By Emmanuel Aziken
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio is to appear before the National Assembly investigations of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC with the background of a supremacy tussle by political leaders of the oil rich region. The ongoing revelations of sleaze in the NDDC according to sources is directly related to the struggle for positions in the now inchoate board of the commission.
The crucial position that was at stake according to Saturday Vanguard findings was that of the Executive Director, Finance and Administration which some key political players in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC wanted among themselves.
However, by the principle of rotation, the office was supposed to go to Bayelsa State but the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswil Akpabio apparently with a mind to safeguarding the finances of the commission was also said to be determined to have his man in that position.
Meanwhile, the political leader of the region, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the deputy president of the Senate also in the spirit of give and take, it was gathered, was also willing to concede one of the two positions of chairman and managing director which by rotation fell to Delta State to Edo State.
That was in consideration of the desire of the then chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to also appease his supporters in Edo State who he complained had been locked out by his former political godson, Governor Godwin Obaseki.
The Delta political leadership in the APC as led by Omo-Agege, it was gathered, quietly allowed for Oshiomhole to produce the chairman who nominated his erstwhile deputy, Pius Odubu.
However, the logjam remained in who would produce post of Executive Director, FA.
Senator Akpabio as the minister in charge, one source said, felt that instead of producing the Executive Director, Projects which was the lot of Akwa Ibom, that he should produce the Executive Director Finance, which was originally meant for Bayelsa State. Akpabio since his appointment as minister of Niger Delta has publicly lamented the reported wastages in the finances of the commission and his decision to ensure that his personal appointee was positioned in that office could have accounted for his interest.
However, the other regional leaders did not buy the argument. The argument was still going on when somehow political interest groups made a fast one on the minister and got the names released through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation last August.
Remarkably, Akpabio got his own against his rivals in the Niger Delta when he got the presidency to appoint an Interim Management Commission, IMC with Dr. Joi Nunieh as acting managing director. The IMC remained in place despite the Senate screening and confirmation of the original nominees as initially said to have been recommended by the president.
Despite assertions by the Senate leadership that the IMC was illegal, Akpabio and the presidency stuck with the IMC.
Ibang Etang, who had served as special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and was also an ally of Akpabio’s was appointed as Executive Director of Finance and Administration while Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, another ally of Akpabio’s was also appointed as Executive Director of Projects in the three man IMC.
Mr. Etang according to sources had initially been penned down to serve as special assistant to the Executive Director of Projects nominee, Otobong Edem who was also a nominee of Akpabio’s. Etang died in yet unclear circumstances in May just as the forensic audit was about to commence.
The apparent ‘cornering’ of the key positions by Akpabio did not go down well with the other key stakeholders from the region. That development led to the repeated onslaught on the commission with probes launched from the National Assembly directed against the Akpabio ascendancy in the NDDC.