Sale of public assets, Reps summon Customs, NPA, NIMASA, others  


By Abiodun OBA

The House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee investigating the sales and disposal of public property has summoned the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr Adewale Adeniyi.

Also invited are the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), among others.

The Ad-hoc Committee, chaired by Majority Leader Hon. Julius Ihonbvere, was mandated to investigate the disposal of public property from 2010 to 2022 to unravel the extent of illegal auctioning of public property and non-remittance of revenue realised into the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation.

He said: “After exhaustive debate and consideration, the House set up an Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the matter and revert with recommendations.

“This task, to me and the entire members of this Ad-hoc Committee, is a very onerous one as the recommendations of the Committee will be deep, thorough, and comprehensive; hence, we cut short our annual recess to holistically address the matter,” he said.

Hon Ihonbvere said that in executing the exercise, the Committee will rely on the relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, and the inherent jurisdiction of the National Assembly.

“In the course of this work, we have written letters to all the agencies concerned requesting information on the subject matter, and many of you did not bother to respond to our letter.

“We hope to physically visit the Agencies, examine your books, and conduct a physical inspection of all public properties acquired to determine the ones sold and the procedures adopted for the exercise.

“As the representatives of the Nigerian people, we will deploy all constitutional means to ensure that we achieve the mandate of the House. I will drive this process in cooperation with my colleagues to the satisfaction and expectations of the people. In the course of this assignment, we will look at existing laws, including the code of ethics governing the operation of the public service,” he said.

He noted that he has implicit trust in the members of the Committee that they will do justice to the legislative assignment.

Hon Ihonbvere, however, advised the Chief Executives of agencies invited to the hearing to give the Committee the necessary cooperation to enable them to achieve their goals.

He also unveiled plans to investigate the Federal Ministry of Water Resources over the disposal of assets belonging to the 12 River Basin Development Authority in 2018.

Managing Directors of the River Basin Development Authorities in the country who appeared before the Ad-hoc Committee alleged that the parent Ministry was responsible for the sale of property in 2018 because the agencies had no Governing Board.

The Managing Directors of the Upper Benue River Basin Development Authority, Cross River Basin Development Authority, Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, Benin Owena River Basin Development Authority, and Hadejia Jam’amare River Basin Authority appeared before the ad hoc committee.

While responding to questions from the chairman and members of the ad hoc Committee, the managing director of the Cross River Basin Development Authority, Engineer Bassey Nkposong, said that the Agency has nothing to auction as most of their equipment was vandalised during the EndSARS protest of 2021.

Other Managing Directors said that the auctioning of their properties was carried out by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

Ruling, Hon. Ihonbvere told the MDAs to return to the Ministry to get the remaining documents and make them available.

He said: “I want to assure you for now that we are not very satisfied, and that is because you did not preside over this process.

“We are not satisfied with the disconnects in the contents of some of the documents; we will require that you come back after we deduce some of those documents directly from the ministry on behalf of your agencies.

“We will also invite the ministry to deal with us directly,” he said.

He said that those agencies that were invited but did not appear are bridging the law.

“Those who refuse to completely or blatantly disregard our invitation, we know precisely what to do as a House. There is a tendency in this country for big agencies to believe that they can operate above the law. But not with this 10th Assembly,” he said.

He therefore directed the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources to appear before the committee today, Tuesday, September 5, 2023, at 10 a.m.

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