Drama as Acting NDDC MD, Pondei faints during House of Reps probe

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…he won’t appear before panel again -Gbajabiamila

…most of NDDC contracts awarded to national Assembly members -Akpabio

…PDP says APC govt corrupt, demands for sack of Akpabio

By Bankole Taiwo

The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Daniel Pondei on Monday fainted while being grilled by the House of Representatives Committee on NDCC over misappropriation of N81bn.

He was however revived after some NDDC officials came to his rescue.

Pondei was immediately ferried out of the venue of the investigative hearing chaired by the chairman of the House Committee on Niger Delta, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo at about 1:00 pm.

Some members of the committee, who felt Pondei’s action must have been stage-managed, failed in their bid to stop sympathisers from taking Pondei away for medical attention.

Pondei was being grilled over alleged extra-budgetary expenditure incurred while he was on the saddle between February to date.

The development forced the lawmakers to adjourn the probing session abruptly for 15 minutes to enable them to determine whether to continue the probe.

Pondei was appointed acting MD of NDDC late February after the sack of the former boss of the agency, Dr Joy Nunieh.

He had last week staged a walk out on this same panel insisting that he was not comfortable with Chairman of the panel, Hon Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo.

However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has disclosed that Pondei, who slumped during the ongoing investigative hearing, would no longer appear before the committee again.

Hon. Gbajabiamila made this disclosure when he joined the committee after the hearing resumed, following the collapse of Pondei, while being grilled by the lawmakers.

He said that the committee will adopt the written response of the managing director.

The Speaker also wished Pondei a safe and speedy recovery.

Gbajabiamila said: “There would be no need for the MD of NDDC to appear anymore since he has submitted a written response. I wish Mr. Pondei safe and speedy recovery and I have also sent the Medical Director of the National Assembly to follow up to ascertain the condition of the MD. Thank you very much and I, therefore, hand over to the current chairman of the committee, Mr. Thomas Ereyitomi, to continue with the hearing.”

He added that the decision by the Chairman, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, to recuse himself from the probe showed that the lawmakers were out to ensure a credible exercise.

The Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Sen Godswill Akpabio who also appeared before the panel alleged that many of the national assembly members benefitted from the contracts awarded by the NDDC.

The Minister made the comment as he was being grilled by members of the House of Representatives committee on NDDC in a public hearing.

Akpabio had been invited by the lawmakers on Friday to defend his actions as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and shed more light on financial misappropriation within the NDDC.

He stated this while responding to a question about NDDC expenditure amid a forensic audit.

Akpabio disclosed that “we cannot close down the Niger Delta Development Commission because of the fact that we are doing (a) forensic audit.

“The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region and 90 percent or more of the resources of the country come from there.

“If you close it down in totality all you will have is chaos. You will have a lot of, not just militancy, you will have a lot of insurrection.

“So it is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it because, of course, who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people.”

Asked by a member of the committee to clarify what he meant by “you people” allegation, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State fired back saying “I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly”.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that the multibillion naira scandal rocking Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was just a tip of iceberg of the humongous corruption, sleaze and concealments having field day under President Muammadu Buhari’s government that is always quick to shout on the rooftop about its anti-corruption crusade.

The opposition party said that the dramatic collapse of acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Daniel Pondei, on Monday while being grilled by the House of Representatives over misappropriation of over N80bn, further underscored the weight of corruption that has bedeviled the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.

The PDP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was obvious that the embattled NDDC acting Managing Director collapsed under the weight and shame of overwhelming collective guilt brought on him by the exposure of massive corruption being perpetrated by the agency officials and APC leaders.

The party said “it is revealing that Pondei could go no further in the face of scathing revelations of direct pillaging of resources meant for the development and welfare of the Niger Delta people, in an unbridled corruption racket, in which the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, also stands accused.

“It is rather curious that Prof. Pondei slumped after lawmakers demanded that he offers explanations on the contentious payment of billions of naira, alleged unbudgeted sums, to certain companies by the NDDC.

“This is particularly as Nigerians recall that the embattled NDDC boss had, last week, stalled proceedings by challenging the legislators and walking out on the House of Representatives investigative panel.

“The situation in the NDDC is just a tip of the iceberg on the humongous corruption, looting spree and concealments going on in ministries, department and agencies of government being perpetrated by APC leaders and their cronies”

PDP has therefore called on  President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately suspend the Minister of Niger Delta Affair, Sen. Godswill Akpabio and also disband the NDDC Interim Management Committee (IMC), if he indeed wanted the coordinated probe he ordered to yield any credible results.

The party urged President Buhari to note that the people of the Niger Delta region, who are being deprived of their welfare, are following the development with keen interest.

PDP said the entire nation and indeed the global community are watching the handling of the NDDC as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) fraud saga by the Buhari administration.

“They are watching the unfolding drama, the rigmarole and veneers of concealments by corrupt officials and APC leaders. Mr. President must note that the malevolent odour of corruption oozing out of his administration are too odious to be swept under the carpets” the party warned.