By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
THE Senate yesterday described allegations by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio that contracts were awarded to Lawmakers as cheap blackmail, just as it said that they are fallacies of the highest order.
Speaking with Journalists yesterday on the allegations, Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ondo Central said that the allegations were unfounded and sheer blackmail.
Recall that the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan had last week asked the Akinyelure led Committee to probe the allegations and alleged blackmail against the Senators by the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC that they were awarded contracts and report back in four weeks.
According to Akinyelure, some of the contracts alleged to have been taken by the listed federal lawmakers at different times were constituency projects appropriated for them in the national budget without them collecting a dime to execute them as lawmakers.
He said: ” As a matter of fact, the submission of Senator Akpabio is cheap blackmail which cannot be tenable anywhere in Nigeria. Senators are representatives of the people in the legislature and we have the power of Appropriation. Projects allocated to us are put in the various ministries and agencies of government where they can be fully executed.
“Those of us from the Niger Delta region can lobby for some of the projects to be put in their various constituencies. That does mean that the money for their execution was given to senators. We don’t touch money here but influence projects to be executed in our constituencies. When that is done, the executive arm of government will advertise for contractors to bid for them, and award them, following due process.
“The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was a senator in the 8th Senate. Did he not facilitate projects worth billions of naira to his own constituency through the NDDC? The answer is yes, he did. If he admits that they paid him the money for the execution of the contracts, then, it is a question of investigating who won the contracts.
“The allegation that members of the National Assembly from the Niger Delta region facilitated projects is a fallacy because being indigenes of the region, they have the right to facilitate projects to their communities in the interest of their constituents.
“If I’m the chairman of the Niger Delta committee in the Senate and projects worth N200bn are to be allocated to the region, I will influence 10 percent of it to my constituency. The projects are meant for the Niger Delta region, therefore there is nothing wrong for the National Assembly members from the region to facilitate some of them to their constituencies.
“However, if these projects were successfully facilitated and a particular Senator used his company to take the money away, our committee will go and investigate, where they fall short, they would be nailed by the law. If the projects were never executed and senators used their companies to take the money away, that is a fraud.
” Therefore, allegations that some Senators have taken money to execute contracts in the NDDC is a fallacy of the highest order because we have our records, we don’t do that. Our committee will look into the allegations of blackmail against some lawmakers and make our findings public”.