The Nigeria Senate took a swipe against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio over allegations of contracts scam slammed on some serving and former senators in the country.
Senator Akpabio had disclosed names of serving and former federal lawmakers who collected 60 percent of the contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission ( NDDC) in 2018 fiscal year alone.
Some of the serving senators alleged to be involved in the contracts scam , are Senators Peter Nwaoboshi ( PDP Delta North), James Manager ( PDP Delta South) , Mathew Urhoghide ( PDP Edo South) etc.
But the Senate in its reaction to the allegations , described them as fallacies of the highest order .
Speaking to Journalists on the allegations, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Ayo Akinyelure ( PDP Ondo Central), said the allegations were unfounded and sheer blackmail .
According to him, most of the contracts alleged to have been taken by the listed federal lawmakers at different times , were constituency projects appropriated for them in the national budget without them collecting a dime to execute them as lawmakers .
He said : ” As a matter of fact, the submission of Senator Akpabio is a cheap blackmail which cannot be tenable anywhere in Nigeria. Senators are representatives of the people in the legislature and we have power of Appropriation. Projects allocated to us are put in the various ministries and agencies of government where they can be fully executed.
“Those of us from the Niger Delta region can lobby for some of the projects to be put in their various constituencies. That does not mean that the money for their execution were given to senators. We don’t touch money here but influence projects to be executed in our constituencies. When that is done, the executive arm of government will advertise for contractors to bid for them, and award them, following due process.
“The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was a senator in the 8th Senate. Did he not facilitate projects worth billions of Naira to his own constituency through the NDDC? The answer is yes, he did. If he admits that they paid him the money for the execution of the contracts, then, it is a question of investigating who won the contracts.
“The allegation that members of the National Assembly from the Niger Delta region facilitated projects is a fallacy because being indigenes of the region, they have the right to facilitate projects to their communities in the interest of their constituents.
“If I’m the chairman of the Niger Delta committee in the Senate and projects worth N200bn are to be allocated to the region, I will influence 10 percent of it to my constituency. The projects are meant for Niger Delta region, therefore there is nothing wrong for the National Assembly members from the region to facilitate some of them to their constituencies.
“However, if these projects were successfully facilitated and a particular Senator used his company to take the money away, our committee will go and investigate, where they fall short, they would be nailed by the law. If the projects were never executed and senators used their companies to take the money away, that is fraud.
” Therefore, allegations that some senators have taken money to execute contracts in the NDDC, is a fallacy of the highest order because we have our records, we don’t do that. Our committee will look into the allegations of blackmail against some lawmakers and make our findings public”.
Aside the Senate , in separate reactions to the allegations , Senators Peter Nwaoboshi and James Manager , challenged Akpabio to report them to relevant anti graft agencies in the country if he is sure of his facts .
Nwaoboshi in his own reaction through a personally signed statement , said the 53 NDDC contracts Akpabio alleged that he got in 2018, have no bearing with the truth .
” This unsubstantiated allegation is in line with Mr Akpabio’s well known agenda to continuously blackmail me so as to keep diverting public attention away from the serious mismanagement of the NDDC’ by the Interim Management Committee ( IMC ) , under his supervision and under the guise of a phantom forensic audit that has no operating time line “, he said .
James Manager in his own reaction said since June 2015 when he stopped serving as Chairman , Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, he had no dealings whatsoever with NDDC, let alone IMC , currently running it .
He challenged Akpabio to provide details of the said contracts he got, names of companies used and evidence of payments made .
His statement reads in part: ” That My tenure as Chairman of Niger delta committee in the Senate effectively ended in 2015.
“That ever since then I have never visited NDDC headquarters in Portharcourt or any of its branches.
“That NDDC never awarded any contract to any company owned by me.
“That I do not know of any company owned by me, that has ever gone into bidding of Government jobs anywhere in the world.( This may come to many as a surprise but this is the gospel truth).
“That those who are alleging to defame me must be aware of the consequences.
“That In the interest of the gullible innocent public, the authors led by the said Dr Cairo Ojugboh or any other person should provide among other things the following please, ;
detailed description of the said jobs, .names of companies, payments already made and to whom?”.