The presidency yesterday described as ill-advised the plan by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to embark on a nationwide protest over President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged “inaction” on the financial fraud uncovered at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The presidency said the planned protest was totally uncalled for considering that there are ongoing investigations in the cases by both the executive and legislative arms of government.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a statement noted that these processes must be allowed to run their full courses.
He said it was against the norm in a democratic society as well as the natural laws of justice to seek “action,” meaning punishment, against offenders before proper investigation, trial and conviction.
Shehu in the statement explained that the president had made it clear that the allegations that have surfaced clearly “constitute a breach of trust” and as the investigations take hold and close out, all those found wanting will face the wrath of the law.
The statement noted: “The TUC, as an enlightened group of labour unionists, should indeed voice their indignation whenever such acts are being unearthed.
“However the expectation will be for it to also raise the bar higher, in terms of the debate concerning the impact of such allegations on our ability, to create and retain employment, attract investment, improve the living conditions of its members and citizens, and how a preponderance of these heinous crimes decimates any gains being made in other spheres.
“The world is confronted with a global public health crisis, decline in economic growth, and expanding areas of conflict by non-state actors.
“All these ills in their singular or combined form are consuming every nation. Nigeria is no exception; we must hold the line and lock arms that way we rid ourselves of these existential issues whilst we grapple with those that are our own homegrown problems”.
Shehu further noted that while the Buhari administration was committed to stamping out corruption, organisations like the TUC should be extending a hand in supporting such a fight that is in the collective interest.
Probe Won’t Stop Forensic Audit -NDDC
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has said the ongoing probe of the Interim Management Committee of the commission would not stop its forensic audit as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The NDDC, in a statement issued by its director of corporate affairs, Charles Obi Odili, said hounding and haunting its acting managing director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, would not scuttle the audit.
The statement reads in part: “Less than two weeks after an exhaustive and exhausting public hearings by both chambers of the National Assembly, another round of false reports have surfaced in the media, alleging all manners of improprieties by the management of the NDDC. One of the reports alleges that a fresh massive fraud has been uncovered in the Commission.”
Odili, however, said there was no evidence of fraud in the Commission, saying the report is merely a rehash of the allegations which led the National Assembly, on May 5, to order a probe of the 74-day administration of Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei at the Commission.
He added: “Lest we forget, that probe was set up to uncover the sum of N40 billion alleged to be missing from the Commission. In order to allay the fears of our stakeholders, we took the unusual step of publishing the list of payments made by the Commission since Pondei came into office.
“With that publication, the rug was pulled from the feet of our accusers. When the hearings proper started, there was no talk of the missing N40 billion any more. It was now about financial recklessness.
As we pointed out in an earlier release, the issue of missing money is one needing objective proof.
“The issue of financial recklessness is a matter of subjective judgment. The reports of the hearings have been submitted and it is clear there was no money missing at the Commission.
“The response of the Commission to the new reports is that there is no fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission. Prof Pondei has run a very transparent administration and this transparency is now apparent after the searchlight put on his administration in the past one month.
“Another report rehashed the claim of the Contractors Association that the management demands between 20 per cent and 30 per cent kickback before paying contractors. We wish to state categorically that this is false. This allegation was made at the hearing of the Ad hoc Senate Committee which probed the affairs of the Commission.”
APC, PDP bicker over $460m Abuja CCTV project, $2bn China loan
Meanwhile, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday challenged the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to explain to Nigerians the status of the failed $460 million Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) awarded in August 2010 by its past government.
The APC also challenged the PDP to explain the over $2billion China loan it administration took between 2010 and 2013 alone; $16billion spent on power; fuel subsidy rackets; counter-insurgency funds that were allegedly diverted.
The ruling party was reacting to a statement issued by the Media Office of former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on the standard sovereign guarantee and sovereign immunity clause embedded in Nigeria’s loan agreements with China to fund the ongoing national railway projects.
A statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the deputy national publicity secretary of APC, Yekini Nabena, described Atiku’s comment as “unresearched, unintelligent and pedestrian.”
He stated: “As the Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has explained, the guarantee/clause in the loan deals is standard irrespective of the country granting the loan.
“Perhaps, Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could redirect their energies to explaining to Nigerians the status of the failed $460 million Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) awarded in August 2010 by the immediate-past PDP administration.
“Also, they should explain the over $2billion China loan the PDP administration took between 2010 and 2013 alone; $16billion spent on power with no electricity; fuel subsidy rackets; counter-insurgency funds that were diverted and shared to political cronies among other shocking heists.
“Recall that the failed CCTV installation project was initiated by late President Umaru Yar’Adua and awarded in August 2010 by former President, Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to help security agencies in the Federal Capital Territory check the growing insecurity”.
But in a swift response, the PDP demanded that the federal government should begin an investigation of its officials and highly-placed members of the APC over various allegations of fraud.
The national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, who stated this was responding to the challenge thrown at his party by the APC to account for the $460 million Abuja CCTV project and $2 billion China Loan.
He said, “Five years in the saddle, we are where we are. The APC that came with the mantra of fighting corruption has since become the most corrupt party in the history of Nigeria.
“Where is the N800 billion they claimed to have recovered? Nigerians know that the so-called recovered monies have since been re-looted by those shouting war against corruption. This government has failed by all standards and they know it.”
“The PDP advises the federal government to immediately begin the investigation of its officials and highly-placed members of the APC alleged to have soiled their hands, with a view to bringing them to book.
“Until they do this, the APC and the government it formed at the centre should keep their peace because Nigerians are now wiser than their needless propaganda”.