AKINOLA Bashiru, spokesperson of the ninth Senate, says the National Assembly will under no circumstance back down on its probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
In a statement released on Twitter, Bashiru added that the Commission should provide evidence of alleged corruption claims against lawmakers of the Senate and House of Representatives to anti-graft agencies for investigation.
He maintained that no amount of blackmail against lawmakers or the institution of the National Assembly would stop ongoing investigations into the financial transactions of the Commission.
The Senate spokesperson said the attention of the Senate was drawn to a statement credited to Cairo Ojougboh, the Executive Director of Projects at the NDDC under the Interim Management Committee (IMC) in which he (Ojuogboh) alleged that senators and members of House of Representative were behind the NDDC fraud.
The NDDC had in recent times been enmeshed in corruption scandals with individuals and groups accusing the Interim Management Committee of embezzling funds meant for developmental projects through various means.
Only last Thursday, the Commission announced the death of Ibanga Bassey Etang, its acting Director of Finance and Administration,
Etang’s death came in the midst of the Forensic Audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari and the probe of the agency’s finances by the National Assembly.
Bashiru noted that the National Assembly was at a loss as to why Ojougboh has repeatedly made such allegations at a time when the NDDC was under scrutiny of forensic audit and investigation by the same National Assembly.
“Apparently, Cairo Ojougboh is ignorant of the constitutional mandate of the National Assembly to carry out oversight function over all agencies expending government resources with a view to exposing and preventing corruption, abuse and inefficiency,” Bashiru stated.
Speaking on the Constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to perform oversight duty on the Commission, the lawmaker explained that the oversight function was aimed at facilitating rapid and sustainable development in the Niger Delta, as well as ensure the proper application of funds for the region.
Bashiru stressed 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 area, 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.
He added that the probe of the Commission by the National Assembly was not maliciously intended or aimed at victimizing anyone at the NDDC.
“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,” he said.
He stressed that National Assembly in line with carrying out its oversight functions, “will appraise the budget and its operations of the Commission like other agencies to entrench a culture of transparency and accountability.”
Taking a look at the Commission over allegations of corruption against lawmakers, Bashiru asked the management of 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.
“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 Representatives of the NDDC committees, if there are facts to substantiate same,” he said.
“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.”
He further added that National Assembly will not succumb to cheap blackmail from any quarter noting that it is committed to ensuring probity and accountability of all agencies of government, no matter whose ox is gored.