Dan Onjeh, the Board Chairman of Project Development Institute, PRODA, on Friday, demanded a public apology from the Federal House of Representatives.
Onjeh’s demand was contained in a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
He also urged the House of Representatives to retract the deliberate falsehood and misinformation that he had been suspended as PRODA Chairman on the directive of Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, President Buhari has not found him wanting or unfit to continue to hold the Office of PRODA Chairman, because there is absolutely no allegation against him before him.
Onjeh said, “I write to repudiate the calculated falsehood and misleading information that emanated from the hallowed Floor of the House of Representatives during its plenary on 10th February, 2021 and subsequently widely circulated on the media; that I had been suspended as Chairman of the Governing Board of the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, Enugu State, on the directive of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR).
“Furthermore, I wish to inform the House of Representatives and the general public that I am not under any form of investigation in relation to my stewardship as Chairman of PRODA, and that public/civil servants who get penalized with suspension or dismissal are invariably those who had been either suspected or indicted of an act of gross misconduct.
“It’s equally worthy of mention that I Chaired the Board that spearheaded the investigation of the suspended Director General/CEO of PRODA, Engr. Dr. Charles Agulanna, and it was upon the establishment of a prima facie evidence against him on allegations bordering on misappropriation, contract splitting, nepotism, insubordination, concealment of official records amongst others, after following the due process of the law as prescribed by the Circular of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) of 19th May, 2020, with Ref. No. SGF/OP/I.S.3/T/163, and titled, “APPROVED DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE AGAINST CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PARASTATALS, AGENCIES AND DEPARTMENTS”; that the Board recommended his suspension, which was subsequently approved by Mr. President. The directive of Mr. President on the matter was unambiguous: that the DG/CEO should handover to the next most senior Director at the Institute and thereafter, proceed on suspension with immediate effect; while I should “step-aside” as the Chairman of the Board, pending the conclusion of an independent investigation into the matter.
“Currently, an Independent Investigative Panel has been constituted by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to investigate the allegations leveled by the Board against the suspended DG/CEO, and the panel has duly sent me an invitation acknowledging me as the Chairman of the PRODA Board, and requesting that I come along with other Members of the Board to substantiate our allegations against the suspended DG/CEO, Engr. Agulanna.
“It has become imperative for me to clear the air on this matter and to set the records straight, because the deliberate misinformation being peddled by the House of Representatives that I had been suspended as Chairman of PRODA is capable of putting my hard-earned reputation at stake. As a renowned human rights/development activists; former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS); former President, West Africa Students’ Union (WASU); former candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Benue South Senatorial Election and now Chairman of the PRODA Governing Board, I’m ever prepared to go the extra mile to safeguard my integrity.
“One would hope that the exalted House of Representatives would thoroughly check its information to ascertain the veracity before feeding it to the public, and not rely on mere sentiments and emotions at arriving at its resolutions, especially when such information are capable of smearing the reputations of decent and law-abiding members of the public.
“Therefore, I wish to state that the resolution of the House of Representatives that its Committee on Public Procurement should invite the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, the Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Management of PRODA over the decision of the current PRODA Management to cancel the contracts that were wrongfully and illegally awarded previously by the agency, is totally uncalled for and a plot to divert the attention of the public from the core subject matter. The House of Reps had better left these authorities to concentrate on the more important tasks of governance before their offices.
“The irrefutable fact, which I can now assert without fear of contradiction, is that some members of the National Assembly constitute the major clogs in the wheel of the nation’s development. Little wonder, in spite of the assiduous efforts of His Excellency President Buhari to bring development to the doorsteps of Nigerians at the grassroots, the citizens are still lamenting palpable neglect by the Federal Government, because of the huge sabotage being perpetrated by some members of the National Assembly.
“Hence, very soon, I shall break my silence and speak up more extensively on the intricate issues connected to the procurement process at PRODA, which I believe is replicated in other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government. The PRODA Board shall soon reveal the true status of Constituency Projects allegedly being executed by the agency. The whole nation would soon understand how those saddled with the onerous responsibility of making laws for the peace and good governance of Nigeria, have become massive conduit pipes in their quest to amass public wealth at the expense of the taxpayers and poor masses.
“Indeed, the former Chairman of the House of Reps Committee on Finance, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, previously shocked the nation when he accused the National Assembly, of which he was a member, of what he termed “budget padding”. In a similar vein, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had previously alleged that the National Assembly was full of “rogues”. My period of stewardship as PRODA Chairman has made me to understand the basis for such seemingly wild accusations, and at the appropriate time, I intend to bring the entire Nigerians into the full picture of the shady businesses being carried out by some federal legislators, in the course of their alleged oversight functions over MDAs of the Federal Government.
“In the meantime, what all Nigerians must know is that the current Management of PRODA had deemed it fit to cancel all contracts in its 2020 capital budget previously awarded illegally by the agency in violation of the Public Procurement Act 2007, and that decision has unsettled members of the National Assembly, who have positioned themselves to reap bountiful pecuniary benefits from those shoddy contracts at the expense of the nation. Consequently, the members of the National Assembly have been mounting pressures on the Management of PRODA, to go and pay their preferred contractors, who are demanding payment for services they never actually rendered to the agency.
“Furthermore, I wish to demand a public apology from the Federal House of Representatives, as well as a retraction of the deliberate falsehood and misinformation that I had been suspended as PRODA Chairman on the directive of Mr. President. Accordingly, I have put my lawyer on notice, as I intend to file charges against the House of Representatives for defamation of my character.
“However, I will conclude by assuring the National Assembly and by extension all Nigerians, that as I long as I remain the duly recognized Chairman of the PRODA Governing Board, the agency shall not compromise by perpetrating the illegality that the House of Reps is demanding of it. PRODA Management shall not issue payment to any contractor whose contract was wrongfully/illegally awarded, or who had failed to show satisfactory evidence of project execution. This decision is strictly in line with public interest.
“Lastly, while I appreciate and recognize the constitutional supervisory role of the National Assembly over MDAs, the Board which I chair owes its composition and tenure of office to the exclusive pleasure and discretion of Mr. President, and the public should know that as at today, Mr. President has not found me wanting or unfit to continue to hold the Office of PRODA Chairman, because there is absolutely no allegation against me before him.”