HOUSE panel investigating financial infractions and other misconduct in the Niger Delta Development Commission on Monday grilled the Minister of the Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio.
During the panel session in Abuja, Akpabio was questioned by the House Committee on NDDC led by the vice-chairman, Thomas Ereyitomi-Tobi after the chairman of the committee, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo had stepped aside for a fair hearing.
Akpabio was asked to explain the N81.5 billion expenses incurred by the commission but he said so far he had been involved in only three contracts in the commission.
“I have only been involved in three contracts in the NDDC as the supervising minister, first is the forensic audit, second is the purchase of 90 vehicles and the COVID-19 contracts,” he said.
The former acting manager of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh had accused the minister of ‘stealing’ files belonging to the commission.
When asked to respond, Akpabio said the files are about 8,000 and have been returned to the commission.
He added that the files were taken against the decision of the management of the commission for ‘safety purpose’.
Akpabio accused the commission of contract splitting in order to escape approval of the Ministry of Niger Delta.
“They don’t go beyond N250 million naira, their contracts are divided into lots to avoid my approval,” Akpabio said.
A member of the committee asked the minister to comment on his fallout with the former acting MD of the NDDC, Nunieh because he had recommended her for appointment.
“Her removal followed a letter sent to me by the late former Chief of Staff to the Nigerian President, Abba Kyari about not meeting expected qualification,” Akpabio said.
He said Nunieh does not have a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate or a letter of exemption.
Benjamin Kalu, another member of the committee asked if the minister had at any point in time influenced or exercised the powers vested on the MD of the commission.
Akpabio replied that he did that only when decisions were not made in favour of the people of the Niger Delta.
Kalu further asked Akpabio to tell the House Committee if the Forensic audit has commenced as instructed by Buhari and if the funds for the audit have been paid.
“Yes, the forensic audit has started, Akpabio said but failed to answer if funds have been released to the effect.
Akpabio, during the hearing, alleged that most of the NDDC contracts were awarded to Nigerian Lawmakers.
When asked to confirm whether NDDC gave contract to the panel chair Tunji-Ojo as earlier claimed, Akpabio denied saying so.