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The NDDC Probe: Can Akpabio clean the rot?

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Agitators enjoin Niger Deltans to support Akpabio, Pondei
Sen. Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

The NDDC is rotten. But Akpabio cannot clean that rot. Akpabio was part and parcel of the kind of politics that seeded maggots into the NDDC.

And no one should be surprised now that mudslinging has started.  Akpabio excavates one skeleton. His opponents bring out one of his own skeletons. During  the previous regime,  Akpabio was Jonathan’s Man Friday. He nominated NDDC’s MD. He influenced NDDC’s affairs. During that period NDDC became an ATM for greedy politicians and the ruling party.

If the NDDC is rotten then it was rotten those years. And Akpabio enjoyed the stench.

Buhari has ordered an audit. Akpabio is now Niger Delta Minister.

A Saul has become an apostle. And make no mistake, Akpabio could be a  brand new leaf.  Okay, a  secondhand new leaf. But in politics old things do not pass away that quickly. So his  perceived sins have lingered to cast a shadow of hypocrisy over him.

Akpabio and the NDDC interim management committee, however,  must be applauded. They have begun digging. And in a sense it can only benefit the ordinary Niger Deltan. They have implicated the NASS.

A certain senator has been fingered as having cornered 1000 contracts to himself. The details are sordid. The senate and house committee chairmen, past and present have been accused of arm twisting NDDC, cornering contracts and  siphoning funds through bogus contracts.

The NDDC, some have said, served pigs rather than the people. The NDDC is rotten but do not believe everything Akpabio and his IMC say. They are politicians. Presidency has instituted a forensic audit but they won’t even wait. They have been throwing around salacious details to entice the public. And perhaps retain Buhari’s confidence.

There is a struggle for the soul of the cash cow.

Cairo Ojougboh, NDDC’s Projects Director, was on television the other day. He said the NDDC on May 15 , 2019 paid 50 billion naira to some NGOs, in one day. It sounded interesting to me. An anti corruption watch dog ran a check . On the said day, no such withdrawals were made from the NDDC accounts. Cairo Ojougboh was just throwing around colorful figures. That is not the sort of conduct you would expect from a dispassionate change agent.

There is rot in the NDDC.

Peter Nwoboshi, the senate committee chairman on Niger Delta has published a letter. In that letter Akpabio,  then minority leader of the senate,  asked for contracts worth 500m. Peter Nwoboshi said the contracts  were awarded to Akpabio. I understand the language. If Peter Nwaoboshi wasn’t lying then the contracts must have been awarded to Akpabio’s nominees. Peter Nwaoboshi said the contract  was paid for, but the fencing projects were not done. Akpabio has denied taking part in the sleaze.

READ ALSO: The fruitless effort to demolish Akpabio

Akpabio said he wrote the leadership of the house, as was the practice, to attract development to his constituency. But that practice of attracting developmental projects is what Akpabio, the new convert, has now realized is unholy.

Peter Nwaoboshi may not have  Buhari’s integrity but his point is that Akpabio is a fat pot calling kettles black. Akpabio could very well be an old saint mistaken for a repentant sinner. Nwaoboshi and Akpabio, they are veterans.

Akpabio had alerted the nation to the abomination that NDDC paid annual 200m rent for its office. The NDDC, he said, deliberately refused to complete its office project.

We applauded Akpabio and his new appetite for righteousness.

But weeks later a report surfaced.  The Auditor General,  it was reported, had found that the Interim Management Committee , Akpabio’s cleansing agency, broke financial regulations and paid the contractor handling the NDDC office project, the entire project money. The building is yet to be completed. The company implicated is a company Akpabio’s opponents identify as one Akpabio was fond of when he was governor of Akwa Ibom.

Black lives matter. But pots and kettles don’t like to be called black. Tempers boil over when a pot saunters in and points to a kettle and calls him black. The pot could be telling the truth. But  a kettle would see any pot calling him black as a bold hypocrite

The NASS has commenced a probe into the  same Interim Management committee which is investigating the interference and corrupt influence of  NASS in the NDDC.

The IMC of the NDDC says it’s corruption fighting back.  Yes that slogan has come to stay. But Akpabio’s opponents say  Akpabio’s latter day sanctimoniousness is a devious act by a bold hypocrite. You know I warned you about pots and kettles. Other  weighty allegations have been levied. The investigator is now being investigated.  Some observers want dogs to eat dogs. They say only undertakers know where the skeletons are buried.

Akpabio may mean well. But not many believe him. Everybody knows Akpabio. He used to mock the anti corruption campaign of Buhari when he was senate minority leader. If anyone had tried to sanitize the NDDC three years ago , he would have met Akpabio’s red eyes.

Akpabio may mean well, but on NDDC in particular, he is visibly morally handicapped to lead a revival. Everyone knows his relationship with Dan Abia, the former manning Director of the NDDC. During that era was NDDC not paying that ungodly rent on its office property?

That is the problem. When Akpabio points a finger, 20 fingers point at him and his men.

Nobody is excited, and nothing is gained, by Cairo Ojugboh and senators slinging mud all over the place. Not everyone who has run the NDDC is a demon. Some fairly good hands have passed through the NDDC.

NDDC suffers from institutionalized corruption. It needs a system reboot. It needs a new culture.

If the president wants to sanitize the NDDC he should initiate procedural changes in contract awards and supervision.

A criminal forensic audit of the past should be done and managed by the EFCC.

Any audit run by any Niger delta politician on the NDDC will only complicate a rotten situation. Opportunism is the credo. They know themselves.

VANGUARD

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