is illogical.
“What is the adverse relationship between oversight function of the National Assembly and a forensic audit?
Senator Basiru further said that “While the National Assembly is committed to reposition the NDDC to address the challenges of the Niger Delta through facilitating the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta, however, it is naturally concerned about the allegations of poor management or outright fraud in the management of the funds and operations of the commission. The setting up of the investigation is predicated on the above concern and not to victimise or witch hunt anyone.
“It was also in this regards that the National Assembly has accorded the executives the necessary cooperation that will facilitate the completion of the forensic audit.”
According to him, “Dr. Cairo Ojougboh as a former member of the House of Representatives should know that the National Assembly is vested with the powers of appropriation for all government ministries, departments, and agencies including the NDDC.
“It will appraise the budget and its operations of the Commission like other agencies to entrench a culture of transparency and accountability.
“Therefore, on the allegations in respect of the budget, one wonders whether this it is not a ruse as to why is it being brought up in the wake of exercise of oversight function by the National Assembly. It clearly smacks of cheap blackmail predicated on falsehood.
“Also, one would have expected an organisation of integrity to have formally made complaints to the anti-corruption agencies of the purported allegations against Senators and Members of House of Representative of the NDDC committees if there are facts to substantiate same.”