•Lawan, Gbajabiamila must not shield lawmakers
•What President Buhari should do – Nkanga, Mitee, Ambakaderimo
•Our patience running out – Ukene, Mene, Morris, Jackson
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, nJimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una, Ike Uchechukwu, Chioma Onuegbu, Davies Iheamnachor, Emem Idio, Ochuko Akuopha, Francis Sadhere
LEADERS, activists and other stakeholders in the Niger-Delta appraised the dirty war between the National Assembly on one side, Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Interim Management Committee, IMC, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, on the other hand, during the week, and concluded that the parties were concealing the actual details of their deals from Nigerians.
National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF and ex-Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom state, Nkanga, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd.), former Ogoni ethnic nationality leader, Mr. Ledum Mitee, Convener South -South Reawakening Group, Joseph Ambakaderimo were dumbfounded the contenders were quarreling and threatening themselves over who stole more than the other, instead of development of the region.
Warri-based constitutional lawyer, Akpo Mudiaga-Odje, immediate past president, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, Eric Omare, also bared their minds, saying President Muhammadu Buahri should personally supervise forensic audit of the Commission and ensure that those indicted were speedily sanctioned.
They have something to hide — Nkanga
PANDEF national chair, Nkanga, who spoke in Uyo, asserted: “It will be dangerous for me to speculate on what the issues are in the NDDC/NASS quarrel. But from what I have seen, and read, it does appear that they have something to hide. And in an attempt to do that, you can see blackmail and all that. So that is what we are seeing now from both sides.”
“They are trying to outdo themselves through blackmail and cover up the real issue. The National Assembly is doing its oversight function and there might be few of them that will not be comfortable with the investigation, because once there is investigation, some people are going to be exposed at the conclusion,” he said.
His words: “I do not think the National Assembly was prepared to investigate the entire life of the NDDC. They were only prepared for the issue of the allegation of N40 billion fraud. Since there is the forensic audit going on, I think they should limit themselves to the level of their oversight function and the areas where they have facts.”
IMC using diversionary tactic —Mitee
Former Chairman, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Mr. Ledum Mitee, told Saturday Vanguard in Port-Harcourt, Rivers state: “The main issue thrown up in the NASS probe of the NDDC is that the Commission has been a cesspool of corruption and political patronages, instead of a development agency.”
“Our attention has been diverted by allegations and counter allegations of who had which contract. To me, who had the contracts is not important. It is no answer to allegations that some members of the NA also partook in the looting.
“What is important is were those billions properly spent for what the funds were meant for; were due process followed in the award of the contracts; did those projects for which contracts were awarded meet the priorities of development of the communities of the Niger Delta; were the contracts executed; and why have those who committed infractions not been punished?” He added.
“The National Assembly should focus on amending the NDDC Act to make it less bureaucratic and accountable to the people and not a political patronage outfit.
“The President under whose control and direction the NDDC carries out its functions by law should free it from the Presidency’s political stranglehold and immediately sanction all those against whom, by the revelations so far, obvious prima facie corruption cases have been made,” Mitee stated.
Minister, IMC play down allegations – Ambakaderimo
Convener South- South Reawakening Group, Mr. Joseph Ambakaderimo, said: “The issues raised are germane to the overall development of the Niger Delta in the sense that it did not start today and the attempt to nip it in the bud has now met with stiff confrontation from within and without the commission. The quest to reposition the commission to bring it to meet the noble objective of why it was established should be the focus and top most on the mind of every Niger Deltan and Nigerians in general. But what we see today is an absurd show of shame where the least iota of morality is seen thrown to the wind.”
“Yes… Minister Akpabio is disingenuously and deliberately behaving like the ostrich who buries its head in the sand and thinks the whole body is buried. It has become the recurring pattern of the Minister and the IMC to continue to trivialize very serious allegations of corruption levelled against the Minister and the IMC team. The Minister and the IMC team have so far not been able to respond to the allegations convincingly and all what they have engaged in is what I will describe as ‘hot cock turtle’ tactics.
“Even though the lawmakers have not asked probing questions and done follow-up to logical conclusion, I will still maintain that Mr. Akpabio is deliberately muddling up the waters to cover up acts of blatant corruption and direct stealing from the treasury, which unfortunately and unknown to him are been discussed in the market squares by everybody. But he will not succeed because we are ready this time to take on anyone, who will become an obstacle to the development of the region.
“It is this spirit that has propelled us to request the Nigeria Police hierarchy to come out with full disclosure on what they, the police, know about the N475 million purported to have been received from the NDDC for Covid -19 support as claimed by the IMC during the Senate hearings.
“So far, the NASS has come short of expectation in all of the processes and conducts so far. Like I said earlier, not enough probing and follow up questions are been asked. One instance I will like to restate is the issue of diversion of scholarship funds been diverted to personal bank accounts mentioned by a person, who made those depositions on oath, yet the committee members could not see that serious enough to do a follow up and get details of those accounts so mentioned from the National Financial Intelligence Unit, NIFU, and CBN for further scrutiny. Or better still, they would have hired forensic auditors to prepare questions for them.
“The President must do the needful to ensure the persons indicted face the full wrath of the law and this must be done expeditiously too. The other thing is the inauguration of the substantive board which of course can also oversee the forensic audit.
Akpabio, Nwaoboshi, Tunji-Ojo should recuse themselves
“The forensic audit should be discontinued forthwith because the outcome is pre-determined already and those who are superintending over the forensic have their hands in the till. Or are we saying the auditors would be able to indict Akpabio and the IMC team? Furthermore the names of NASS members alleged to have been beneficiaries are being leaked to him, which he now brought to the floor of the hearing and he mentioned this in the floor himself that the names were leaked to him by the auditors, so what does that tell us?
“This is one of the reasons my group has said we are going to issue our own minority report to challenge the haphazard work that is been done if at all any real audit is going on. They ask for Chairmen of the two committees to recuse themselves while they are staying put to continue to oversee the forensic audit? The claim by the Minister that forensic audit is the root cause of the probe only flies in the face because some of us have called for the probe of the NDDC before Akpabio became governor of Akwa lbom state, so what is he talking about? They, the trio of Akpabio, Nwaoboshi and Tunji-Ojo, should recuse themselves as well. Punish wrong doing at the top and you will be sending the right message to all and sundry.
Complications of NASS inquiry – Omare, ex IYC president
Former IYC president, Eric Omare Esq., said: “The issues in the NASS/NDDC IMC are complex and interwoven. On one hand, there is the historical role of some members of the National Assembly, especially Committee Chairmen exercising undue advantage over the affairs of the NDDC in the course of their oversight functions. This has made some members of the NASS Assembly to become parties to the rot in the NDDC. On the other hand, there is the recent mindless looting of the NDDC by the IMC set up by Senator Akpabio and backed by President Buhari. “
“Now the NASS in a bid to exercise their constitutional oversight functions to probe the NDDC are confronted with the past deeds of some of their members. This is what has made the matter complex. It is common knowledge that members of the NASS, who are members of their committees, especially the committee chairmen have always had some much influence in the affairs of the NDDC especially in the siting of projects. If you look at the NDDC budget over the years, you would discover that most of the projects are sited in the constituency of NASS members that chair the NDDC committee, but do not have a drop of oil in their constituencies. “You may further investigate this point by looking at the last approved NDDC budget and look at the projects in the constituency of Senator Nwaboshi and Hon. Tunji-Ojo from Ondo state. You would easily appreciate the point I am making. The situation is made worse by the fact that the IMC was supposedly appointed to supervise the forensic audit, but is now entangled in multiple cases of corruption.
“This is what makes the situation more complicated. However, I think that all these complications could have been avoided if President Buhari had listened to voices of reason, instead of listening only to the cabal around him. Some of us knew from the onset that the rot in NDDC involved some many persons, including former governors, senators, Reps members, traditional rulers, politicians from across the country. Therefore, any investigation of the NDDC can only be done by a neutral body and in this case we strongly suggested that Mr. President should supervise it personally but unfortunately he decided to do otherwise and the result is what we are seeing,”
Fraudulent party can’t probe another guilt-ridden party
Omare disclosed: “Yes, attention is being diverted from the issues because a guilty party cannot investigate or probe another guilty party. And this is in different stages. First, Akpabio and his IMC do no not have the moral justification to supervise the forensic audit because they are interested parties. Then on the other hand, some members of the NASS also do not have the moral basis to sit in an investigation over the affairs of the NDDC because they too are part and parcel of the rot in the NDDC.”
“This is where the diversion and muddling up of issues are coming in. Therefore, we can only get to the root of the corruption in the NDDC through an independent investigation outside the Akpabio IMC and the National Assembly probes.
Parties confusing Nigerians – Jackson, NDYM president
Also speaking, National President, Niger Delta Youth Movement, NDYM, Comrade Joe Jackson, asserted: ”For us what we think about the face-off between NDDC and National Assembly is that there is something that they don’t want Nigerians to know. There is an attempt to cover up by both sides. If there is nothing to hide then why the quarrel? There is a saying that “there is no smoke without fire.”
“We believe they are trying to divert from the real issues on ground just to confuse Nigerians. And we are not satisfied with the manner which the National Assembly is handling the investigation. We are equally not satisfied that the NDDC is not providing the answers needed to unveil the truth.
“We believe that before they come out for probe, they should have their facts and not coming out to confuse the masses by saying this today and another thing tomorrow when they try to divert attention from the real issue on ground, which is the rot in the NDDC. How would the masses know who is actually telling the truth or who is lying to us?
Reevaluate NDDC— Morris, environmentalist
Bayelsa state-based Niger Delta environmentalist, Comrade Alagoa Morris, said: “The National Assembly is an interested party, as they, instead of making lawmaking and oversight function as their responsibility, have taken to the part of sourcing for contract from the same agency they are supposed to have oversight function on. This has the issue of conflict of interest coming to the fore. Again, that the National Assembly allowed all this to happen to this level means they have also failed in effective oversight and as such, culpable.”
Perpetrators should face the music — Ukeni, SAN
Chief Mba Ukeni, SAN, opined: “The NDDC probe is a litmus test to check the credibility of the Buhari- led administration’s anti-corruption campaign, which they used to kick the PDP out of office in 2015.”
“It was on that basis that PDP was kicked out of office, this is the time to test their sincerity in this campaign. We were amongst the NGOs and CSOs that visited Akpabio when the investigations were initiated to voice our concerns.
“If this is properly carried out, it will mark a turning point in the life of the South -South region. Any project awarded must be executed and completed and anyone found wanting should go in for it. It should no longer be a secret because the people are all public office holders and nothing should be kept secret anymore, it should be published because the world is watching.
“Akpabio should go back and do a review and people, who are involved should be made to face the law, it is a shame for the quantity of money sunk in to go like that and the Niger Delta remains in this sorry state.
It’s all power show
– Dr Mudiaga-Odje, lawyer
Human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Dr Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, hollered from Warri: ”The issues arising from the National Assembly and NDDC face off is satirically what the great Afro beat icon, Fela classified as ‘power show’. Power show in the sense that both institutions are unwittingly competing as to who calls the shots and distributes the largesse flowing from the goose that lays the golden egg, and that is the Niger Delta.
“So painful that we had to come to this stage of ‘comic drama and melodramatic theatrics’ on our mission to give the commission vision! Most importantly, what we request is for National Assembly to make recommendations, which the Senate has done as a first part, on how to drastically reduce sleaze in that commission.
“I used the words drastically reduce advisedly, because no man on earth, including EFCC, Anti-Fraud Units or ICPC put together can ever stop corruption in the NDDC! We can only reduce it drastically but not totally.
“We, therefore, urgently need to track the income and expenditure with an eagle eye and fine comb. Sort out capital and recurrent expenditure and diagnose where corruption is endemic under these two headings of expenditure.
“Holding the commissioners representing the states on the board to render account of their stewardship will go a long way in eliminating sleaze. Indeed, attention had been or been diverted from the real issues as adumbrated above to the power show between National Assembly/NDDC/Akpabio.
NASS/NDDC feud is over 2023 – Mumakai Unagha
Former Presidential aspirant under the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2019 Presidential election, Alhaji Mumakai-Unagha, said: “I have said it times without number and I will repeat it here again that the face-off between the National Assembly and NDDC is all about 2023 general elections, nothing far from that.
“To me, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt, that there are some Senators and House of Representative members, who want to control the Commission so that come 2023, they can have enough funds to prosecute their electioneering campaigns. They reasoned that it is only NDDC they can rake the fund for that purpose. This has been their usual practice since the establishment of the Commission in 2000 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“It is regrettable that their over sight function is only focused on the Commission, which to me should not be. Here we are, the various Ports Authorities in the Niger Delta region are all dead, yet these Senators and House of Reps members are not worried, all the federal roads in the region are today death traps, they are not bordered, Delta Steel Company that would have provided jobs for the teaming youths in the region had been closed down, our federal lawmakers have not showed concern, their only concern, is the NDDC, what manner of representatives.
Senate President, Speaker shouldn’t shield anybody
“The contracts were not executed, but paid for. They are afraid of the forensic audit hence, they are trying to frustrate the Commission. Any Senator or individual found to have been involved in contract scam should be made to pay for their sins. Both the Senate President and the Speaker should not shade any member. They should be made to account for job awarded to them.
“The National Assembly should first and foremost purge itself of their iniquities. Yes, the probe is a welcome development, but they should beam search light on its members who collected contract without execution.
“Mind you, I am not supportive of certain moves or steps taken by IMC, I think Mr. President should constitute an independent probe panel into the activities of the Commission, not leaving it for the Minister of the Niger Delta, who is an interested party. There are so many contractors who have executed their project but have not been paid, some have died.
“The National Assembly should focus on laws for the good governance of the nation, I am not against the probe, however, the probe should be total and there should be no escape root or victimization. What we are made to understand, is that the National Assembly is set to witch-hunt some persons.
NASS leadership defending lawbreakers – Mene, APC chieftain
However, Organizing Secretary, APC, Delta state, Mr. Sunny Mene, told one of our reporters:
“The issues in the NASS/NDDC face -off are – Does the National Assembly have the constitutional powers to carry out oversight function on government agencies, including the NDDC? The answer is yes; are the NDDC officials obliged to appear before the National Assembly when summoned by the NASS? The answer is yes.
“These issues have been complicated by the complicity of some members of the National Assembly in the NDDC contract racketeering for themselves and proxies. Minister of Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has mentioned names. This situation is further compounded by the seeming cover-up and comradeship of the National Assembly towards culpable members. It is against the principal of natural justice for members to be judges in their own cause.
“I must concede that not all members of the National Assembly are involved in this embarrassing situation. We cannot say parliamentarians are distinguished and honourable when it does not reflect in their conduct. They need to reflect on this.
Disband IMC, suspend minister — Ekwok, C’River PFN chair
From Cross- River state, Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship, PFN, Dr Lawrence Ekwok, said: “The way forward if federal government is sincere about tackling corruption in NDDC is to dissolve the IMC, suspend the minister and appoint a non-politician sole administrator from the area with a track record of honesty and integrity to oversee the commission for a maximum period of three to six months, during which time reputable forensic auditors drawn from international agencies, should be appointed to audit the commission within a given time frame, after which a full board should be constituted with trusted persons on the recommendations of the governors from the area and key Niger Delta stakeholders such as PANDEF, etc.
Scrap NDDC, give Julius Berger construction contracts – Mese, security expert
A security expert and Managing Director, Focus Guard Security Limited, Mr Shola Mese, speaking in Warri, said: “For me it is not about handing over the NDDC to the Presidency because they may even be worse than those in the NDDC. I would advise that they copy what former President Ibrahim Babangida did in the past.”
“What the Presidency should do is to handover whatever that is coming to the Niger Delta region to a construction company like Julius Berger. They should allow Julius Berger to come up with templates on how they are going to develop the region and then give them the money to do whatever construction they want to do in the region.
“So my candid advice is that they should hand over the construction of various projects to a construction company, pay the money into their account and let the company account for whatever they are spending on the project. That is the only way the region will benefit from what is being taken away from their land. We do not want these monies to be in the hands of politicians who are only interested in stealing our money
“What we are saying is that the NDDC should be scrapped completely, they should forget about NDDC. We do not want to hear about it again,” he said.
On the feud between NASS, Akpabo and IMC, he explained: “Some persons felt sidelined and that is why they are quarreling. It is just like what happened between Festus Keyamo and the NASS. I am sure that if he had succumbed and allowed for a private meeting with members of the NASS, we would have not seen any fight. The NASS are all concerned about themselves and nobody else.”
NDDC, NASS war about individual ego —Obe, NDCF chair
Chairman, Niger Delta Consultative Forum, NDCF, and APC chieftain in Delta state, Chief Fred Obe, said: “What is happening in NDDC is a source of shame to everyone in Niger Delta and to those of us who staked our lives to champion the fight against the marginalization of the Niger Delta region.”
“The quarrel between the IMC and National Assembly is not about the development of the region. It is all about the control of the soul of NDDC for personal aggrandizement as it has always been. Nothing good is going to come out of whatever charade that is going on.
“There are elements in the National Assembly that would have wished to be in control of NDDC and there is the IMC that has no legitimate mandate that is in control now. Both sides are merely shadow boxing for their own selfish interests.
NASS should let auditor-general perform – Nwauju , Rivers
Spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, in Rivers state, Darlington Nwauju, who appeared before the House Committee to present the group’s position, told Saturday Vanguard in Port-Harcourt: “Those trying to divert attention are those saying we should all wait for the forensic auditors to turn in their report. The question I ask those with such idiosyncrasies is, if you have a monthly check with your Doctor and an emergency comes up, do you wait till month-end or do the needful?
“The problem we have in this country is that people do not view corruption as serious as health issues. They forget that corruption amounts to economic wastages which are draining life out of the masses of this country. Our warped definition of what amounts to corruption is research for a whole year,” he said.
Scrutinize lawmaker-contractors – Ita, ex-C’River lawmaker
Former Cross-River House of Assembly member and lawyer, Ntunkae (Dr) Grace Eyo Ita, stated: “The face-off is a feature of democracy, the Minister of Niger-Delta and NASS are there for Nigerians, they should find a solution to curb further reckless expenditures.”
“I do not think attention is diverted, the minister has named the beneficiaries as demanded by NASS. It is left for proper investigation to compel the defaulters to return to site. Whether they are NASS or other Nigerians, if jobs are given, they must complete them.