The Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, claimed in a recent statement published on the website of a national newspaper that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said 60% of all the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) projects were awarded to members of the House between the months of January and May 2020.
False. Akapabio mentioned 60% but not in regards to projects awarded to lawmakers and when he made the allegations of projects award, he never mentioned 60%.
Full Text: On July 28, 2020, the website of a national newspaper published a statement released by the Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Kalu, stating that Akpabio said 60% of NDDC projects were awarded to House Members between January and May, 2020.
The claim, also published on this website, added that the leadership of the NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC) was part of the allegations against members of the National Assembly.
“In a coordinated and calculated attempt to distract Nigerians from the on-going investigation, the Minister of NDDC and the leadership of the IMC raised spurious allegations against members of the National Assembly. The Minister claimed under oath that 60% of all the NDDC projects under investigation were awarded to members of the House between the months of January and May 2020,” Kalu said in the statement.
The House of Representatives Committee on NDDC held public [probe] sessions on the NDDC over alleged illegal expenditure and mismanagement of resources.
Specifically, the House Committee on NDDC is probing especially the alleged illegal spending by the Interim Management Committee of the commission totalling N81.5bn between January and July 2020.
The acting Managing Director of NDDC, Prof Daniel Pondei, the former acting Managing Director of NDDC, Joy Nunieh, and the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, appeared and testified before the panel on their roles in the alleged mismanagement of public resources in the Commission.
It was during one of those sessions that Akpabio implicated the lawmakers, saying that they also benefited from NDDC project awards.
The accusation did not go down well with members of the National Assembly as the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, challenged Akpabio to, within 24 to 48 hours, publish the names of the lawmakers who were awarded NDDC projects.
In a letter addressed to the speaker in response to the 48-hour ultimatum, Akpabio said that he never alleged that 60% of contracts in the NDDC were awarded to lawmakers.
“As to the reference to 60% of contracts, the investigative committee refused and neglected to give me the opportunity to explain,” Akpabio said.
It was in the wake of this explanation that the House Spokesman, Kalu, claimed that Akpabio actually said 60% of all the NDDC projects were awarded to members of the House between the months of January and May, 2020.
So, what exactly did Akpabio say before the House Committee on NDDC concerning awards of projects to lawmakers?
A transcript of the video recording of the probe section revealed that a member of the Committee, Honourable Kolade Akinjo, asked the Minister why a medical doctor was appointed as an executive director of projects.
Responding, Akpabio said, “If you look at the year-in-year-out budget of the NDDC, 60% of the budget of NDDC every year is medical. And you also have to know that malaria has killed more children in Nigeria than even accidents and than any other thing. Even before the coming of the COVID, 60% of the projects of NDDC are medical. So, who will best fit the position of Executive Director of Projects in NDDC than a medical doctor to go and implement the 60% of the budget.”
Responding to another question on why NDDC has continued spending despite the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission, he said, “it is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. So, for me, I am not against it because, of course, who are even the beneficiaries? It is you people.”
At this point, a member of the panel, Honourable Goodhead, sought clarification on what he meant by “members were the beneficiaries.”
Akpabio said, “I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly, but you don’t know about it. But, the two chairmen can explain to you. I was a member of the NDDC committee.”
Analysis of the transcript of the proceeding showed that the Minister only used 60% in reference to the nature of projects executed by the NDDC, in respect of the medical component of the commission’s budget. In terms of the volume of projects awarded to lawmakers, the Minister used the term “most” and not 60%. In addition, the Minister also did not indicate the exact time the projects were awarded to the lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Akpabio has also debunked the claim in a letter to the House, confirming that he was referring to the nature of projects executed by NDDC when he used 60%.
The Minister said in the letter that any reference to 60% during the investigative hearing was in answer to a question by a member of the committee as to whether or not a medical doctor could act as Executive Director for projects, which he answered in the affirmative.
The claim that Akpabio said 60% of NDDC projects were awarded to House members between January and May, 2020 was false. Akapabio did make mention of 60% but not in relation to projects awarded to lawmakers and when he made the allegations of projects award, he never mentioned 60%.
The researcher produced this fact-check under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Daily Trust to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.