THE Senate has said the National Assembly will under no circumstance back down on its probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
This was as its spokesman, Senator Ajibola Bashiru, dared the commission to provide evidence of alleged corruption claims against lawmakers of the Senate and House of Representatives to anti-graft agencies for investigation.
Bashiru made the official position of the upper chamber known in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday.
According to the lawmaker, no amount of blackmail against lawmakers or the National Assembly would stop ongoing investigation into the financial transactions of the commission.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Senate has been drawn to a statement credited to Dr Cairo Ojougboh, the executive director of projects at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under the Interim Management Committee (IMC).
“Ojuogboh, in his statement, alleged that senators and members of the House of Representatives are behind the fraud in NDDC.
“Ordinarily, while we are still at a loss as to why Ojougboh has repeatedly made such allegations at a time the NDDC is under scrutiny of forensic audit and investigation by the National Assembly, the Senate is even more surprised considering the fact that the allegations are baseless and unsubstantiated.
“Apparently, Ojougboh is ignorant of the constitutional mandate of the National Assembly to carry out oversight function over all agencies expending government resources with a view to exposing and preventing corruption, abuse and inefficiency.
“It stands logic on the head to claim that by invoking its constitutional power of oversight to investigate the activities of the IMC, the National Assembly intends to scuttle forensic audit. The outlandish claim is illogical.”
Speaking on the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly to oversee the commission, Senator Bashiru said same was aimed at facilitating rapid and sustainable development in the Niger Delta as well as ensure the proper application of funds for the region.
“While the National Assembly is committed to repositioning the NDDC to address the challenges of the Niger Delta through facilitating the rapid and sustainable development of the Niger Delta, however, it is naturally concerned about the allegations of poor management or outright fraud in the management of the funds and operations of the commission.”
He added that the probe of the commission by the National Assembly is not aimed at victimising anyone at the NDDC.
“The setting up of the investigation is predicated on the above concern and not to victimise anyone. It was also in this regard that the National Assembly has accorded the executives the necessary cooperation that will facilitate the completion of the forensic audit,” he said.
He stressed that the National Assembly in line with carrying out its oversight functions, “will appraise the budget and its operations of the Commission like other agencies to entrench a culture of transparency and accountability.”
Taking a swipe at the commission over allegations of corruption against lawmakers, Bashiru asked the commission in view of its recent claims to make same available to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for investigation.
“Therefore, the allegations in respect of the budget clearly smacks of cheap blackmail predicated on falsehood.
“One would have expected an organisation of integrity to have formally made complaints to the anti-corruption agencies of the purported allegations against senators and members of the House of Representatives of the NDDC committees, if there are facts to substantiate same.
“The Senate and, indeed, the National Assembly is also committed to exercising its constitutional mandate and will not be cowed by spurious allegations of the likes of Dr Ojougboh.
“This is a very disturbing trend and the Senate will not toe this path. The proper avenue to challenge exercise of power of the National Assembly is the court of law, not spewing falsehood on pages of newspapers and electronic media.
“The National Assembly will not succumb to cheap blackmail from any quarters and is committed to ensuring probity and accountability of all agencies of government, no matter whose ox is gored,” the spokesman said.