News Investigators/ The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Kemebrandikumo Pondei, Thursday, staged a walk out on the House of Representatives.
Even as the House issued a warrant of arrest on the NDDC boss.
Mr. Pondei, a professor, along with aime top officials of the commission, had stormed out of the House Committee venue of an investigative hearing presided over by committee chairman, Olubunmi Ojo after demanding his recusion from the sitting.
The NDDC boss had accused Mr. Ojo likelihood of bias, saying there was already an allegation him by the Commission.
The House also issued a warrant of arrest on them.
The House Committee on NDDC is probing the alleged mismanagement and illegal spending by the commission, specially a total sum of N81.5bn spent between January and July, 2020.
Troubled began after the committee took the roll call of invitees and confirmed that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen Godswill Akpabio, was absent, it called on the NDDC to make its presentation.
Mr. Pondei, who led members of the Interim Management Committee, demanded that the Chairman, Mr. Tunji-Ojo, steps down as he had also been accused of various “crimes” against the commission.
“Let just say that we are not comfortable with the Chairman of this committee presiding over a matter which he is an accused party,” he said.
Adding: “The NDDC has over the time accused Honourable Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC and its people, and he has responded in the press. He is an interested party and we do not believe that the NDDC can have justice because he cannot sit on his own case.
“We have no issues with appearing before the committee because we appeared before the Senate committee. And as long as he is the Chairman of this committee, the NDDC will not make any presentations here.”
Several members of the committee, however, dismissed the request.
A member, Shehu Koko, who repeatedly screamed “point of order” before Pondei concluded his speech, said, “Before the chairman rules on what the Acting MD NDDC said, I want to state categorically that – and this is the stand of the parliament – if you have anything against the Chairman of this committee, there are many ways you can report your matter.”
Mr. Koko asked the NDDC to petition the Nigeria Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission or the Department of State Services for any infraction allegedly committed by Tunji-Ojo.
“But the rule of the parliament is that nobody can come and dictate to us here that the Chairman cannot sit because this is not the matter in question now,” he stated.
Another member, Benjamin Kalu, referred the committee and the invitees to the provisions of Section 60 of the Constitution, which allows the parliament to regulate itself.
Mr. Kalu remarked that “the House has decided that this is a committee affair and not a personalised affair. Since it is not about the Chairman of the committee, and there is no petition or official document before the House, and the motion that called for this probe by this committee has not been rescinded by the House, I think it is out of order for an invited guest to instruct us on how to regulate the activity of the House.
“I’m praying that Chairman sustains this point of order.”
While Tunji-Ojo sustained the point of order.
Another member, Ben Igbakpa, noted that Sections 88 and 89 give the lawmakers express powers to summon and seek for information to avoid waste, corruption and inefficiency, and that, that was what they were doing.
“Nobody has come here to discuss your allegation because it is not an allegation before us; there is no document before us. Whatever allegation you have made is in the air and it remains in the air. And you cannot come here to dictate to us, subject to Section 60.
“Obey that part of the Constitution and listen to what we have to do. Nobody is indicting you. You have the right to fair hearing and that is why you are here. But if you feel that fair hearing is not good for you, then it is sad as a nation,” he said.
No sooner he finished his remarks than the IMC team rose and walked out of the venue.
As the officials did, Mr. Kalu asked the committee to put it on record that Mr. Pomdei and others walked out on the panel.