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Acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee(IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei and his team on Thursday walked out on the House of Representatives Committee on NNDC.
Pondei said the team was not prepared to make any presentation before the committee.
The Acting Managing Director had abjected to Chairman of the Committee, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, presiding over the investigative hearing.
He insisted Tunji-Ojo cannot preside over a matter in which he has been accused.
Pondei stressed the team will only honour summons from the House of Representatives if its sets up an adhoc committee, vowing to shun further invitations from the Lower Chambers otherwise.
According to him: “Let just say that we are not comfortable with the Chairman of this committee presiding over a matter which he is an accused party. The NDDC has over time accused Honourable Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC and it’s people, and he has responded in the press.
“He is an interested party and we do not believe that the NDDC can have justice because he cannot sit on his own case. We have no issues with appearing before the committee because we appeared before the Senate committee. And as long as he is the Chairman of this committee, the NDDC will not make any presentations here.”
Members of the Committee including Benjamin Kali, Ben Ibakpa and Shehu Koko, told the Acting MD that since there was no document before them, he was constitutionally bound to answer their queries.
Koko said: “All of us know that we have a serious business here and that is why I said whatever testimony that we are going to take, it must be on oath.
”Before the chairman rules on what the Acting MD NDDC said, I will state categorically that – and this is the stand of the parliament – if you have anything against the Chairman of this committee, there are many ways you can report your matter.
“You can write to the Police, the EFCC, ICPC and you can also write to the House. At the moment, we do not have any written communication from NDDC on the issue they have with the Chairman which is personal.
“But the rule of the parliament is that nobody can come and dictate to us here that the Chairman cannot sit and preside over an issue because this is not the matter in question now”.
Kalu cited the constitution, saying the House has the power to regulate its affairs.
He said: “I want to refer this committee as well as these invited guests to the provisions of our Constitution in Section 60… It is within the parameters of the law that the House regulates how it conducts its activities. The House has decided that this is a committee affair and not a personalised affair.
“Since it is not about the Chairman of the committee and there is no petition or official document before the House, and the motion that called for this probe by this committee has not been rescinded by the House, I think it is out of order for an invited guest to instruct us on how to regulate the activity of the House. I’m praying that Chairman sustains this point of order.”
While members were still making contribution to the issue, the Acting MD sought permission to leave and walked out without waiting for the committee to grant or reject its request.
Furious members of the Committee accused the IMC of trying to frustrate legislative functions of the House and ordered that a warrant of arrest be issued against him.
The motion to issue a warrant of arrest for the IMC was moved by Kalu and seconded by Koko.
The Committee unanimously passed a vote of confidence on its chairman.
However several contractors invited made their submission before the Committee admitting to receiving payment for various contract within the period under investigation.
Pondei later told reporters: “We have absolute respect for the National Assembly and that was why we 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 whose the NDDC severally accused of different things, he cannot be a judge in his own case for different because we are very sure we will not have a fair hearing.
“When we saw that the committee was insistent 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.
He however refused to comment on the decision of the Committee to issue a warrant for his arrest.