By Obas Esiedesa
The House of Representatives is to sue the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio for criminal perjury and civil defamation over his claims against the lawmakers under oath.
Akpabio, had on Monday while appearing before an investigative panel of the House on financial scams at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), claimed that most of the contracts awarded by the Commission were given to members of the National Assembly.
The next day, the House of Representatives Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila issued Akpabio a 48 hours ultimatum to reveal the names of the lawmakers who got contracts from the Commission.
On Thursday, rather than name the beneficiaries of the contract awards, Akpabio backtracked, saying his statement was not directed at members of the ninth Assembly.
Gbajabiamila who was not impressed by the move, declared that the House will take the Minister to court.
In a series of twits on his verified Twitter handle, the Speaker said the House would resist any attempt to undermine it.
He wrote: “Last Tuesday I issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to substantiate his allegation that over 60% (sixty per cent) of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) went to members of the @nassnigeria
“I said then that the Honourable Minister owed it to himself and the country to provide evidence to support these serious allegations. The Honourable Minister has failed to respond to my request.
“Therefore, I must conclude that his statement intended solely to gaslight the nation to avoid accountability for the evident maladministration and malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“I have held every @HouseNGR leadership position from Minority Whip, to Minority Leader, Leader of the House (Majority Leader) and now Speaker. I recognise that the House has not always lived up to the high expectations of the Nigerian people.
“As much as we still have a lot to do in that regard, I refuse to sit here in good conscience and allow anyone to assassinate the character of the House in an attempt to deflect accountability for their conduct in office.
“This morning, I asked the Clerk of @HouseNGR to engage the services of legal counsel, and instruct them to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury against the Minister.
“At the same time, we will instruct counsel to explore the possibility of a civil defamation suit The House of Representatives is a public trust placed in our care for the duration of our term in office. We must prove ourselves worthy of this public trust or risk the censure of history.
“Therefore, we will resist every attempt to undermine this institution, whether such attempts come from within or from outside. @HouseNGR will live up to the highest expectations of the Nigerian people. This is our commitment, and we will not fail”.
Both Chambers of the National Assembly have in the past few weeks trying to unravel a systematic looting and mismanagement of funds at the NDDC that has led to a whooping N85 billion being spent under eight months.
The NDDC is special interventionist agency created by the Federal Government to address age-long issues of neglect and under development in the oil and gas rich region.
But most of the funds have been looted by the managers of the Commission with little to show in the development of the region.
Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the Commission, but even this is embroiled in a new scandal, as Sen. Akpabio has been accused of high jacking the work of the auditors.