By Henry Umoru
The Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs walked the Acting Executive Director, Projects, Interim Management Committee, IMC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, out of the hearing room over his insistence that Chairman of the Senate panel, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, should step down, as the NDDC officials would not get fair-hearing from him.
Nwaoboshhi and Ojuogboh are both from Delta State.
Following the absence of IMC Acting Managing Director, Professor Pondei, last week, from the sitting of the Senator Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North)-led Committee, another meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, to enable members ask questions on Pondei’s position paper.
To kick-start the hearing, Nwaoboshi told Committee and IMC members that the sitting was basically to hear from NDDC over the sacked staff, against the backdrop that it had not been easy getting the IMC team to speak.
He added that the Acting Managing Director could not attend last week’s sitting because of his meeting with the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee and that the document submitted last week was not signed and so it was not tenable.
According to him, the one currently before them was a report from Pondei, adding that the Committee had written to the Civil Service Commission; staff of NDDC; Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, among others, and they have all responded to the Committee.
However, Ojougboh interrupted Nwaoboshi, asking him to step down, saying the IMC would not get fair hearing from the Committee with Nwaoboshi as chairman.
Ojougboh said: “We feel we cannot get a fair hearing from the Committee. It is regrettable that we have to take this decision.
“As Chairman, you can excuse yourself from chairing the meeting. This Committee is not properly constituted; you cannot and will not preside over this meeting.”
But Nwaoboshi explained to Ojougboh that the hearing was not about financial recklessness, but about the alleged sack of staff.
He said another committee has been set up to look at the financial recklessness, adding “we will not allow you to come here and insult anyone. The Committee was put up by the Senate.
“However, we have a position paper from the Acting MD.”
Also speaking, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Senator Amos Bulus; Senator Matthew Urhoghide(PDP, Edo South) and Senator Eremienyo Degi(PDP, Bayelsa East) all urged Ojuogboh to stop the brickbats, as they were capable of postponing the issues at stake.
Even after the Senators spoke, Ojougboh did not soft-pedal and it was at this point, Senator Nwaoboshi said: “The MD has sent a signed report to us and what is in the report is accurate.
“We were supposed to take questions from the representative of IMC and since you don’t want to take questions from us, Cairo Ojougboh, excuse us.”
Ojougboh then stood up, took a bow said “Thank you” and left Room 107, Senate Wing venue of the hearing.
Soon after he left, the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Evangelist Caroline Nagbo, started pleading with the Nwaoboshi Committee.
She added: “No staff was sacked. They were only asked to step aside for transparency and diligence.
“In any way the IMC has offended you, I want you to, in the name of God, forgive the IMC in the overall interest of the region.”
Recall that the Senate had, on May 5, sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator George Sekibo(PDP Rivers East) on alleged financial recklessness and arbitrary sacking of staff in NDDC, mandated its committee on Niger Delta Affairs to investigate the staff sacking aspect and assigned that of financial recklessness to an ad hoc committee.