- Anti-graft commission yet to invite minister, says aide
Deji Elumoye, Kingsley Nwezeh, Udora Orizu in Abuja and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has launched an investigation into the alleged involvement of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, in financial dealings in the commission amounting to N81.5 billion.
The EFCC, in an invitation letter addressed to a group, Foundation for True Freedom and Good Governance, led by a human rights activist, Mr. Deji Adeyanju, said it would need his assistance in the investigation.
But Akpabio’s aide, Mr. Anietie Ekong, stated that the minister had not been invited by the anti-graft agency.
The House of Representatives also ruled out the EFCC probe affecting its ongoing investigation of the agency.
The Senate, however, said it was not bothered by the reported investigation of the NDDC by the EFCC.
The reply by the EFCC to the request by the foundation was posted yesterday on Adeyanju’s tweeter handle.
The letter, with reference number 3000/EFCC/ABJ/HQ/EG/T.6/Vol4/044 and dated August 14, 2020, was signed by the Head, Economic Governance Section, Mr. Adebayo Adeniyi.
In the letter titled, ‘Re: Request for Investigation of Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, and Prof. Daniel Pondei, acting MD NDDC, over Corruption Allegations of Diversion of Public Funds’, the anti-graft agency said the investigation of the two government officials had commenced.
The agency invited Adeyanju to the EFCC office in Abuja to clarify some of the allegations.
“We write to acknowledge the receipt of your petition dated August 3, 2020, in respect of the above subject and to inform you that an investigation into the case has commenced.
“In view of the above, you are kindly requested to attend an interview with the undersigned through the O/C team six on Thursday, August 20, 2020 at EFCC headquarters third floor,” the letter read in part.
The foundation had asked the commission to investigate how N81.8 billion was spent by the commission.
When contacted, the Director of Corporate Affairs of NDDC, Mr. Charles Odili, told THISDAY that he was on sick leave and could not comment on the issue
Pondei did not respond to phone calls or text messages sent to him by THISDAY.
But Ekong said the EFCC had not invited the minister over the probe of the activities of the NDDC.
Ekong said: “My boss is yet to be invited. I don’t think the EFCC letter expressly stated that the minister is being investigated. It didn’t state that.”
The probe of NDDC EFCC Won’t Affect Our Investigation, Says House
The House of Representatives has said the investigation of the NDDC by the EFCC will not affect the ongoing probe by the lawmakers.
House’s spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, told THISDAY yesterday that the House Committee on NDDC has concluded its investigation and laid its report to the House, which will be considered immediately they come back from recess.
Kalu said: ”The roles of the various arms of government have been specified by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In that the same constitution, there is a provision for checks and balances to these separated powers. The legislature carries out its mandate according to sections 88 and 89, to check corruption and inefficiency or wastes in government, and it is carried out on all the ministries departments and agencies of government.
”Recently, the need arose for us to look at the activities of an agency known as Niger Delta Development Commission and that job has been thoroughly done by the House of Representatives’ Committee on NDDC as part of our oversight function and this was done via a motion raised for investigative hearing.
”The committee has gone through all the processes allowed by the House rules in carrying out the hearing on the issues raised by the petitions and motions that were tabled before the House. At the point of laying the report of the committee before the House, the job of the committee is seen to have been completed. Subject to a resolution of the House whose duty it is at the moment to handle the consideration of report laid before it. This report has not been considered because it came in almost when we were about to go on recess. Members needed time to look deeply into these documents on resumption in a few weeks’ time this laid report will be considered by the House in a comprehensive manner.
”The probe of NDDC by EFCC does not in any way affect the work that have been done and completed. It is for us to consider the report, and by consideration accept the recommendation so far given or amend the recommendations or redirect the committee to go back and tidy any loose end identified.”
Also, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, told THISDAY that the upper legislative chamber “is not privy to the workings of the EFCC and the EFCC did not make any reference to the National Assembly in the reported probe of NDDC.”