The Senate for the second time within a week, fired at the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over alleged blackmail to stop it from carrying out investigation on alleged mismanagement of N40billion by the Commission between January and March, 2020.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North), had on Wednesday in the just ended week, tackled the acting Managing Director of the Commission, Kemebradikumo Pondei, and Executive Director of Projects, Cairo Ojougboh, over allegation of witch hunting with the planned probe exercise.
Accusations and counter accusations between the two bodies on the planned probe exercise by the Senate worsened Sunday with the spokesman of the Upper legislative chamber, Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC Osun Central), declaring that no amount of blackmail from NDDC, would make Senate back out of the very important national assignment.
Senator Basiru in a statement issued to that effect on behalf of the Senate, specifically slammed Cairo Ojougboh for allegedly spreading falsehoods against the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly on ongoing investigations being carried out on financial transactions of IMC led NDDC between January and March this year.
The statement titled: “NDDC: National Assembly cannot be blackmailed or Intimidated “, reads “the attention of the Senate has been drawn to a statement credited to Dr. Cairo Ojougboh the Executive Director of Projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the Interim Management Committee (IMC) that Senators and Members of House of Representative are behind the fraud in NDDC.
“Ordinary, while we are still at a loss as to why Dr. Ojougboh has repeatedly made such allegations at a time when the NDDC is under scrutiny of forensic audit and investigation by the National Assembly, the Senate is even more surprised considering the fact that the allegations are baseless and unsubstantiated.
“Apparently Dr. 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.
“It stands logic in the head to claim that by invoking it’s constitutional power of oversight to investigate the activities of the IMC, the National Assembly intends to scuttle forensic audit. The outlandish claim is illogical.”
Senator Basiru in the statement wondered whether there is an adverse relationship between oversight function of the National Assembly and a forensic audit which Ojougboh has been using as fulcrum of his blackmail against the federal lawmakers.
According to him, 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 Niger Delta it is however naturally concerned about the allegations of poor management or outright fraud in the management of the funds and operations of the commission.
The setting up of the investigation, the statement added, 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 stressed.
The Senate in the statement, further wondered that Dr Cairo Ojougboh as a former member of the House of Representatives should know that the National Assembly is vested with the powers of appropriation for all government ministries, departments and agencies including the NDDC. It will appraise the budget and its operations of the Commission like other agencies to entrench a culture of transparency and accountability.
“Therefore, on the allegations in respect of the budget, one wonders whether this it is not a ruse as to why is it being brought up in the wake of exercise of oversight function by the National Assembly. It clearly smacks of cheap blackmail predicated on falsehood.
“Also, 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 Representative of the NDDC committees if there are facts to substantiate same.
“The Senate and indeed the National Assembly is also committed to exercising it constitutional mandate and will not be cowed by spurious allegations of the likes of Dr. Cairo Ojougboh.
“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 added.