*No fraud, collaborators raising false alarm, NDDC insists
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
ASABA – FORMER Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has challenged the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who supervises the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to substantiate his accusation that he (Uduaghan) collected contracts from the interventionist agency.
A source said that Dr. Uduaghan, who was taken aback by the unscrupulous allegation against him and two other former governors, sent a text message to the Minister to clear the air on the matter.
He denied collecting any contract from NDDC and wondered why his name was linked to the scandal.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, declared again, Monday, that there was no fraud in the interventionist agency, saying some conspirators were just bent on blowing the whistle to heat up the polity.
Dr. Uduaghan’s Media Assistant, Mr. Monoyon Edon, in a statement, said: “The attention of His Excellency, former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, has been drawn to a publication that the “Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has linked two former governors of Delta State, Messrs James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan, to the various contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission.”
“In the said publication, it was stated that “Uduaghan was linked to the emergency repairs of Close B, Alhaji Estate & Environs, Rumuodomaya, Port -Harcourt at a cost of N429m.
“We want to state very clearly that the said accusation is FALSE. Dr. Uduaghan has never approached the NDDC for any contract whatsoever. It is even more ridiculous that the said contract is a road inside Port Harcourt town.
“Dr. Uduaghan has drawn the attention of the Hon. Minister of the Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio to the publication and hopes he makes a correction. Members of the public are advised to disregard the mischievous publication,” he said.
Denying that there was no fraud in NDDC, Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Charles Odili, asserted: “We suspect that after the scheming of the past four weeks failed to achieve the purpose of sacking the management and scuttling the work on the forensic audit exercise, the schemers are out again to heat up the polity.”
“The point they miss is that the forensic audit exercise is a project of Mr President. Hounding and haunting an innocent academic who is merely on a national assignment will not scuttle the audit,” he added.
The statement read in part: “Less than two weeks after an exhaustive and exhausting public hearing by both chambers of the National |Assembly, another round of false reports have surfaced in the media alleging all manners of improprieties by the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission.”
“One of the reports alleges that a fresh massive fraud has been uncovered in the Commission. There is no evidence of fraud in the commission. The report is merely a rehash of the allegations which led the National Assembly, on May 5, to order a probe of the 74 -day administration of Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei at the Commission.
“Lest we forget, that probe was set up to uncover the sum of N40 billion missing from the Commission. In order to allay the fears of our stakeholders, we took the unusual step of publishing the list of payments made by the Commission since Pondei came into office. With that publication, the rug was pulled from the feet of our accusers.
When the hearings proper started, there was no talk of the missing N40 billion any more. It was now about financial recklessness. As we pointed out in an earlier release, the issue of missing money is one needing objective proof. The issue of financial recklessness is a matter of subjective judgment. The reports of the hearings have been submitted and it is clear there was no money missing at the Commission.
“The response of the Commission to the new reports is that there is no fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission. Prof Pondei has run a very transparent administration and this transparency is now apparent after the searchlight put on his administration in the past one month.
“Another report rehashed the claim of the Contractors Association that the management demands between 20 per cent and 30 per cent kickback before paying contractors. We wish to state categorically that this is false. This allegation was made at the hearing of the Ad hoc Senate Committee, which probed the affairs of the Commission.
“The management of NDDC was at the hearing when the allegation was made and challenged the man who did so for evidence. There was no single case that he could allude to. Without any evidence, the allegation became so outlandish that not even a single newspaper reported it the following day.
“Prof Pondei famously said that if any contractor can prove he paid him any money, he would resign. Four weeks since that challenge was thrown on July 9, no one has come out with any proof. It is instructive that the Senate report did not adopt the allegation as valid. It beats the imagination why any newspaper will report a baseless claim, four weeks after it was made and for which no one can prove.
“We appeal to those who are putting their personal interests over and above that of the people of the Niger Delta to have a rethink, pull back and allow the Commission the space to serve the people of the region,” Odili said.