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NDDC: Reps set to institute legal action against Akpabio for falsehood, defamation

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THE House of Representatives on Thursday commenced the process of establishing a criminal legal action against Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta over alleged falsehood and defamation of character.

Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House said he had directed the Clerk of the House to engage the services of lawyers to institute the legal action.

This is coming after Gbajabiamila instructed Akpabio to present in 48 hours, the list of lawmakers who allegedly benefited from contract awards by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as claimed by the minister.

“I recognise that the House has not always lived up to the high expectations of the Nigerian people. As much as we still have a lot to do in that regard, I refuse to sit here in good conscience and allow anyone to assassinate the character of the House in an attempt to deflect accountability for their conduct in office,  Gbajabiamila said.

“Such mendacity as was witnessed at the public hearing will not be tolerated from anybody no matter how highly placed.”

“This morning, I asked the Clerk of the House of Representatives to engage the services of legal counsel, and instruct them to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury against the minister. At the same time, we will instruct counsel to explore the possibility of a civil defamation suit against the Minister,” the Speaker added.

Akpabio had last week alleged that over 60 per cent of NDDC contracts were awarded to members of the National Assembly.

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He made the allegation during the probe by the House Committee on NDDC.

Gbajabiamila, however, said that such allegation was meant to deliberately mislead the public in order to escape being accountable for the various criminal allegations levelled against the minister and officials of the commission.

“Last Tuesday I issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to substantiate his allegation that over 60 per cent of contracts awarded by the NDDC went to members of the National Assembly. I said then that the Minister owed it to himself and the country to provide evidence to support these serious allegations,” the Speaker said.

He added that Akpabio’s failure to respond to his request defeated the false claim.

But in a swift reaction, the Minister wrote to the lawmakers denying the claim  he had made on a live national television broadcast.

During the broadcast, Akpabio had claimed that 60 percent of NDDC contracts were awarded to members of the National Assembly. He would later denied, saying that he was referring to old contracts awarded by the NDDC.

Meanwhile, several allegations have recently been raised against Akpabio especially on operations of the NDDC.

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Joy Nunieh, the former acting Managing Director of the NDDC particularly urged the police to arrest and probe the minister for his alleged illegalities and threats against her.

She told the lawmakers how the minister allegedly asked her to swear an oath and sack some employees of the commission.

Among others, between 2007 and 2015, the Minister was accused to have diverted over N100 billion of the state fund.

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Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at oadanikin@icirnigeria.org. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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