The House of Representatives has issued a warrant for the arrest of Daniel Pondei, the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commision (NDDC), over what it described as ‘contempt of the legislature.’
The House Committee on Niger Delta had summoned the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC to make presentations at the ongoing investigative hearing into the alleged financial recklessness at the commission.
Mr Pondei, on Thursday, led a walk-out on the House Committee on Niger Delta.
Mr Pondei, who appeared with other management staff of the commission, accused the chairman of the house committee, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, of corruption. He said because of that, his team would not speak before the committee.
“We are not comfortable with the chairman of this committee presiding over a matter he has been accused of,” he said.
He asked the committee chairman to recuse himself from the investigation.
“There is no point of order here. As long as he is the chairman of this committee, the NDDC will not make any presentation here,” he said.
When other lawmakers intervened and told the NDDC team that nobody could decide their modus operandi, the NDDC management staged a walkout.
Earlier in May, a group accused Mr Tunji-Ojo of having benefited from award of contracts at the NDDC.
The lawmaker, however, described the allegations as shameful and baseless.
In a statement, he described a newspaper publication attributed to some “inconsequential groups” claiming he was awarded a 17 km road contract as ‘smear campaign.’
Mr Tunji-Ojo represents Akoko North East/ West Federal Constituency of Ondo State.
Thursday’s invitation of the NDDC leadership was because it was accused of spending N81.5 billion from the coffers of the commission from February to May without due process.
However, rather than address the allegations, on Thursday, the management of the NDDC walked out on the lawmakers.
Irked by the action of the NDDC management, the house spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu, moved a motion, invoking section 89 of the 1999 constitution (as amended), to issue a warrant of arrest.
The motion was seconded and passed at the committee sitting.
This order of arrest is expected to be ignored by the police who have ignored similar ones by the lawmakers in the past.
The committee also passed a vote of confidence on the Chairman of the Committee, Tunji-Ojo, saying his integrity and those of other members of the committee was not in question.
The committee, however, continued with the investigative hearing.
WHY WE WALKED OUT
Addressing journalists after the incident at the National Assembly, Mr Pondei said they were supposed to appear before the committee investigating financial recklessness and malfeasance but that basically, the committee is investigating a missing N40 billion that nobody is talking about.
He said he has absolute respect for the National Assembly and that is why they appeared before the Senate ad-hoc committee to investigate the same issues.
“We made our presentation over two days and we will wait for the outcome of that investigation.”
“However, the committee that was set up in the House of Representatives is being chaired by the Chairman of the NDDC committee who the NDDC severally accused of different things. He cannot be a judge in his own case because we are very sure we will not have a fair hearing.”
“Yesterday, for reasons beyond our control, we were not able to appear but the reports that came out had already indicted us. They shaved our heads in our absence.
“The fact given by the Account General’s office in the Senate explained that between October 2019 and May 31, 2020, N81.5billion had been spent by the NDDC.”
“Yesterday, according to what was read out by the Chairman, the amount was spent in four months by the NDDC; this already showed that there is a problem, a preconceived efforts to portray the management of the NDDC in a bad light and we know we won’t get justice in this.”
He said any day an ad hoc committee without anybody who is being accused by the NDDC is set up, the NDDC will appear.
“When we saw that the committee was insistent that the chairman will continue, we had no option rather than to take a leave, we did not disrespect the National Assembly, we asked for permission to leave and we left.”