A seeming fiendish attempt by the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, to hoodwink federal legislators to back down from the ongoing probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has landed him in trouble.
Akpabio unequivocally claimed that 60% of the massive corrupt deals in the messy NDDC were grabbed by lawmakers of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
The minister’s wahala is coming as the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was busy rubbishing the Presidency.
Magu is claiming that some of the vehicles recovered by the anti-graft agency under him were auctioned to the Presidential Villa, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development as well as the Federal Inland Revenue Services and other agencies.
According to him, some of the named agencies have not paid for the vehicles. ‘’But, there was an arrangement that the money would be deducted from their financial allocation’’, Magu claimed in a letter to his probe panel Chairman, retired Justice Ayo Salami.
It is titled, ‘Re: Alleged Case of Conspiracy, Enrichment, Abuse of Public Office and Other Infractions,’ explained how some of the recovered vehicles were auctioned.
It is a response to an earlier report by the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets in which Magu was accused of being unable to account for the interest accrued to N550 billion recovered funds as well as recovered vehicles and houses.
On the allocation of vehicles to some government agencies through special auction with presidential approval, Magu said, ‘’the beneficiary agencies are: the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management of which the valued price is to be debited from their allocation; State House, National Commission for Refugees and Displaced Persons; Federal Inland Revenue Service and National Directorate of Employment.”
Continuing, he said some 450 other vehicles, which were recovered are yet to be sold despite receiving presidential approval to do so.
“EFCC presently has presidential approval to dispose over 450 forfeited vehicles located in Lagos and Abuja. The vehicles have been valued by the National Automotive Council Valuers and the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. But no sale/disposal has been conducted yet”, he said.
He said some of the houses permanently forfeited to the Federal Government by looters had also been handed over to some government agencies like the Voice of Nigeria, North -East Development Commission and the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate.
He explained that some other properties, which had been forfeited pending the outcome of court cases, were being rented by the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Nigerian Army and other agencies of government.
“Real properties finally forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria and allocated to some agencies for official use in line with the Presidential approval are: Voice of Nigeria, National Directorate of Employment, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, North East Development Commission and Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate.
“Properties under interim forfeiture order are rented by the following government agencies: Nigerian Army, Federal Ministry of Finance, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
“Other agencies of government that have approached the commission to rent properties under interim forfeiture order include: National Human Rights Commission and National Council for Arts and Culture”, the letter states, pointing out that EFCC also temporarily handed over the property in Lagos to the Lagos State Government for use as isolation centres for COVID-19 patients.
Magu was arrested by the police on July 6, 2020, and brought before the Justice Ayo Salami probe panel sitting at the Presidential Villa. He was detained for 10 days at the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Abuja.
However, Akpabio’s bombshell has drawn the ire of the House of Representatives with the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, giving him up to Thursday to come up with the names of federal legislators who partook in looting the NDDC.
Without a doubt, Akpabio’s claim is quite weighty and casts an unbearable moral burden on the Legislative arm of the Nigerian government.
That charge is a collective indictment because Akpabio has been one of the principal leaders of the 8th National Assembly as a Senate Minority Leader.
Anyway, going by a figure rolled out by some NDDC staff, Akpabio in the main is claiming that the federal lawmakers’ share of the NDDC loot is N720 billion.
Concerned NDDC Staff from Utilities, Infrastructure, Design and Waterways Department is alleging that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Commission burnt N1.2 trillion within eight months.
By implication, 60% of that huge amount stands at N720 billion.
The alleged N1.2 trillion rip-off in NDDC is however contained in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, by concerned NDDC staff. They are alleging that the rip-off in the Commission is in trillions of naira, and not in billions.
Copies of the letter were sent to Senate President, Ahmed Lawal, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, the Inspector General of Police, Director-General of the Department of State Services, NDDC Committee Chairmen in the National Assembly, the US Embassy and UK High Commission.
Gbajabiamila however, gave the ultimatum on Tuesday in Abuja. Akpabio was grilled for more than two hours over his meddlesomeness and contract scandals at NDDC.
After a seeming unsuccessful effort to clear himself of allegations levelled against him, the embattled minister told the investigative probe panel that lawmakers were the greatest beneficiaries of the sleazy contract awards by NDDC.
While addressing the House on Tuesday, the obviously irked Reps Speaker declared that he has never received any NDDC contract before: “This is my 5th term here and I have never for once collected anything from NDDC and I know I speak for a great majority of members of this House, a great majority.
‘’And because of that, I will take this allegation and accusation very seriously. I will give the Minister (Akpabio) 24 to 48 hours. Clerk, I want you to back this up with a letter from this House. Give the minister 24 to 48 hours to publish the names, the contracts so given, the dates because obviously these things will be documented; unveil the companies of the 60 per cent projects that were given to members of the National Assembly.’’