Weeks of tomfoolery

I thought I had seen enough tomfoolery coming out of the National Assembly over the years but the various episodes that panned out there in the last two weeks have beaten all.

What started as an investigation by both the two Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) committees of the two houses into an allegation of mismanagement of N40b by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC seemed have turned into a spectacle of tomfoolery that took place both in the hallowed chambers and far away Port Harcourt.

For me, the tomfoolery began penultimate Thursday in the committee room of the House of Rep where the committee was getting ready to grill Prof K Pondei, the Ag MD of the NNDC.

It was a live event on prime TV and we were glued to watch how things would unfold.

Even before the questions started the Ag MD and his team packed their papers and were out of the Assembly accusing the Chairman of the committee of being an interested party having taken contracts from the organisation.

Then the drama shifted to Port Harcourt, where the former MD of the IMC, Joy Nuneih was spirited away from her residence and from the clutches of the police that were sent to arrest her.

The knight in a shining armour who saved this damsel in distress turned out to be no less a person than Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

There had been no official clarification on why her residence was surrounded by the police that early morning.

One explanation was that she was being prevented from giving testimony, which she was scheduled to give before a senate committee hearing that day.

Since there is no love lost between her and the Minister of the Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, who appointed her as MD and later had her removed due to some disagreements, accusing fingers pointed to him as the instigator.

But that is all in the realm of conjecture. Nevertheless, Nunieh some days earlier, in the morning show of Arise TV, had made damning accusations upon Minister Akpabio’s person alleging that he harassed her for most of the period she was in office as Ag MD.

Earlier the minister had told Nigerians that Nunieh was removed due to insubordination and being temperamental. The brouhaha continued throughout the weekend across the media with all those involved entertaining us with the salacious and lurid details.

Monday last week was expected with bated breath as the entire IMC was billed to meet with the two NDDC committees of the National Assembly. If what occurred the previous week was anything to go by, the tomfoolery was bound to continue. And it did.

The Ag MD was seated in the committee room alongside the minister of the Niger Delta when this round of tomfoolery began.

We all watched in amazement at how the Ag MD seemed to have collapsed under a barrage of questions from the committee members.

He was carried away all seemingly helpless never to return to inquisitions of the Reps.

The minister took his turn and the lawyer he is, shone all through.

He made sure that he turned the questioning upside down throwing accusations of impropriety against members of the committee.

He succeeded in getting them so enraged that they would rather do without his testimony. He was let to go in triumph.

The testimony of the former MD of the IMC, Joy Nunieh was taken via skype but it was just a rehash of what she has been singing about.

Somewhere in another room of the National Assembly, the Executive Director (Projects), Cairo Ojougboh was also enraging the Senate Committee members by telling them that picking a contract in the NDDC was akin to winning the lottery as a contract of N700m could be executed with only N10m.

And he told them to their faces that they have been part of that bazaar of racketeering in the NDDC. In effect, they are not on any moral ground to probe anyone. As expected that hearing too ended in a fiasco.

The tomfoolery, the accusations and counter-accusations raged on unabated.

By the weekend, everyone who kept watch over the unfolding events was thoroughly entertained but we did not move an inch towards unravelling the truth or otherwise of the allegations levelled against the NDDC.

We had fun but we were all thoroughly befuddled.

That’s probably the unintended consequences of this roadshow between the National Assembly and the minister of Niger Delta and his troop.

But as this is a test case of the anti-corruption stance of this administration, no tomfoolery should be allowed to form a barrier between us and the truth.

There is too much at stake, too much money stolen, and the reputation of many honourable men and women involved, to allow for a slipshod handling of the matter.

Most importantly, these stolen funds were fought for by the people of the Niger Delta to address serious issues of environmental degradation afflicting the region.

The elites entrusted with the funds who have now turned rapacious must be firmly guided to the path of honour to do the needful.

There is no better way to do that than the forensic audit now going on at the NDDC, which would hopefully unearth evidence that can be used to sanction errant officials and their cohorts.

At the conclusion of the audit, there should be a set of recommendations to firmly entrench diligence and transparency in the procurement process for projects to avoid this bazaar of lottery.

Clearing the mess in the NDDC should set a good example for other intervention agencies such as the North-East Development Corporation (NEDC).



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