The House of Representatives has resolved to issue a criminal complaint of perjury and civil defamation lawsuit against the Minister of the Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, after he failed to give out the names of members of the National Assembly that have been awarded contracts by the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC.
Akpabio while testifying at the House of Representatives panel investigating allegations of financial recklessness at the NDDC, on Monday, July 20, alleged that most of the contracts awarded in the Commission were to members of the National Assembly.
On Tuesday, July 21, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, gave the Minister 48 hours to release the names of the lawmakers in question or face punitive measures.
The ultimatum elapsed today Thursday, July 23, and the house has agreed to take Akpabio to court for such a ”defamatory statement”.
Speaking on the floor of the house this morning, Gbajabiamila said he will not allow anyone to “assassinate the character of the house”. In his words
Last Tuesday I issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to substantiate his allegation that over 60% (sixty per cent) of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) went to members of the National Assembly.
I said then that the Honourable Minister owed it to himself and the country to provide evidence to support these serious allegations. The Honourable Minister has failed to respond to my request.
Therefore, I must conclude that his statement intended solely to gaslight the nation to avoid accountability for the evident maladministration and malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
I have held every House of Representatives leadership position from Minority Whip, to Minority Leader, Leader of the House (Majority Leader) and now Speaker. I recognise that the House has not always lived up to the high expectations of the Nigerian people.
As much as we still have a lot to do in that regard, I refuse to sit here in good conscience and allow anyone to assassinate the character of the House in an attempt to deflect accountability for their conduct in office.
This morning, I asked the Clerk of House of Representatives to engage the services of legal counsel, and instruct them to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury against the Minister. At the same time, we will instruct counsel to explore the possibility of a civil defamation suit
The House of Representatives is a public trust placed in our care for the duration of our term in office. We must prove ourselves worthy of this public trust or risk the censure of history.
Therefore, we will resist every attempt to undermine this institution, whether such attempts come from within or from outside. The House of Representatives will live up to the highest expectations of the Nigerian people. This is our commitment, and we will not fail.”