Gbajabiamila blocks move to withhold Akpabio’s budget

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday blocked a move to suspend appropriation to the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta over the alleged illegality in the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission.

A member of the House from Delta State, Mr Nicholas Ossai, had moved a motion calling for the suspension of legislative work on the 2020 budget of the ministry until the board of the NDDC was properly constituted.

The motion by Ossai, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, was titled, ‘Urgent need to stop the illegality in the Niger Delta Development Commission.’

Ossai said, “In October 2019, Mr President (Muhammadu Buhari) ordered a forensic audit of the operations and activities of the NDDC from 2001 to 2019, which is in line with what the House has done. In the later part of October 2019, precisely on the 29th, Mr President, through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, announced the appointment of 15 new NDDC board members, whose names were, thereafter, sent to the Senate for confirmation.

“The House is disturbed that in the evening of same 29th October, 2019, and to the utter consternation of all Nigerians, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, brazenly announced the sacking of the acting Managing Director of NDDC and the appointment of a three-man NDDC Interim Management Committee, which he directed to manage and run the affairs of NDDC for the next six months.

“Shortly after the appointment of the three-man Interim Management Committee, the Senate confirmed the 15 NDDC board members sent to it by Mr President in fulfilment of NDDC Act. The House is worried that the speed with which the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs hurriedly set up a three-man Interim Management Committee is stunning and suspicious.”

The lawmaker pointed out that any existing vacancy in the office of the MD of NDDC was usually filled temporarily by the most senior director. He said it, therefore, meant that by the confirmation of the NDDC governing board members by the Senate, the three-man IMC recently set up by the minister “becomes vitiated, null and void and of no legal effect.”

Ossai prayed the House to urge the minister “to withdraw the appointment and the activities of the three-man Interim Management Committee of NDDC.”

The lawmaker also urged the House and the Senate “to discontinue the 2020 appropriation and budget process of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs until the minister complies with Resolution 1 above.”

The Speaker, however, called for a proper investigation of the issues Ossai raised.

He said the outcome of the probe would guide the lawmakers on the action to take on the matter.

Rather than call for a vote on the motion, Gbajabiamila referred it to the House Committee on NDDC.

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