The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has handed the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, an ultimatum: produce full details of lawmakers who have benefited from Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) contracts within 48hrs or face the full wrath of the law.

During a house committee hearing on Monday, July 20, 2020, Akpabio said lawmakers who were grilling him for alleged corruption and mismanagement at the NDCC, were themselves beneficiaries of juicy contracts handed by the agency.

“We have records to show that most of the contracts in NDDC are given out to members of the national assembly," Akpabio had said. "Who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It's you people nau."

Senator Godswill Akpabio. [Twitter/@CHYCHYCHUKWU]
Senator Godswill Akpabio. [Twitter/@CHYCHYCHUKWU]

Akpabio’s disclosure led to a shouting match between him and committee member Hon Boma Goodhead.

Committee Chairman, Hon Thomas Ereyitomi, practically stopped Akpabio from revealing more by patting Goodhead on the back and repeatedly telling both feuding parties: “it’s okay...it’s okay...honorable minister, it’s okay.”

Akpabio however told Goodhead that chairmen of legislative committees know about these contracts and that she would do well to ask them.

Clips of that moment in the inquisition went viral immediately.

48 hours or war

During house plenary on Tuesday, July 21, Gbajabiamila, who was reacting to a point of order brought under matters of breach of his privileges by minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu, threw a challenge and a couple of threats Akpabio’s way.

Elumelu had urged the house to invite Akpabio over so he could identify lawmakers who got contracts from the NDDC.

Reacting to Elumelu’s point of order, the speaker said it was unfortunate that journalists helped the minister amplify “what we all know is untrue.”

“I’ve never once collected contracts from the NDDC and I know I can speak for many other members,” Gbajabiamila said. "Akpabio came to play games, but we do not play games here.

“I hereby call on the minister to within 24-48 hours, publish the names, contracts, dates and unveil the companies of the 60 percent projects that were given to the national assembly," he added.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. [Twitter/@femigbaja]
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. [Twitter/@femigbaja]

Should Akpabio fail to heed the summon of the lawmakers, the full weight of the law will be unleashed on him, Gbajabiamila warned.

“The minister owes it to himself, the committee, Niger delta and the people of Nigeria to publish details of those who have been given contracts,” the speaker said.

The House of Representatives is investigating how N40 billion allegedly disappeared from the coffers of the NDDC between January and May of 2020.

Akpabio’s ministry supervises the NDDC--a government agency set up by the federal government in 2000 to address the myriad developmental challenges of an oil rich but impoverished Niger Delta region--but which has been typically mired in corruption.