The Social Development Integrated Centre, (Social Action), a non-governmental organisation, has called for a detail and thorough probe into the reported sleaze ongoing in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Programs Director of the group, Vivian Bellonwu, made the call in a statement on Monday, saying the probe became necessary to reveal all the shady activities which are not in accordance with its mandate, as prescribed in the NDDC (Establishment) Act, 2000.
Her call was coming on the heels of the disclosure, last week by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, that some lawmakers were direct beneficiaries of the contracts awarded by the NDDC.
Akpabio had also, in response to the 48-hour ultimatum issued by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, forwarded to the House leadership the names of the National Assembly members who were the alleged beneficiaries.
A report had it that the names included Senators Peter Nwaoboshi (53 projects); Senator Nicholas Mutu (74 projects); Senators James Manager and Matthew Urhoghide (six projects each); Senator Sam Anyawu (19 projects) and others who were identified as members of the House of Representatives from Ondo and Edo states.
Bellonwu, in the statement signed by the Communications Officer, Social Action, Peace Agbo, said, with the ongoing probe, “the horrible allegations and counter-allegations emerging from the probe committee, the damp muddle is hanging precariously over the commission’s shady activities.”
She said the anti-graft bodies and law enforcement agencies should swing into immediate action, following the public disclosure of the names of the federal lawmakers allegedly involved in NDDC contracts by Senator Akpabio.
Social Action said the revelations were “nothing short of of an organised crime against the Niger Delta people. Legislators that are responsible for appropriations and oversight participated in the largess of their appropriations.
“They could not perform their oversight on projects that were awarded to them. This undoubtedly creates an inherent clash of interest.”
Bellonwu added: “The National Assembly should bear in mind that a lot of Nigerians hold the belief that it is the failure of effective oversight by the nation’s parliament and lawmakers that led to the rot which has infested the commission, as seen today.
“We call on the lawmakers to show integrity and an unbiased posture as legislative statesmen and women in carrying out their duties. The probe must remain on course to expose everyone involved.
“The National Assembly members who benefitted from the contracts should be investigated and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to those who may have such intention to loot. With their names duly published, the next appropriate line of action is for the anti-graft agencies to swing into action.
“We call on the anti-graft agencies (EFCC, ICPC) and security agencies to immediately begin investigation into the matter, make arrest and prosecute accordingly these members of the National Assembly involved in the contract racketeering scandal at the NDDC.
“Not acting on these findings of the probe would amount to Niger Delta and Nigerians losing multiple times, if those behind these thefts are not called to account for their crimes. It is for this reason we must do away with any failure to act accordingly, which we had experienced in past administrations.
“We deem it very necessary for Akpabio to provide more information on the names of the companies and individuals used as proxies in the award of the contracts, the nature of contracts awarded and the amounts of money involved.
“This will assist the anti-graft agencies in recovering all looted funds and tracing other individuals who may be involved in the contract frauds.
“We also call on the National Assembly to ensure transparency in the ongoing probe by continually updating the list of those involved in the looting of the NDDC and putting its findings and reports in the public domain, for accountability and easy access.
“We strongly demand that this probe be made to go far beyond the Pondei-led IMC, to 2001, with the light beamed on everyone ever involved with the NDDC.
“It has become expedient, given the level of corruption witnessed in the commission, for the probe to be expanded beyond the last six months, in order to adequately address the rot in the system.
“We demand that, in line with the tenets of democracy, the probe committee of the National Assembly must not sweep matters under the carpet or unduly shield anyone found to have been involved in the heist, from being investigated and duly prosecuted, as this will pave way for the recovery of the stolen funds meant for the development of the Niger Delta region.”