BREAKING: Ex- NDDC Director, Adjogbe, escapes assassination in DeltaNiger Delta Renaissance Coalition, Saturday commended, Senate Committee on NDDC for their effort in uncovering what it described as ‘ongoing looting in NDDC’, noting  that Godswill Akpabio, the Niger Delta Minister, and Interim Management Committee cannot manage and supervise forensic audit in the commission.

Disclosing this in a statement sent to Vanguard, Comrade Godknows Sotonye, National Coordinator of the group said: “The public hearing by the Adhoc Senate Committee investigating the allegations of fraud against Niger Delta Minister Chief Godswill Akpabio and the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, which held on Thursday July 9 and Friday July 10 in Abuja, has exposed the financial recklessness and confirms our position all along that Akpabio and the IMC cannot manage NDDC.

The troubling evidence from the public hearing is that Akpabio, the Acting Managing Director Prof Keme Pondei and his Acting Executive Director Projects Dr Cairo Ojugboh have been running the Commission like their private estate under a voodoo oath of secrecy.

The testimony of the former Acting Managing Director of the first IMC, Mrs Joy Nunieh, to the effect that Akpabio sought to have her swear to an oath of loyalty and secrecy was itself very damning and fits into what staff of the Commission have been complaining about.

Mrs Nunieh said: “He told me to take an oath. Though he denied that, he told me three times until we had a reconciliation meeting at the Villa in the office of Mr Abba who is the S.A. to the President on Domestics. In that meeting was Alhaji Maikano and he said the only condition is when I take the oath and I didn’t take the oath and will never take it.”

She also confirmed that Akpabio directs all the Payments and Contracts at the NDDC.

“Nobody makes payments in NDDC without Godswill Akpabio’s consent. When we first came to the NDDC after the inauguration we were in the car, he told me, Madam MD, if you don’t do what I said, the same pen I used in signing your letter, that is the same pen I will use in removing you. He said the first thing I should do when I get to Port Harcourt, is to change dollars in NDDC’s account into Naira.

“I told him, I am scared to do that. He claimed that I have poverty-mentality that I was afraid of money. After two days, he came to Port Harcourt and told me that what I should do is to change dollars and I said I cannot just do that. He also said I should re-post all other directors that refused to take his instruction during my predecessor’s time (Dr Anyia Akwagaga), that is the person who was there before I came.”

Revealing the Minister’s sinister motive, Nunieh said Akpabio wanted Senator Peter Nwaoboshi who is the Chairman of Senate Committee on NDDC and that of his House counterpart, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo implicated for their resistance to the idea of Interim Management Committee at that time.

“So, he came and asked me to draft a letter on my letterhead implicating Senator Peter Nwaoboshi for collecting contracts in NDDC. I told him that I am not aware of that and will not do that, I am a lawyer and he who alleges should prove. He said Senator Nwaoboshi is giving us trouble and, besides, he didn’t recognize the IMC.

“I said I will not do that letter. He said I was ungrateful since I refused to do that letter. Dr. Cairo now said he will do the letter. Dr Cairo now said that if Akpabio asks him to kill, he will go ahead and kill first and thereafter ask why he had to kill. I said, for me, I will not do that. At that place, there was one Mr. Etiebet who was the only NDDC staff that was present at that meeting. Dr. Cairo now did a letter alleging that Senator Nwaoboshi had contracts.”

She also said that Akpabio’s modus operandi is to give verbal instructions so as to guard his flank when exposed. “For instance, he told me to go and raise a memo for an emergency contract for flood victims.”

We are not surprised at the revelations at the public hearing, which confirmed our initial fears.

So far, whistleblowers have detailed payments of over N81 billion made by the IMC under the supervision of Akpabio.

Among other expenditures made in the last eight months, as gleaned from the account statements with the Committee as announced by Senator Adetunmbi are: N1.12 billion for publicity, N1.3 billion for Community relations, and N475 million, which the IMC said was used to buy hand sanitizer and face masks for the police. In his testimony, the Acting Managing Director Prof. Daniel Keme Pondei said the IMC paid themselves and staff a Covid-19 ‘palliative allowance’ of N1.5 billion despite receiving their normal salaries and allowances!

An idea of the prevailing mindset of financial recklessness of the IMC is encapsulated in Pondei’s testimony, at the Public Hearing, on the application of N3.1 billion under the heading ‘Covid-19 Funds’ expended in the last few months as reported by Premium Times, where Pondei said: “The youth were given palliatives to help cushion the effect of the pandemic on the people. The youth were idle and to avoid violence, they were paid. “Five million for youths and five million for women and five million for people living with disabilities in each senatorial district,” he said. He then added that, ”the remaining fund was spent on staff of the commission. “We used it to take care of ourselves. We are NDDC, we need to take care of ourselves too,” he said, adding that, “only N1.5 billion was used to take care of staff.”

We commend the Senate Committee for their determination so far to unearth the ongoing looting at the NDDC. It should go further to make recommendations that will restore the law and due process at the NDDC.

This must not be allowed and our position on the solution to the current IMC mess at the NDDC is for the law and due process to be enforced. Those who stole money should vomit it out and IMC sacked.

The minister and IMC have lost the moral right to preside over the affairs of the NDDC!

READ ALSO: COVID-19: NDDC reopens head office

The authentic voices of the Niger Delta are very clear in our demands, which are:

The IMC is illegal and does not follow the Act. The IMC must be disbanded immediately because, as an illegal contraption, it serves no functional purpose in the administration of the NDDC. Rather, it has been exposed as a conduit for stealing the lean resources of the NDDC.

The NDDC Governing Board, which is provided for in line with the law, should be put in place immediately to run the affairs of the Commission.

The forensic audit has to be done by a reputable independent auditor, creditably and independently, just as the NNPC audit was done by Price Waterhouse a few years back while the legitimate Board and management was still in place. The board and management of the NNPC were not set aside for an IMC in order to do the audit.

Finally, we call on President Buhari to put a stop to the ongoing corruption at the NDDC under the smokescreen of the forensic audit by disbanding the IMC and inaugurating a proper Governing Board to restore probity at the Commission.”

Akpabio’s reaction

On his own part, Akpabio denied all the above allegations. For instance, speaking with reporters after he appeared before an ad hoc panel of the senate on Friday, Akpabio said he didn’t get N300m fence construction contract from NDDC.

The minister said his request Nwaoboshi leaked to the media was not an approval and that he has never been a contractor for the NDDC.

His words, “Maybe when I was in the senate… that thing is dated 2017… I must have made a recommendation that they should consider these (projects) but they were not considered.

“Those jobs were not paid, not one naira was paid and when you make recommendation it is not that you are being given a contract. It is that if there is a job in your constituency when they are going through ‘due process’ they will advertise that job and that will awarded to the one that wins the bid.

“It is not that when a senator makes a suggestion to an agency – whether it is NEMA, NDDC – that the senator will automatically become the contractor. For the fact that the paper was written on the minority leader letter-headed paper shows that it was not an award of contract.

“Award of contract would have been on an NDDC paper so when I saw it, I didn’t think it was worth responding to and as minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I owe the nation but good service.

“It was not worth responding to, it was total falsehood. I have been a contractor at NDDC. Even if the suggested projects were N300 million or N500 million were accepted, there is no guarantee that I or my nominee would have been a contractor.”

Similarly, on N40 billion:

Akpabio said N40 billion is not missing from the coffers of the commission and that a backlog of contracts are being paid for.

“On the issue of missing N40 billion, I came to honour my colleagues, I would be a senator forever, they have the right to look into issues when they are raised.

“It is not that money was missing, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) harbours the accounts of the NDDC, so we can’t take out N40 billion without it being known.

“When you inherit a commission, you inherit the liabilities and the assets. They had no option because of garnishee orders, people have gone to court, some have even died. It couldn’t have come to minister because the threshold of the management is below N250 million. My job was to come here and also listen because it will help me to know what they are expending.”

Vanguard

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