Off your mic: How Akpabio accused Tunji-Ojo-led committee of contract fraud, corruption

The embattled Minister for Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, recently linked to a N438 million scandal involving the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Humanitarian Affairs was the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission that clashed with the then-Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds in the commission.

Tunji-Ojo represented Akoko North Federal constituency in Ondo State between 2009 and 2023 before he was appointed as interior minister by President Bola Tinubu.

In July 2020, Akpabio while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta to account for the N81.5 billion that was spent by the NDDC accused Tunji-Ojo and members of the National Assembly of benefiting from contracts awarded by the commission.

A mild drama, however, ensued during the probe, leading to the popular phrase, “Honourable minister, off your mic,” believed to have been made to stop Akpabio from leaking secrets and exposing the lawmakers.

The phrase gained popularity in the country.

Also, the then-acting Managing Director of the commission, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, walked out on Tunji-Ojo and other legislators during the probe.

Pondei had stormed out of the hearing after accusing the current interior minister of corruption.

“We in the NDDC are not comfortable with the chairman of this committee presiding over a matter. He is an accused party.

“The NDDC has, over time accused, Rep. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC 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 issue of appearing,” he had claimed.

SaharaReporters recently reported how Tunji-Ojo was paid a total amount of N438.1 million by the poverty alleviation ministry for consultancy services.

The company, New Planet Project Limited, was one of the consultants awarded contracts from N3 billion given out by the suspended minister, Betta Edu for the National Social Register contract.

The firm was initially paid N279 million for verification of the list and another N159 million for the same purpose.

The Social Register verification is for the Vulnerable People living in the country. The unit is headed by Apalowo.

A check by SaharaReporters revealed that New Planet Project Limited has the interior minister and his wife, Abimbola as directors.

One Gbadamasi Gbadamasi Clement is also listed as the secretary of the company which was registered on March 3, 2009, with registration number 804833.

Reacting to the allegation in an interview on Channels TV on Monday, Tunji-Ojo admitted owning the company but claimed he had resigned as a director.