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No amount of blackmail will stop NDDC probe, Senate insists

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• Welcomes Senator Orji Uzor Kalu back to chambers
• Frank seeks removal of commission from Akpabio’s control

The Senate yesterday insisted that no amount of blackmail will stop it from probing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC’s) Interim Management Committee (IMC) over alleged spending of N4Ob in the first three months of the year.

It refuted allegations of financial impropriety in the NDDC in which detractors linked its leadership with moves to probe the N40b fraud.

This followed Chairman, Ad-Hoc Committee, Olubunmi Adetunbi’s fresh request for extension of time to investigate the matter through order 43 of Senate’s standing rules.

Adetumbi (APC Ekiti North) complained that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, most stakeholders the committee invited did not respond on time, but were gradually indicating interest to honour the invitations.

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He requested the Senate to grant the committee additional six weeks within which to carry out the investigation, saying, “For this reason, I seek Senate’s indulgence for extension of time to enable us to receive all information and documents needed for the committee to do a thorough job.”

But Senate President, Ahmad Lawan cut the time to four weeks, saying six weeks was too long, after putting the request to voice vote during which most of the senators voted in favour of four weeks.

Part of the distractions trailing the planned investigation exercise was alleged witch hunt the Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, leveled against the National Assembly that the move was aimed at frustrating the forensic audit of the commission, as President Muhammadu Buhari earlier directed.

Also, there have been allegations and counter allegations by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio and Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North), who had been attacking each other through their proxies.

While Nwaoboshi alleged that Akpabio collected contracts worth N500m from NDDC in 2017 without executing them despite receiving full payments, Akpabio on his part, claimed that Nwaoboshi collected contracts worth N3.6b from the commission in 2016 without executing them.

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Besides, the Senate welcomed Senator Oji Uzor Kalu back to the Upper Chamber as Lawan congratulated him on resuming his legislative duties after the Supreme Court quashed his conviction and ordered his release from prison.

Also, the lawmakers urged security agencies to unravel the alleged forgery of a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the instance of the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege.

Omo-Agege had denied having instructed the Senate Clerk, Nelson Ayewoh, to write a letter to the EFCC seeking the probe of Akpabio’s alleged involvement in the N40b fraud in the NDDC.

Meanwhile, former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, charged President Buhari to return the NDDC to the Presidency.

In a statement, he argued that retaining the NDDC under the Akpabio-led Niger Delta Ministry would not augur well for the region and its people, describing the allegations between the Senate and Akpabio over missing N40b and contracts racketeering, as embarrassing.

He lamented that it was unfortunate that politicians had turned the NDDC into a cash cow due to their selfish interests, stressing, “It is surprising that the and other anti-graft agencies have not waded into the matter.”

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