…As Reps move to take legal action against him
BY VICTOR BUORO, ABUJA – The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, on Thursday retraced his steps over his accusation that members of the National Assembly were beneficiaries of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
This was contained in a letter he wrote to the National Assembly which was read on the floor of the House of Representatives by the Speaker of the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Akpabio pointedly denied that he accused the National Assembly of the being beneficiaries of the NDDC contracts.
Gbajabiamila, while reading the letter from Akpabio which was in response to the letter from the House, said the minister claimed to have referred to old contracts awarded by the NDDC which had not been paid for and some of which are part of the constituency projects of the lawmakers.
Gbajabiamila said Akpabio’s response would be referred to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges to look at the merits of his arguments.
Akpabio’s response came after the Speaker announced the resolved of the lawmakers to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury against Akpabio, over the allegations that over 60 per cent of contracts in the NDDC went to members of the National Assembly.
The Speaker had following Akpabio’s allegations, issued a 48-hour ultimatum on Tuesday to the minister to publish the names of the members that were given the contracts, the details of the contracts so given, the dates, among others.
But, Akpabio failed to do so as of Thursday which was the day the ultimatum expired which led the Speaker to announce that he has directed the Clerk to the House to engage the services of a lawyer to institute a criminal complaint of perjury against the Niger Delta Affair minister.
The Speaker further said that the lawyer would be instructed to explore the possibility of civil defamation suit against the minister.
In the words of Gbajabiamila; “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 Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) went to members of the National Assembly. I said then that the Honourable Minister owed it to himself and the country to provide evidence to support these serious allegations.
“The Honourable Minister has failed to respond to my request. Therefore, I must conclude that his statement intended solely to gaslight the nation to avoid accountability for the evident maladministration and malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“In my time in the House of Representatives, I have held every leadership position from Minority Whip, through to Minority Leader, Leader of the House and now Speaker.
“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.
“Such mendacity as was witnessed at the public hearing will not be tolerated from anybody no matter how highly placed.
“The House of Representatives is a public trust placed in our care for the duration of our term in office. We must prove ourselves worthy of this public trust or risk the censure of history.
“Therefore, we will resist every attempt to undermine this institution, whether such attempts come from within or from outside.
“This House will live up to the highest expectations of the Nigerian people. This is our commitment, and we will not fail,” Gbajabiamila said.