Akpabio and NDDC's Unending Controversies.

…As Jackson Ude, a Nigerian journalist based in the US took to twitter recently to accuse the Minister of the Niger Delta.


Monday, February 15, 2021 at 10:42 PM

Written by Editorial Board

Jackson Ude, a Nigerian journalist based in the US took to twitter recently to accuse the Minister of the Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio of renewed corruption. He said the flamboyant minister paid a whooping N100 million as bribe to officials of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), to stop the investigation of his lackey, Mr. Effiong Akwa, the Sole Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), who did not declare his assets since 2013.

He further alleged that some officials of the CCB took the asset declaration forms to Akwa at his hotel room in Abuja to help him backdate it. According to Ude, the CCB officials were led to the hotel by Akwa’s personal assistant, one Emma Inyang Eto. Perhaps, it was this allegation that prompted the Chairman of the CCB, Mohammed Isah to order for the investigation of Akpabio.

Ude also accused the former Akwa Ibom state governor of collecting and keeping kickbacks in millions of naira and dollars for the former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei and his ally, Dr. Cairo Ojugbo and gave them a fraction of it after kicking them out of the commission, telling them that he used the rest to sort out their battles.

Ude alleged that Mr. Akwa was used by Akpabio to snitch on Pondei and Cairo and was thereafter made sole administrator of the NDDC to give him sweeping powers to continue the looting of the commission. Ude said in less than three months Akwa has made over N150 billion in payments to companies linked to Akpabio and his wife.

The recent allegations are coming few months after Akpabio, Pondei and Cairo featured prominently on news headlines for the wrong reasons. The trio were accused by Ms. Joi Nunieh of massive looting and fraud. Nunieh who handed over to Pondei told the world how Akpabio tried to influence her to give him the vault of the NDDC.

She said her refusal made him to orchestrate her removal as the Acting MD. In a bid to defend himself Akpabio told Nigerians to ask Nunieh where her husband was and why she kept jumping from one man to the other. Can you beat that? For Pondei, he fainted before a House committe during interrogation, throwing the entire country into another round of disrepute. What was not clear was if truly he had an attack as he claimed or he put up that Nollywood “osofia” kind of performance to avoid telling the truth of how under his watch billions of naira meant for the impoverished region, ended in private pockets. But whatever it was, Pondei became the main character in most comic social media skits. It got so bad that at every turn you will hear “don’t Pondei here oh”, meaning don’t faint here.

Akpabio while also undergoing grilling, accused the legislators of being major beneficiaries of the NDDC through phony contracts and other forms of settlements. The allegation brought about the now famous “honorable member off your mic”, an attempt by the chairman of the House of Representatives committee probing the NDDC to stop one of its members from further asking the minister to clarify his allegations against them.

When the lawmakers through the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila moved against Akpabio and requested for him to provide evidence of their involvement in the NDDC sleaze, he made a volte-face by recanting his earlier statement.

Despite that public show of shame involving high ranking members of the present APC led federal government, nothing was done. Nobody was queried, punished or shown the way out by a government that used its determination to fight corruption to gain the votes of Nigerians in 2015.

Clearly, for keeping quiet in the face of the malfeasance going on in the NDDC, the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has endorsed corruption and all its subsidiaries. Nothing can be far from the truth, especially when the same magnitude of corruption has been reportedly going on in other agencies of the government. The dumbness of the government has emboldened the likes of Akpabio to continue in brazen manner to personalize the commonwealth of the Niger Delta people.

In saner societies, Pondei who shamelessly told the world that he and his team shared N1.5 billion to “take care of themselves”, should have been cooling his heels in a correctional facility. The former MD even had the effrontery to insist that they needed the covid-19 palliative funds more than anyone else. As if that wasn’t enough, he claimed that he gave N475 million to the Nigeria Police to buy face masks. But this is Nigeria, where everything can be swept under the carpet if you are in the good books of those in authority or if you shared your loot to members of the cabal. Akpabio also shouldn’t be walking freely, but he is and has continued to oversee the NDDC which has become a citadel for monumental financial impropriety.

While some individuals feed fat from the resources of the NDDC, the region is bleeding seriously with underdevelopment. Since it was established in 2000, it has received over N15.34 trillion with nothing commensurate to show.

The commission was set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a successor to OMPADEC, to among other things formulate guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta, conceive, plan and implement in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the region in various fields. Sadly, not much has been achieved because of the greed of those who had access to the commission’s finances.

To make matters worse, the NDDC for a while has not had a properly constituted board. While key stakeholders in the region were looking forward to the setting up of a statutory board after the last interim management committee led by Pondei was dissolved, President Buhari in great disregard for the NDDC ACT, appointed Akwa as Sole Administrator.

The action of the president was a clear signal that the APC government is not disturbed by the financial profligacy going on at the commission. It is even shocking that the appointment came after the Senate had cleared a list of members for management positions, which the president shunned with impunity despite the outcry by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), federal lawmakers from the region led by Senator Henry Seriake Dickson and other critical stakeholders.

Senator Henry Seriake Dickson (PDP/Bayelsa West) during the consideration of the 2020 Budget of the NDDC in December last year, observed that while the budget under consideration was good and in the interest of the people of the Niger Delta, the absence of an appropriate leadership in the commission to drive the budget properly will scuttle its implementation. He stated that the budget, when approved, would be implemented by an “illegal appointee” known as Sole Administrator instead of a legally constituted board. He therefore suggested that while approving the budget, the Senate should put a caveat that the Sole Administrator must implement only the recurrent expenditure portion and leave out aspects that have to do with capital expenditure. 

In a ruling on the motion, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, agreed with Dickson and also acknowledged that the appointment of a Sole Administrator was illegal and contrary to the provisions of the NDDC Act, but observed that the hands of the Senate were tied on the matter. Lawan, said the Senate was between the devil and the deep blue sea, given the options of dealing with either the newly appointed Sole Administrator or returning to the equally illegal IMC. It was unanimously resolved that the budget be passed to ensure the smooth running of the NDDC, while Senate prevails on the executive to do the right thing in terms of constituting the board of the commission as quickly as possible.

The IYC as well took to the streets to protests against the decision to appoint a sole administrator for NDDC, yet nobody in the Presidency cared, for it was a deal signed, sealed and delivered. As if to rub salt to an already painful wound, the sole Administrator went ahead to appoint a former President of the IYC, Udengs Eradiri into his kitchen to further undermine the common position of the ijaw youths. It was a re-enactment of the divide and rule colonial tactics. 

The rot in the NDDC has also caught the attention of Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who recently cautioned the management of the commission to face their work and stop being controlled by Abuja politicians for fear of being removed. Wike while receiving Akwa and his team at the Government House, Port Harcourt, said people were mocking the Niger Delta region because the NDDC had wasted trillions of naira without lifting the people out of poverty. He charged the management to always work with governors of the region and shun partisan politics in order to achieve the desired development.

For the NDDC to effectively work for the people, President Buhari must as a matter of urgency constitute a substantive board, made up of technocrats that will not see their appointment as means to enrich themselves. Proven men and women of integrity from the region must be nominated by critical stakeholders to be part of that board. The president also need to take away the NDDC from the supervision of the Ministry of Niger Delta or redeploy Akpabio if he must remain in the Federal Executive Council. That way, hope will be restored in the region. Also, the ongoing forensic audit should not be compromised, the outcome of the audit will be more than useful to reposition the interventionist agency. Finally, all those who have “helped themselves” with the resources of the commsission should be prosecuted. 

This is the way to go if the president is serious about fighting corruption in the NDDC and if truly he means well for the Niger Delta region as he often claims.

We at Niger Delta Connect as part of our watchdog role will continue to beam our searchlight and advocate this position for it remains the consensus of the people.

Edited By: fadil

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