Nigeria: Militants Threatening My Life Over NDDC Probe - Reps Committee Chair, Tunji-Ojo

Ogoniland in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria
26 May 2020

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has raised the alarm of threat to his life by some militants over the resolution of the National Assembly to probe the Interim Management Committee, IMC for alleged financial improprieties.

Addressing a press conference at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, Tuesday in response to various allegations levelled against the parliament and himself by the NDDC/IMC Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh in a television interview, Ojo said that he had received some life-threatening phone calls and messages.

The lawmaker representing Akoko North-East/Akoko North-West Federal Constituency of Ondo State also dismissed Ojougboh's claims that he had awarded contracts running into trillions of Naira, describing it as cheap blackmail.

"It's unfortunate that these allegations are coming. As I've always said, these allegations are blackmailed and it's surprising because I became the chairman of this Committee as I was inaugurated as chairman in September last year and between September and now I can say categorically that not a kobo of contract has been awarded for an emergency. So, I don't know how that figure comes in and how that assertion came into being.

"It's laughable because IMC themselves came into being in October last year, a month after I became the chairman of this Committee. The same Dr Cairo said on Arise TV that they have not awarded a single contract since they came on board so how did One Trillion, Two Trillion or whatever trillion how was that awarded? This is just sheer blackmail I expected it from the onset when the investigation process started and the bottom line is that we are not going to be dead. I have to say this, this is coming after threat and after threat to life by militants, by different text messages, calls and etc; the threats have failed.

"So the next agenda to stop the legislative work is blackmail. And I can say it categorically, we are more determined to work for the people of Niger Delta more than ever before. I can say it there is no One Trillion, Two Trillion, 10 Trillion or anything. It does not exist. Maybe it only exists in the figment of their own imagination.

"I'm surprised that anybody will award a job that is not in the budget and I'm surprised about that and I've gone through the 2020 budget as approved and I can tell you point-blank that in the 2020 budget there's no provision, there is nothing like emergency training in the 2020 budget, nothing like that, I don't know what he's talking about. And I've said it before and let me repeat for the umpteenth time I do not have a single contract in NDDC. They started with a 17 km road contract which they couldn't substantiate and they've come up with another thing. We only expecting what next, and only God knows what else they will come up with again. I don't have any contract in NDDC, I have never been a contractor to NDDC, I've never worked for NDDC and I've never been paid by NDDC for anything.

"So I'm the chairman of this Committee by the grace of God. I know the responsibilities on my shoulder and I know that the Niger Delta people are looking up to us for succour. Niger Delta is looking up to us for intervention, Niger Delta is also looking up to us for help, Niger Delta is looking up to us for a greater tomorrow; we will not mortgage the future of the Niger Delta people for the sake of our today. That will never happen. I don't have a contract and I repeat it again, don't have a contract! And it is an indictment on their part if they claimed that there was an award for an unbudgeted item, that is a serious offence that I think the National Assembly must look into".

The lawmaker further stated that the National Assembly was in support of the forensic auditing of the NDDC accounts, asking them not to be afraid of the probe.

He said that his committee and the parliament will always stand by the people of Niger Delta.

"It was stated yesterday that we are doing this probe because we are against the forensic. Let me say this clearly, I, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo I was on Politics Today on Channels Television, when the President approved the forensic and I openly supported it, until tomorrow I support it, my Committee supports it, the House of Reps is in support, the Senate I know they are in support, the National Assembly is in support.

"To indicate our support, when the 2019 budget was brought, this is the 2019 budget, look at this budget proposal, the President approved forensic in October last year, this budget was brought to the National Assembly in November, precisely November 26, a month after the approval of the President for forensic. Yet, they did not put forensic as a budget line in the budget; they have no financial provision for forensic. It took the National Assembly in line with its power of appropriation to be able to provide funds for the forensic.

"This is it in the budget, precisely serial No: 179 under regional for the forensic. The President approved the sum of N2.5 billion for the forensic and we budgeted for the provision of N2.5 billion in line with what the President approved and we made provision for N1.250 billion in 2019 budget of which they have already paid some because we have records from CBN and others.

"How else as a Legislature, as a responsible and responsive arm of government can we cooperate and show support for the forensic other than making these funds available? If we are not in support, we wouldn't have made the funds available. Let me say emphatically, we are in support of forensic because the truth must be lay bared and what we are saying in the process of doing forensic if there are allegations, you should be able to defend yourself and not hide under forensic as if forensic has granted you immunity.

"Forensic is not a medium of granting immunity and that's all we are saying. We have not indicted anybody. All these things are still allegations against the IMC, there is no resolution of the House against them yet, all we are saying is there are allegations, come and defend yourself in line with the principle of fair hearing. We have written to them, we have written to several government agencies CBN, Accountant General, all of them and we are getting documents and we are going to get evidence and we have promised that this investigation is going to be free and fair. And I don't see why everybody should be scared of their own shadow, there is no need. We are all working for the Niger Delta people, we don't see them as enemies but allegations have been raised it is only ethical for you to clear yourself of allegations.

"If you have nothing to hide, why throwing tantrums, why blackmail, why manufacturing figures, that doesn't exist, talk is cheap, why blackmailing people, why blackmailing the Institution? But I want to assure you of one thing, and I will like to assure the people of Niger Delta we will not be intimidated, we will not be blackmailed into submission, we will do a thorough job, not just to our own satisfaction, not just to the satisfaction of the house but to the satisfaction of the people of the Niger Delta in line with the realities on the ground. That is a promise we are making to the Niger Delta people," Tunji-Ojo said.

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