The crucifixion of Jesus on the cross at Calvary is a lesson in living. He suffered alongside with two thieves. But Jesus cleansed the sin of one of the thieves even at dying minutes. He conferred upon a sinner the gift of eternal life.
In Nigeria of today, there are two bodies currently filled with thieves – the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the National Assembly (NASS). Unarguably, this is not the best time for Nigeria in the fight against corruption considering the allegations and counter-allegations that have rocked the investigation of the audit report of the NDDC.
Nigerians have been through roller coaster of different trauma following different tales that have characterised the probe of NDDC. Before now, Prof. Daniel Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of NDDC has appeared before Senator Peter Nwaoboshi-led Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs on different occasions.
It is interesting that Nigerians have expressed their displeasures online and offline over multi-billion naira fraud allegation against the NDDC. But how best can the lawmakers hold the allegedly corrupt folks to account? Yes, the legislative arm has the right and the power to carry our an oversight function under the doctrine of separation of power which split governance in Nigeria into three arms which are the legislative arm, the judicial arm and the executive arm.
Sections 88 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides that the House of the National Assembly has the power to investigate (a) any matter in respect of which it has the power to make laws; and (b) the conduct of any parastatal or official responsible for administering any Act of the National Assembly or in charge of disbursing funds. The section also says that the power to investigate is only exercisable for the purpose of enabling it (i.e. the Senate or the Reps) to (a) make laws on any matter within its legislative competence and correct defects in existing laws; and (b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws.
Section 89 provides that as it relates to the power to investigate, that lawmakers also have the power to procure evidence, require the evidence to be given on oath, summon anyone to give evidence or produce documents and issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any such witness.
Now, let’s discuss how corruption allegations that have marred the new corruptible institution in the country – NDDC. First, acting managing director of NDDC, Prof. Pondei claimed that no money is missing or misappropriated from the coffers of the interventionist agency under his watch.
“We have absolute respect for the National Assembly. That is why we appeared before the Senate ad-hoc committee to investigate the same issue. We made our presentations over two days and we wait for the outcome of the investigation. However, the House of Reps committee is being chaired by a member whom the NDDC has severally accused of different things.
“For reasons beyond our control, we were not able to present ourselves but the report that came out of the briefing had already indicted us, our head had been shaved in our absence. The fact given by the CBN and the Accountant-General’s office in the Senate explained that between October 2019 and May 31, 2020, N81.5bn was spent by the NDDC. According to what was read out by the chairman (Hon. Tunji-Ojo), the same figure was spent in four months by the NDDC. Already it shows that there is a problem, that there is an agreed and conceived effort to portray the management of the NDDC in a bad light and we know we cannot get justice in this manner.”
Interestingly, facts before the legislative committee indicate that the CBN and the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation agreed that the two IMCs spentN81.5bn. The current IMC spent N59.1bn of which N38.6bn was capital expenditure, mainly on road projects. The balance of N20bn covers a wide range of things mostly related to staff salaries and allowances which accumulated for four years, inherited debts to hotels and sundry suppliers.
“We operate a single account with the CBN and the account details are published and it was from those things that investigations in the Senate were based on the account provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” Pondei explained.
But if all these are to be true, what caused his sudden collapse during the investigation. Pondei fainted while answering questions from the committee set up by the House of Representatives but interesting, all he failed to say before fainting was echoed by the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godwin Akpabio when providing answers to the questions he was being asked.
The former Senator was proud to the say the NDDC isn’t the only corrupt entities that should be probed as he reeled out revelations that lawmakers probing corrupt activities have more to answer being the topmost beneficiaries of contracts. The part that got many Nigerians furious most was the reaction of the lawmaker which goes this: “Honourable Minister, it’s Ok, pls sir, off your mic”. The above quote trended on social media and frustrated speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who dated the minister to list names of beneficiaries.
For Nigerians, Akpabio statement was viewed from two different angles. First, to free himself from the shackles of the probe and secondly to let Nigerians know that a few members of the lootocrazy discovered nectar and settled to suck it dry. He was asked to publish the names of lawmakers whom he said were the beneficiaries and so, he did. The questions that followed then was why did he mention only members of the opposition?
Unarguably, if the lawmakers were to be aware that public probe would bring a shame to them, they won’t have considered it and now that it is in public knowledge, they want to stop the charade before the shame they’ve lost returns to embarrass them. Like every corruption matters, Nigerians always know the beginning – the middle but never allowed to determine the end. As much as we are loud in anger about the mismanagement at the NDDC, this probe could just go the way of all past probes.
The Ndudi Elumelu House Panel on Power Contracts in 2009 was just as loud and revealing, yet the entire report of 88 recommendations was ditched and all the indicted in the report walk free today, with $16bn gone forcing President Buhari to ask Obasanjo that popular question – “you spent $16bn on power, where is the power”? We all remember Femi Otedola vs Faruq Lawan. The NDDC is not alone in this mess. Our National Assembly is in big mess and for us at NaijaNews – on the bench we shall seat, examine and watch carefully but our ink will support the fight against corruption at all times.
Which among the two bodies of thieves would be cleansed of sins?