Drama as Acting NDDC MD faints, probe adjourned…NDDC’s looters accusing those cleaning mess, Lai Mohammed tells PDP

…PDP’s call for Buhari’s resignation infantile

…APC misleading Nigerians, says PDP

…Insists Buhari’s anti-corruption war not failing, despite EFCC, NSITF, NDDC probes

…NDDC probe not party issue — PANDEF

…Corruption today worse than COVID-19 — Afenifere

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Henry Umoru, Dapo Akinrefon, Chioma Unuegbu & Dirisu Yakubu

THE All  Progressives Congress, APC-led Federal Government, and opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were at each other’s throats yesterday over probe of financial malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

While government spokesman and Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, blamed the corruption on the interventionist agency, PDP in a reaction by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi, accused the Federal Government of twisting facts about the NDDC to deceive Nigerians.

This is even as one of the lawmakers listed by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to have taken contracts from the commission, Samuel Anyanwu, who represented Imo East in the 8th Senate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday said he has concluded arrangements to sue the minister.

Briefing journalists in Abuja yesterday, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, descended on those trying to rubbish the anti-corruption drive of the Buhari government, which he said had been globally recognised and acknowledged.

He dismissed as infantile the call by the PDP for President Muhammadu Buhari to resign, given the rising cases of graft being investigated by the administration.

The opposition had cited the current on-going investigation of chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, the contract fraud probe at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and mismanagement of funds probe at the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund, as signs that Buhari’s much-touted anti-corruption war is actually waning and that Buhari should step down.

But Mohammed said it was regrettable that the party under whose watch the looting at the NDDC took place could summon the courage to attack the Buhari administration that was actively working hard to clear the mess created by the previous government formed by PDP.

Mohammed said: “Let me state here and now that the fight against corruption, a cardinal programme of this administration is alive and well.

President Muhammadu Buhari, the African Union’s Anti-Corruption Champion, who also has an impeccable reputation globally, remains the driver of the fight and no one, not the least the PDP, under whose watch Nigeria was looted dry, can taint his image or reverse the gains of the fight. Anyone who disagrees that the anti-corruption fight is alive and well is free to dare us.

“What the revelations of the past few weeks, especially the investigation of the nation’s anti-corruption czar, have shown is that this administration is not ready to sweep any allegation of corruption under the carpet.

No sacred cows

“There is no sacred cow in this fight, and that — unlike the PDP — we will not cover up for anyone, including members of our party and government, who face corruption allegations.

“Our fight against corruption is blind to party affiliation, position in government and any other consideration. If the nation’s anti-corruption czar can be investigated, then the fight against corruption can neither be deemed to be fake nor said to be waning.

“I am not prepared to go into the details of the various corruption allegations — whether at the NDDC, NSITF, EFCC or any other agency — because they are all still under investigation. However, I wish to state that the allegations of corruption in NDDC, for example, are not new.

“What is new is the speed and seriousness with which this administration has tackled, and is still tackling the allegations. Had such attention been paid to the running of the NDDC by previous administrations, the commission would probably have avoided its present predicament.

“Is it not a sad irony, then, that those under whose watch the alleged freewheeling spending by the commission started are now the ones accusing those who are cleaning up the corruption?

“As I said earlier, this administration’s fight against corruption is as strong as ever, and we have the records to back up this claim. This administration has recorded over 1,400 convictions, including high-profile ones, and recovered funds in excess of N800 billion, let alone forfeiture of ill-gotten properties. This is no mean feat.

“Remember, gentlemen that the fight against corruption is not about loot recovery or convictions alone. We are also putting in place enduring institutional reforms that will deter acts of corruption.

“Here we are talking about the Treasury Single Account, TSA, the Whistleblower policy, the expansion of the coverage of the Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System, IPPIS, as well as the Government Integrated Management Information System and the Open Government Partnership and Transparency Portal on Financial Transactions, among others.

“Let me also mention the ICPC’s Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Group, aimed at tracking performance of publicly-funded projects, and the commission’s escalation of the use of administrative sanctions in the public service by periodically submitting, for sanction names of public servants who are being prosecuted.

‘’There is also the review of the personnel and capital fund expenditure of MDAs. Therefore, those who are celebrating the so-called waning of the administration’s anti-corruption fight are engaging in wishful thinking, and are not looking at the full ramifications of the fight.’’

APC out to mislead Nigerians –PDP

Reacting to Lai Mohammed’s accusation, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chided the ruling party for what it called a deliberate plot to mislead Nigerians.

PDP’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi said having ran out of smart arguments, the APC is now bent on twisting facts to mislead some Nigerians into believing that it meant well for the oil-producing region of the country.

Odeyemi wondered why the ruling party had not deemed it fit to ask the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, to step aside to pave way for a thorough investigation of the commission, particularly in the light of humongous allegations by the NDDC former Managing Director, Ms. Joi Nunieh.

“APC is an assemblage of men who have run out of good reasoning and they think they can continue to mislead Nigerians with their baseless propaganda. We are not worried at the insults directed at us as a party but like all Nigerians, we are listening to the songs of corruption they are singing. What have they to say about the billions of naira allegedly frittered away by their members?

“Why are they finding it difficult to prevail on their minister to do the honourable thing by stepping aside to allow for an inquest into his alleged ignoble roles at the commission? Until they answer these questions, Nigerians would not be carried away by their propaganda.

“A party that went everywhere with a promise to fight corruption is engulfed in corruption saga everywhere. Nigerians are dying in their numbers without a semblance of policy to stop the poverty this administrated foisted on them.

“We stand with Nigerians across the country in their determination to bring all those responsible in the rot at the NDDC to book and no amount of bashing and propaganda by the APC will make us relent,” he said.

My lawyers’ll today write  Akpabio, says Senator Samuel Anyanwu

Similarly, one of the lawmakers Senator Akpabio accused of taking contracts from the NDDC, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, who represented Imo East in the 8th Senate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said yesterday he has concluded arrangements with his lawyers to write the minister to retract his statement or face legal action.

Anyanwu said: “I tried calling him a couple of times, he has never taken my calls. I chose to confront him first before going to the press.

“By tomorrow (today) or next tomorrow, my lawyers are going to write Akpabio to retract his statement or give us the facts after which if he doesn’t do anything about this, I will take the next step.”

Addressing Journalists yesterday in Abuja, Senator Anyanwu lampooned Akpabio for mentioning his name, stressing that he never got a contract from the commission, even as a member of the Niger Delta Affairs Committee in the last Senate.

He, however, said if the minister knows enough,  he should come up with the contracts, name of the companies as registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, the bank  where the money was paid into, among others.

Senator Anyanwu, who warned Akpabio to stop insulting and blackmailing people, added: “Because I am a politician, and a prominent one for that matter, in my state and Nigeria, I choose to clear the air on the so-called allegation that I benefited from NDDC contracts.

“First, I was shocked to hear my name, very shocked that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs could mention my name, that I was awarded contracts.

“First of all I am from Imo State which is one of the oil producing states and a member of NDDC. If you remember, it was because of the suffering of the South-East that I moved and sponsored the bill for South-East Development Commission, SEDC, and I was a member of committee on NDDC. The current Minister of Niger Delta affairs was also a member and was the Minority Leader of the Senate.

READ ALSO: NDDC: Startling revelations, drama at Reps’ hearing

“As a member of the committee on NDDC, I attracted projects to my constituency, no contract was ever awarded to me, the beneficiaries of these contracts are my people that I represented, Imo East who are members of the Niger Delta and I challenge the minister and NDDC to go through their records if there was any contract awarded to me or any dime traceable to me.

“So it is disheartening, so as politicians you have political enemies who would act on these to work against you and that is why I feel very very hurt on this issue and I felt I had to clear the air and so you hear my side of the story.

“On some of those projects I attracted to my constituency, I had complaints, from even the contractors that NDDC has not paid them even a dime and I have it on good authority that NDDC does not pay mobilisation for contracts.

“I am using this medium to call on NDDC to go to my constituency and complete the projects they have started.  It was only three names I saw — Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Chairman of the committee, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Senator James Manager and we were about 18 members in that committee. James Manager was not even a member of the committee.

“If there are issues, I feel the minister is educated enough, please let us see the projects, the contracts, name of the companies, the bank where the money was paid, CAC is there, why do you have to insult people like that?

“I am no longer in the Senate, for almost two years, I have left the NDDC, managing my quiet life and watching what Nigeria will turn out to be. So if you have issues with National Assembly members, that has nothing to do with me.

“Before we left, our position with Saraki is part of the things we are suffering today. That’s the truth. I am the only one not in the Senate, why mention my name when I have nothing to do with it? I felt very very hurt.”

Pay fees of students stranded abroad, NiDCOM tells NDDC

Meanwhile, chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has appealed to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to pay the allowances, tuition fees and other incentives of students on scholarship scheme.

In a statement signed by Mr Gabriel Odu, Head of Media, Public Relations and Protocol Unit, NIDCOM, Dabiri-Erewa said that as a matter of urgency, NDDC should intervene by promptly paying other incentives of students on their scholarship scheme to guarantee their stay and education in the UK.

According to her, a letter written to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio in June draws the attention of NDDC to the plight of students under their scholarships scheme.

“The commission counts on the minister’s assurances that all outstanding payments to affected students will be made.  At the moment, there have been persistent calls by the students for urgent intervention.

“The deadline for payment of the fees of some of the students have expired or about to expire, non-payment of their allowances have turned many of them virtually to beggars,” she said.

The NiDCOM Chairman again appealed to the Niger Delta Ministry and the NDDC to intervene urgently and promptly too.

NDDC issue not a party matter — PANDEF

Reacting yesterday, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF has said that Nigerians should be more concerned about speedy completion of the on-going probe of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC by the National Assembly aimed at exposing those behind the rot in the commission and not to politicise the process.

National  Chairman of PANDEF and former military administrator of Akwa Ibom State, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, who made the assertion yesterday in Uyo while reacting to allegations that the rot in the NDDC was caused by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led govermment stressed that the issue at hand is not a party matter.

His words: “What PANDEF has said from the beginning was that the forensic audit should go on so that we will know from the time NDDC was put together where the rot had come from. So anybody that has the interest of the Niger Delta at heart will not even start talking about political parties. It is not party matter.

“It is not for APC to say or PDP for that matter to say. Let the forensic auditors tell us what has caused the problem. And that is why we (PANDEF) have also said that they should publish the names of those who got contracts from NDDC so that we will know those that have ruined the Niger Delta. We are saying let them carry out the investigation without  any fear or favour.

“They are taking us for granted. Naturally the Niger Delta people are the ones suffering. I think people should stop playing politics with the investigation because people of Niger Delta are not amused at all with the drama they are doing. Let them reduce our problem, and agony by getting the investigation done speedily, that is our concern.”

Corruption today worse than COVID-19, and  is official — Afenifere

Reacting, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said the corruption in the NDDC is worse than the coronavirus adding that it is official.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “The looting tales at NDDC are so startling but they are the stories of a twisted country called Nigeria.

“That this is what we are harvesting in the years of change shows this country is irredeemable except we start afresh under a new template. That free looting is going on side-by-side forensic audit shows clearly that our corruption today is worse than Coronavirus and clearly official.

It’s shameful that Alhaji Lai Mohammed would use looting in NDDC under PDP as a cover for the mindless looting going on under the APC that is supposedly fighting corruption. So, they must come to cleanse the system? They must have come to  preserve and escalate the rot with deception. Not that the PDP ran a clean system but for that era to be the standard for APC shows they are shameless.”

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