• Raps NASS’s probe as self-serving, attempt at deluding Nigerians

BY COBHAM NSA, ABUJA – One of Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) has rejected ongoing probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the National Assembly (NASS), describing it as a deliberate attempt to deceive Nigerians.

It therefore urged the Federal Government to take two important steps towards ensuring a transparent and meaningful inquest into activities of the corruption-infested Commission.

According to HEDA, these two steps are: constituting a public enquiry; and relieving the Minister of the Niger-Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio of his appointment.

In a statement signed by its Chairman Olanrewaju Suraju on Tuesday, HEDA further proposed that the public enquiry should be led by a retired judge and members be drawn from Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC), and the civil society among others.

“HEDA is working with credible organisations to expose the contract fraud over the years in NDDC. This has become necessary to save the commission and to protect the people of the Niger Delta on whose behalf the commission was established”, the statement said.

Furthermore, the group said recent revelations by Senator Akpabio that NASS members took the lion share of the NDDC contract has exposed the futility of any probe instituted by the Lawmakers

The group further said; “The National Assembly is already compromised. It has become clear that they are part of the problem. There is no way that a suspect can be a judge in its own case. The Presidency owes it as a matter of national duty to constitute an independent public enquiry to investigate the dirty deals that appear to date back to decades”

Accusing the National Assembly members of having soiled their hands in the corruption mess, the group noted that this “is clear from the revelation of the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio” at the ongoing public hearing.

“Akpabio said clearly that most of the contracts were awarded to the lawmakers. From all indications, there is no way the lawmakers will ever come out with a honest and transparent probe. Nigerians are not fools”, HEDA stated in its statement and insisted that: “what is needed is a comprehensive probe dating back to the year 2000 when the NDDC was established.”

The group lamented NDDC’s failure to meet the expectations of Nigerians, least that of the Niger Delta people whose resources are being pummelled and exploited by a few people to the detriment of the region and entire country.

While citing its humongous 2019 budget of N346 billion, HEDA described NDDC as one of the richest agencies in Nigeria, but regretted that the Commission has remained “a can of worms” over the years without much to show in terms of improved livelihoods in the South South region.

Suraju, who maintained that the ongoing probe by the National Assembly has “reached a dead end”, said; “What can salvage the situation is a public enquiry.

“An independent probe will likely see members of the National Assembly panel as suspects. They should never think Nigerians will forgive them if they sweep the dirt under the carpet”

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