NASS Watch: Speaker House Of Reps Fingered In Contracts Scam

NASS Watch: Speaker House Of Reps Fingered In Contracts Scam
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Abdul Lateef Taiwo Bamgbose

Like a recurring decimal, the leadership of the  House of Representatives is back in the news for an alleged corruption and contracts scam by  the Project Development Institute, PRODA.

The allegation against Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila , the Speaker of the House of Representatives has all the complexion of fraud like the previous allegations against his predecessors.

The Chairman of Projects Development Institute, PRODA, Comrade Daniel Onjeh, has called on Gbajabiamila to resign and also cause the disbandment of a House panel looking into allegations that he (Onjeh), is holding on to offices under false pretenses. Mr Onjeh at a press conference in Abuja  claimed that the Speaker wrongfully demanded his approval of PRODA projects, that were yet to meet due process requirements. He also called for the immediate dissolution of a house committee set up to look into alleged fraudulent acts at the institute. “Mr Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila had also directed, even though verbally and via telephone, that PRODA management should go and pay for nebulous contracts. Hence, Mr Speaker has no moral justification to preside over the motion, because like I have earlier said, it is laced with vested interests and not in the interest of the generality of Nigerians “As a bonafide citizen of Nigeria, having full knowledge citizen of Nigeria, having full knowledge of these circumstances, I am emotionally and psychologically disoriented. Consequently, I am calling for the immediate resignation of the Speaker. “He should honourably resign his exalted position, as he lacks the moral rectitude to continue to preside over the House”, he stated. Mr. Onje also called on the House, to disband the Committee looking into allegations of fraud at PRODA.

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“Furthermore, the Rt. Hon. Henry Nwawuba who moved the Motion, aside from being biased, should apologize to Nigerians for attempting to deceive them, and should also be reprimanded to refrain from further attempts at misleading Nigerians and the Hallowed Green Chamber of the National Assembly. “Also, the House Committee on Public Procurement investigating the PRODA 2020 Procurement Exercise, must be disbanded immediately, as it is evidently programmed for an expected end, hence lacks legitimacy”.

The committee had opened an enquiry on Thursday, into allegations of contract deception and management crisis at the institute. The Chairman dismissed allegations of wrongdoing at the agency, as he stressed that he was rather the one who initiated a probe at the agency against a former Acting Director-General of PRODA for corruption. “It is instructive for me to add that I led the Board that recommended the suspension of the former DG of PRODA on corruption-related issues, amongst others. To the best of my knowledge, there is no shred of allegation against me anywhere. However, since I was the one who spearheaded the preliminary investigation of the suspended DG of PRODA, my being asked to step aside as Board Chairman, is normal administrative procedure authorities take sometimes so that the investigation of the accused can go on unfettered. “Therefore, I’m calling on Nigerians not to be hoodwinked by the falsehood being propagated by some members of the House of Reps, with a bid to divert public attention from the real issues bedeviling PRODA”, he stated.

He also made available copies of letters showing that the Committee addressed him as Chairman of the Board, contrary to an earlier claim that he was no longer in that capacity. Recall that the House Committee on Public Procurement, led by Rep. Ali Ahmed(Kano-APC), had on Thursday the previous  week, resolved that the Ministry of Science and Technology, should issue a public notice disclaiming Mr Onje, as Chairman of the Board of PRODA. The Committee claimed that not only did Onje get involved in contracts deception, he had also used the agency’s letterhead at a time, they claimed he was no longer the Chairman of its board.

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Indeed the current allegation trailing the probe of the management came with sense of deja vu and nostalgia, in 2012, the leadership of the House were enmeshed in The N44m bribery allegations leveled against the Committee on Capital Markets, by the former  Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms. Arunma Oteh , like  Dan Onje the Committee  had accused  Oteh, of  frivolous  expenses and fraud.

Meanwhile, Oteh had  debunked allegations that she spent N850,000 on food, saying the amount in question was N85,000 only. According to a statement by the Commission signed by Mr. Obi Adindu, Communications Adviser, SEC, the allegations against Oteh were false the D-G is in possession of evidences upon which strength she  made her allegations. Given the embarrassing allegations by Ms. Oteh, it was learnt that some interest groups have advised the legislators to be circumspect in handling the matter to avoid maximum damage to the image of the House of Reps, in particular and that of the federal legislators in general.

Feelers indicated that Ms. Oteh  who was ready to throw more mud at the legislators if further provoked as was done on the first day of the committee’s sitting  when her qualification and competence to be appointed as the chief executive of the SEC was called to question. As learnt, the leadership of the House met members of the committee to receive first-hand report of what transpired at the sittings of the first two days and asked that it remains focused on issues, as a damage control the leadership of the House under Aminu Tambuwal , stood down the investigations by the Committee.

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 Last  July, 2020, The minister for Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio stirred the hornet’s nest again, during an investigative hearing on the misappropriations of N85.5Billion by the management of NDDC,  he told the Committee that  he had not awarded a single contract since he assumed office. Instead, he indicted members of the National Assembly.

“I have never approved a single contract not even one kilometre for the NDDC,” Akpabio said while responding to questions by the House of Representatives committee probing the financial misappropriation at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

“Most of the contracts in NDDC are given out to the members of the National Assembly. If you don’t know, please ask the two chairmen,” Akpabio alleged.

Indeed, like the previous probe and investigations in the House which ended abruptly it is doubtful if the Committee would continue with the probe of PRODA as Femi Gbajbiamila is now sitting on the edge.


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