Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has threatened to take legal action against Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio over defamation of character of members of the House of Representatives.
A decision he took as Akpabio failed to publish names of lawmakers he alleged benefited from contracts in the NDDC in the period of the 48 hours ultimatum given to him by the Speaker.
Gbajabiamila during plenary on Thursday said he has asked the Clerk of the House of Representatives to engage the services of legal counsel, and instruct them to initiate a criminal complaint of perjury against the Minister.
Akpabio had during an investigative hearing to probe alleged corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, at the House of Representatives accused lawmakers of being the biggest beneficiaries of contracts in the NDDC.
An allegation that prompted the Speaker of the House to issue a 48 hours ultimatum to Akpabio to publish names and other details of National Assembly members who benefited from contracts in the NDDC.
He said, “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).
“In my time in the House of Representatives, I have held every leadership position from Minority Whip, through 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. Such mendacity as was witnessed at the public hearing will not be tolerated from anybody no matter how highly placed.
“This morning, I asked the Clerk of the 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 against the Minister.
“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. This House will live up to the highest expectations of the Nigerian people. This is our commitment, and we will not fail.