…Ojougboh visits N’Delta leaders to explain ‘true situation’
…Reveals 4 lawmakers behind contract scandal to Asaba monarch
…Reps drop court case against Akpabio
…Why there’s looting in NDDC—Ijaw groups
…N81bn theft at NDDC mere pick pocketing —Asari Dokubo
…Boyloaf opposes call to scrap NDDC
TENSION has heightened in Niger Delta with different groups planning to lay siege to Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, headquarters in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, until President Muhammadu Buhari takes critical action.
The plot is coming on the heels of the shocking fraud discoveries in the commission, which were laid bare at the recent investigative hearings by committees of the National Assembly.
At the palace of the Asaba of Asagba, HM Chike Edozien, last Friday, Executive Director, Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, named four chairmen of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta and House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, saying the four lawmakers collected the contracts for the National Assembly.
Sources, however, said the Presidency already acquainted with the findings and resolution of the Senate, calling for sack of the Interim Management Committee, IMC, and other recommendations, was waiting for the findings of the House of Representatives and other executive briefs to make a categorical pronouncement, shortly.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, may have rescinded its resolution to sue the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Godswill Akpabio, Vanguard learnt, weekend.
In another development, a coalition of Ijaw groups, yesterday, attributed the alleged looting in the NDDC, to the failure to put in place the Presidential Monitoring Committee, PMC, in accordance with the NDDC Act.
Also, Asari Dokubo, leader of Niger Delta Peoples Salvation Force, has said the alleged mismanagement of N81 billion by IMC of NDDC, is like pick pocketing compared to other alleged stolen public funds in Nigeria.
Reps drop court case against Akpabio
A ranking member of the House of Representatives, from Katsina State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the reporter in Abuja: “No. no, there is no way we can proceed with the case against him (Akpabio). He has written to explain. I don’t think we are going ahead with the matter in court.”
He assured that the leadership would speak to that effect soon.
Special Assistant to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Legal Matters, Osazee Ogundijie, in a phone interview, couldn’t confirm if the Clerk of the House, Mr Patrick Giwa, had gone ahead with the legal proceedings against the Minister.
“The Office of the Clerk is supposed to be handling it. It was referred directly to his office, though I am not sure he has filed it yet,” he said.
The House of Representatives had resolved to sue the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio for criminal perjury and civil defamation on Thursday last week.
Ojougboh briefs N’Delta leaders
In another development, top officials of NDDC, including the Executive Director, Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, made efforts, weekend, to stem the anger by visiting some Niger Delta leaders and explaining what they believe were the true happenings in the commission, contrary to the picture the Senate and House of Representatives had painted with the public hearings.
Vanguard learned that some NDDC officials were slated to meet the leader of Niger-Delta, Chief Edwin Clark, at Abuja, yesterday, on the stated mission, but he had not been reached at 11a.m when Vanguard contacted him.
“In the probe, NASS members are the contractors, they are the judge, they are the prosecutors and they are the jailers. What the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs said was very right, he did not recant, that is what people do not understand,” he said.
Vanguard made several calls to Ojougboh, yesterday, to confirm the IMC trouble-shooting mission, but could not speak with him.
Different groups planning mass protests – Omare
But a Niger Delta rights activist and immediate past President of Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, Eric Omare, corroborated our findings that there was anxiety in the region over the financial scandal in NDDC.
He said: “Already, the sordid revelations, attempt to illegally arrest the former Managing Director of the IMC, Dr Joi Nuineh, protest from different groups and more protests that are being planned by groups in the region have heightened tension in Niger Delta.
“If urgent steps are not taken, the fragile peace in the region may be breached. Consequently, I call on President Buhari to swiftly act by sacking the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio, for acts of corruption, dissolve the illegal IMC led by Prof. Pondei and immediately inaugurate the substantive board of the NDDC already screened and cleared by the Senate led by Odubu/Okumagba.
“The supervision of the NDDC should be reverted to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to avoid the distractions from the Niger Delta Ministry and the forensic audit should be directly supervised by the Presidency. I wish to state that the thought of the illegal and corrupt IMC supervising the forensic audit is an anathema.”
Why there’s looting in NDDC—Ijaw groups
A coalition of Ijaw groups, in a statement by Secretary, Ijaw Elders Forum, IEF; Lagos, Efiye Bribena; Moderator, Ijaw Nation Forum, INF; Mr Ben Okoro; former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Management Board, NCDMB; Embasara Foundation, Chief Amagbe Kentebe; President, Ijaw Professionals Association, IPA, Lagos, Mr Elaye Otrofanowei; Executive Director and Niger Delta Women International Resource, Environment and Development Centre, NDWIRED CENTRE, Ms Ibiba Don-Pedro, warned of an emerging design to cripple and destroy the interventionist agencies in the region set up to drive human capital as well as infrastructural development.
They said: “The looting of the NDDC is caused mainly by the failure to put in place the Presidential Monitoring Committee, PMC, in accordance with the NDDC Act. Therefore, a necessary step is to constitute the PMC, which should be funded independent of the commission and to report periodically and mandatorily to the President.
“The forensic audit of the NDDC should be commissioned and supervised directly by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
“The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio should resign as minister or be removed by Mr President, if he refuses to resign honourably. As an interested party he should not be superintending over the forensic audit of the NDDC.”
HOSCON urges Buhari to return commission to presidency
HOSCON in a statement by its National Director of Media and Publicity, Okakuro Whiskey, claimed that the myriad of problems and sleaze bedeviling the interventionist agency would only be solvable when the responsibility of overseeing its administration is redeployed from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, back to the Presidency.
It said: “We are pleased to note that despite the orchestrated plot to blackmail and intimidate the National Assembly by agent of the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the three member illegal kangaroo IMC, the leadership of the National Assembly has again proven to Nigerians that they are indeed independent and can be relied upon by the down-trodden Nigerian people.
Let us occupy NDDC office — Kate Henshaw, actress
In a viral social media post, actress, Kate Henshaw, called for revolution against NDDC, saying: “Every right thinking Niger Deltan should be on the streets protesting. No one should be allowed to enter that edifice of fraud called the NDDC office. We should occupy that building.
N81bn theft at NDDC mere pick pocketing —Asari Dokubo
Commenting on the saga in a video, Dokubo said the N81 billion in question was nothing compared to other funds he claimed were looted in Nigeria.
He said the case was like that of a man calling the police to report a pick pocketing case he witnessed while armed robbers are breaking into his house.
He said: “We are talking about N81 billion being pick-pocketed from Niger Delta while the bulk of our money, our resources is being carted away and we are not talking.”
Forensic audit should go ahead, looters prosecuted – 21st CYNDAC
On its part, campaigners under the auspices of 21st Century Youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience, 21st CYNDAC, who also expressed shock at the stunning revelations and drama during the National Assembly probe, said Akpabio had good intentions for NDDC and the region, but was largely misunderstood by people, who want that looting to continue.
Coordinator of the group, self-styled “General” Izon Ebi, said, yesterday: “Anyone found wanting in the National Assembly probe should be prosecuted accordingly, but the forensic audit must be concluded.”
“Our stand does not mean that we are happy with the revelation of recklessness and corrupt practices alleged to be perpetrated by the IMC, which is saddled with the responsibility to supervise the audit and reposition the NDDC.”
Also reacting to developments in NDDC yesteday, former leader of the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Ebikabowei Victor-Ben, aka “General Boyloaf,” rebuffed the renewed agitation for scrapping of NDDC, saying it would scurry development in the oil-rich region.
Boyloaf, in a statement, said: “Our calm disposition towards the noticeable dramatics, brouhaha, and the recent ignoble calls for the scrapping of the NDDC should be understandable.”
He pleaded with the National Assembly, Interim Management Committee, IMC, of NDDC and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to sheath their swords to facilitate repositioning of the commission for timely execution, completion, and submission of forensic audit reports to Mr. President.
He said: “We, as stakeholders in the events leading to the establishment of NDDC, know the pains, bloodshed, sacrifices and tortuous journey, which led to the peace resolutions that brought about the establishment of the various intervention agencies, particularly the NDDC.
“We are witnesses to the fact that for almost 20 years of the NDDC existence, and with trillions of naira spent by previous administrations, the pace of development in the region has been disappointing.”