PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday spoke on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) N40 billion probe, which has sparked a row between the National Assembly and the agency’s Interim Management Committee (IMC).
The President ordered a “speedy” and “coordinated investigation” of the activities of the NDDC management.
He said there should be a better coordination among security and investigation agencies, and the National Assembly to unravel the problems militating against the agency’s performance and factors undermining the development of the Niger Delta.
President Buhari, who vowed to wield the big stick against culprits in the agency’s mismanagement, expressed his determination “to get to the root of the problems.”
The President also said he will not tolerate any form of disrespect to the National Assembly by his appointees.
The president, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, titled: “NDDC: President Buhari directs speedy coordinated investigation”, said sanity, transparency and accountability should be restored in the management of resources allocated to NDDC for the development of the region.
Also, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, who expressed dismay at the rancorous investigation, warned that the National Assembly will no more tolerate rascality on the part of government’s appointees.
President Buhari and the Senate President issued their stern warnings, shortly after the NDDC Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, walked out on the Olubunmi Ojo-led House of Representatives Committee, which is investigating the alleged N40 billion sleaze in the agency.
Southsouth governors backed the forensic probe of the NDDC, saying that it is in the interest of the region.
The chairman of the Southsouth Governors’ Forum, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, said the probe would reposition the agency for better performance.
There was drama at the committee sitting when Pondei declined to make a presentation on the ground that Tunji-Ojo was an “interested party” in the NDDC affairs.
Irked by his outburst, the Committee ordered a warrant of arrest on him.
President Buhari, in his first public reaction to the NDDC probe, directed all agencies and auditing firms investigating the misuse of NDDC resources to work together with the National Assembly in ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.
He said the agencies “must act with urgency and a sense of purpose”, adding that they should keep him abreast of all actions being taken.”
The President also urged the agencies and individuals involved in the running of the agency to exercise caution.
The president’s statement reads in part: “President Buhari has given directives for better coordination among security and investigating agencies with the National Assembly to ensure that the administration’s effort to bring sanity, transparency and accountability to the management of the large amount of resources dedicated to development of the Niger Delta sub-region is not derailed.
“In his reaction to the unfolding drama, which include attacks and counter-attacks between and around persons, institutions, and the NDDC, President Buhari expressed his strong determination to get to the root of the problems undermining the development of the Niger Delta and its peoples, in spite of enormous national resources voted year after year for this singular purpose.
“President Buhari said the administration wants to bring about “rapid, even and sustainable development to the region.
”The President gave firm assurance that his administration would put in place a transparent and accountable governance framework, not only in the NDDC but in all other institutions of government.”
President Buhari said his administration would not tolerate any form of disrespect to the National Assembly.
He gave the assurance when he received the leadership of the National Assembly, led by the President of the Senate, Senior Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, at the State House.
According to a separate statement issued by Shehu, the President restated his respect for the National Assembly as a democratic institution.
He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari received in audience the distinguished Senate President Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan and Rt. Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila at the State House, Aso Villa.
“The meeting, which lasted for almost an hour, was characterized by an engaging discussion on a range of key issues of National importance particularly the role of the Legislature as a critical component in supporting their common goal and commitment towards improving the lives of the people of Nigeria.
“In the course of their conversation, recent events at the National Assembly were highlighted and the President re-emphasized his utmost respect for the National Assembly, adding that any disrespect to the institution by any member of the executive branch will not be accepted.
“Ministers and all heads of Departments and Agencies should at all times conduct themselves in ways that will not undermine the National Assembly as an institution, its leadership and members.
“The President and the leaders of the National Assembly recognized and acknowledged that the Executive and Legislative arms of government are essential partners in the fulfillment of their mutually aligned goal of improving the lives of the Nigerian people”, the statement said..
Senate President Lawan told State House correspondents that the National Assembly would no “longer tolerate indiscrete attitudinal displays from presidential appointees.”
He lamented that some appointees were bent on damaging the existing cordial relations between Buhari and the National Assembly.
Lawan said: “If you are an appointee of the President, you are supposed to be reflective of the attitude of the President towards the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly will take exception to any attitude or disposition that is not in support of the harmony in the relationship between the two arms of government.
”We have had a very good engagement with Mr President. Mr President has always respected the Legislature, he has always commended the National Assembly members for always being there to ensure that the requests by the Executive, in the national interest, are processed.”