Niger Delta can't breathe due to National Assembly's stranglehold — UNDEDSSIt has become the fashion of the illegal Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to throw muck and confuse the issues in their desperate bid to dodge the grave implications of their humongous fraudulent activities in the last few months.

Part of their tactic is to lie by painting the investigations by the Senate and House of Representatives as corruption-driven. This is false and must not be entertained.

For the avoidance of doubt, the IMC is being probed at the Senate by an Adhoc Committee whose members have not been accused of any impropriety related to the NDDC, whether now or previously. The committee has Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi of Ekiti North as Chairman, while the other members are: Senators Jika Haliru (APC, Bauchi Central), H.E Tanko Almakura (APC, Nasarawa South), Abdulfatai Buhari (APC, Oyo North), Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), Ibrahim Hadeija (APC Jigawa North East) and Degi – Eremienyo Biobarakuma (APC, Bayelsa East). None of these senators are members of any standing Committee supervising the NDDC. Therefore, the IMC refrain of Corruption fighting Back is nonsensical. It must be regarded in the famous words of The Economist magazine as the display of, “unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”

The IMC and Chief Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta, have revelled in attacking the Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi as blackmailing the Commission for contracts. Specifically, the IMC alleged that plastic chairs belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria worth the total sum of N3.7BN have been traced to a warehouse allegedly belonging to Nwaoboshi. In response, Senator Nwaoboshi has challenged the IMC to present the evidence to the anti graft agencies such as the EFCC and the police for investigation and prosecution, if found guilty. That is how it should be.

That notwithstanding, Akpabio and the IMC cannot sit in judgement over their own matter, and dictate the terms on which they should be investigated.

The testimony before the Senate and House Committees by the first IMC Acting Managing Director, Ms Joy Nunieh, gives us an insight into the corruption enterprise Akpabio has been supervising at the NDDC since October 2019. According to Nunieh, who laid out the elaborate plan by Akpabio to mask his fraudulent schemes, the minister was the one who deliberately sought to plant the idea that Nwaoboshi is involved in contract racketeering at NDDC.

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Nunieh said:  “Akpabio 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.”

Nunieh said Akpabio asked her to convert $120 million in the NDDC account to naira to pay for 30 contracts linked to his cronies. She said the directive was not in line with due process and she could not carry it out, and Akpabio got angry with her.

According to Nunieh, “When we first came to the NDDC after the inauguration we were in his 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.”

It is without a doubt that Akpabio’s mission in the NDDC is to pocket the Commission and loot it.

Niger Deltans will not stomach the gross financial recklessness and sense of corruption entitlement displayed by the IMC and its Acting Managing Director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, when he appeared before the Senate Adhoc Committee and confessed to blowing N3.4 billion on questionable Covid-19 expenditures, including N1.5 billion paid to themselves as Covid-19 palliative. As Pondei confessed: “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 call on the Senate Adhoc Committee on the IMC Corruption not to be distracted by the propaganda of Akpabio and his IMC. The committee should be guided by their oaths office and present a report that will address the Corruption under the IMC, recover our stolen wealth, prescribe due punishment for those indicted and set the NDDC on the right path again to deliver on its mandate to the people of the Niger Delta region.

Comrade Ibiba Dagogo , National Chairman, Niger Delta Progress Front

Vanguard

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