The House of Representatives said on Tuesday it will not succumb to blackmail in its quest to unravel the corruption allegations rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The House also promised that the probe would not in hinder the forensic audit of the commission ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The House described as spurious and defamatory, the allegations of impropriety against it and the Senate by the Commission’s Executive Director in charge of Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh.
Ojougboh speaking on a Television programme, alleged that the House was delaying the passage of the commission’s 2020 budget and was bent on halting a forensic audit of the intervention agency.
Ojougboh also claimed among others that the House “vandalised and raped” the 2019 budget by adding ?85billion
Spokesman of the House of Representatives Benjamin Kalu accused Ojougboh of impugning on the integrity of the National Assembly by making such allegations.
Kalu, in a statement, in Abuja said the House remained committed to exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste in all aspects of governance.
He said: “The House understands that the spurious and defamatory claims made in that interview by Dr. Ojougboh were engineered to cast aspersions on its integrity and credibility.
“His claims that the House delayed passage of the 2019 NDDC budget are simply untrue and indicate a concerning ineptitude, ignorance and/or deliberate mischief by the Executive Director to deceive Nigerians about the financial improprieties of the commission.
“In reality, it has been the House pushing the commission to do the needful and render account to Nigerians
“The House recalls that for more than 13 months after the time required by law, the commission deliberately failed to submit its 2019 budget to the National Assembly for approval, choosing instead to engage in illegal and unauthorized spending to the tune of billions of naira.
“The House further recalls that on December 10, 2019, the date fixed for the budget defence, the commission failed to appear with its 2018 budget performance report, a document critical to assessing its previous expenditures and approving its 2019 budget; as a result of which, the budget defence had to be stepped down.
“The commission was only able to return with their budget performance report on February 5, 2020 following which the House passed the 2019 budget three weeks after (February 27th, 2020).
‘The House states that the negligence and/or deliberate mischief of the commission has also frustrated all efforts by the National Assembly to expeditiously approve the commission’s 2020 budget.
“We recall that on April 28 and May 12, 2020, the National Assembly sent joint reminders to the commission requesting copies of the 2019 budget performance report to enable it consider the commission’s 2020 budget.
“Unfortunately, in a reply dated May 13, 2020, the commission cited the COVID-19 pandemic as excuse for their failure to provide their 2019 performance report. This is curiously ironic considering that despite the pandemic, they have been able to access their offices to spend monies, handle sharing of palliatives, make payments in billions of Naira and undertake transfers, promotions and suspensions of public officers, etc.
“Therefore, till date, the commission has refused to render an account of its 2019 budget expenditures
“Contrary to the allegations of padding, the House recalls instead, that it was forced to cut down the budget estimates from ?409bn to ?345bn when it was discovered that the commission’s projected expenditures were unrealistic, having exceeded their revenue source by N63bn.”
He said that the House is concerned by Ojougboh’s attempt to indict President Muhammadu Buhari of influencing the 2019 NDDC budget by inserting so-called “President’s regional projects.”
“We have a duty to remove any suspicious item identified in the budget, it must be stated that the House is not aware of any line items in the 2019 budget estimates bearing the name or indicating the personal interests of the President,” he clarified.