Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, has revealed that federal lawmakers are the biggest beneficiaries of contract awards from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Officials of the NDDC have been under probe for mismanagement of funds allocated to the commission which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Niger Delta.
Akpabio, accused of culpability in the alleged mismanagement, made an appearance before a House of Representatives Committee investigating the allegations on Monday, July 20, 2020.
During his testimony, Akpabio made it clear to the committee that N40 billion is not missing from the commission's account as alleged.
"N40 billion cannot go missing from the account of the NDDC because it is domiciled in the CBN.
"Before this administration, NDDC had over 300 bank accounts with various commercial banks," he said.
While responding to a suggestion to shut down the NDDC, Akpabio noted that it would defeat the purpose of an ongoing forensic audit of the commission.
The former Akwa Ibom governor said the commission plays a vital role in ensuring peace and security of the Niger Delta region which contributes a significant part of the nation's resources.
He further alleged that many of the contracts from the commission usually go to members of the National Assembly.
"We have records to show that most of the contracts in NDDC are given out to members of National Assembly," he said.
Even though Honourable Boma Goodhead, a member of the committee, attempted to probe him further on his statement, her inquiry was shut down by Honourable Thomas Ereyitomi who chaired Monday's hearing.
Further appeals from Akpabio, a former member of the National Assembly himself, to explain his position were turned down by Ereyitomi.
The NDDC was established in 2000 to develop the oil-rich Niger Delta, a region that produces the oil that Nigeria's economy depends on.
The commission's acting managing director, Daniel Pondei, caused a stir when he slumped during his appearance just before Akpabio's presentation on Monday.
He was carried out of the room after he appeared to be in severe medical distress that required attention.
When he appeared before the committee last week, Pondei walked out on the lawmakers, accusing the committee's chairperson, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, of corruption.
Before the commencement of Monday's session, Tunji-Ojo recused himself from the hearing, even though other members had previously passed a vote of confidence for him to continue.
"I want to say it clearly that any issue against my person, I will please appeal that this can be sent to the relevant anti-corruption agency," he said.
The lawmaker said he stepped down so as to give all parties a fair hearing.