Arrest Godswill Akpabio, Imc Members And National Assembly Members Cum Contractors Of Nddc Now-: Huriwa Pleads With President Muhammadu Buhari:
A Statement Issued by the Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) Calling for A Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Niger Delta Development Commission and the Immediate Arrest of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs; Godswill Akpabio and all the National Assembly Legislative Contractors to Ensure all the Monies are retrieved to the Last Penny. The North East Development Commission is also said to be swimming in massive corruptions. We urge for immediate investigations of that commission too. WE URGE ACTIVISTS FROM THE NIGER DELTA TO TAKE STEPS TO PROTEST THESE CORRUPTIONS SO THE REST OF THE ORGANISED CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS CAN KEY IN AND ESCALATE THE CIVIL ACTIONS.
The Niger Delta Region of Nigeria is the storehouse of Nigeria’s crude oil, which accounts for approximately 90% of the country’s revenue, providing more than 90% of total exports. Despite this, the people remain poor, marginalized and restive.
Unlike most oil producing areas, the world over, the Niger Delta is the least developed in relationship with what it generates to the national coffers. It is in realization of this that the federal government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo set up the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as an intervention agency to correct the anomaly and speed up the development process of the region
However, the reverse has been the case as every meaningful step taken to better the life of
the citizens in that region is marred by corruption. The intervention agency created by the federal government to engineer the rapid development of Niger Delta, is being seen as a goldmine and fraud centre where every man and woman of fraudulent disposition fervently prays to be sent.
In Nigeria’s continued ridiculous drama, mostly in governance, the latest gripping chapter on which all eyes are focused is the sordid details of financial violations at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), by the ongoing inquiry by federal lawmakers.
The Drama at the National Assembly, which has entangled the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs; Senator Godswill Akpabio on all sides has many foundations which includes alleged quest for power, big money, sex and deceit.
That a shocked nation, like Nigeria is gripped by the overwhelming revelations coming out of the National Assembly Probe on NDDC has become a matter of interest to us as a foremost civil rights group with no political affiliations but are passionate about achieving just and equitable development in our country.
In the last couple of weeks, the news of how the NDDC has been mismanaged and financial improprieties by its managers have left Nigerians shocked at the rot in the management of the national commonwealth by officials saddled with the duty by the government.
The drama emanating from the ongoing National Assembly's probe over alleged Financial recklessness to the sum of N40 billion Naira by the Interim management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission between January and March this year has given Nigeria a bad name in the international community and has once again called for questioning on the sincere disposition of the administration of Muhammadu Buhari, which rode to power on the mantra of integrity.
The ongoing National Assembly's probe has made open, allegations and counter allegations of misappropriation and misconducts between a former Managing Director of the Commission; Dr. Joy Nunieh and the Niger Delta Affairs Minister; Godswill Akpabio.
We are not advocating for the former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC; Joy Nunieh who served from October 29, 2019 to February 17, 2020, but her testimonies are weighty. She is neither an unspecified nor a nameless petitioner; she is the former head of the agency with access to firsthand information and undeniable facts, complete with names of persons, dates, figures and places. And she has been speaking under oath.
According to Nunieh’s testimony before the federal lawmakers, Akpabio’s first actions was to call for files of certain companies that were linked to him. As a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Akpabio had the privilege, at different times, to nominate Managing Director of the NDDC, Chairman of the NDDC Board and Executive directors. By asking for those files, our understanding is that she is alleging that he sought to bury any shred of information that may indict him.
To achieve this, he ensured the transfer of top directors from the headquarters of the NDDC in Port Harcourt, Rivers State to less dignifying offices in the other states which constitute the nine Niger Delta states. More than one year after he assumed office, Akpabio has done none of the major things he was cocky about on his first day at work at the NDDC headquarters.
Also, from Nunieh’s version at the National Assembly, Akpabio had finalized a grand structure to allegedly deceive all stakeholders in the NDDC with the impression that a forensic audit was going on. According to her an audit cannot be going on at the NDDC because the instrument used to secure it was defective. It would be recalled that part of what the audit was to unravel is how the NDDC’s current debt profile of about N2 trillion and the liter of over 12,000 uncompleted and abandoned projects.
In addition, Nunieh revealed how the Minister allegedly pressurised her to convert Dollars in the NDDC account and give it to him. He also allegedly asked for Hundreds of Millions of Naira in Christmas gifts.
She further informed that the reason why all attempts to connect the office building to public power supply where frustrated by Akpabio is allegedly because his girlfriend supplies diesel to the NDDC headquarters.
The former NDDC Acting Managing Director accused the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, of pressuring her to employ people outside the Niger Delta. She said Akpabio told her to indict Senator Peter Nwaboshi as the owner of 98 companies working as contractors for the NDDC
Her refusal to do the minister’s bidding of course, drew Senator Akpabio’s anger allegedly. Her insistence to be kept out of any illegality allowed Akpabio to conveniently turn his back against her, while finding a way to circumvent due process, she further alleged.
Again, another ugly twist to the NDDC probe was apparent when the management of the commission last week walked out on federal lawmakers probing the commission alleging that the chairman of the committee on Niger Delta is a party in the workings of the commission and therefore not in a position to be an unbiased arbiter in the crisis rocking the commission. The action of the directors is telling an accusation on the integrity of the lawmakers.
This is not the first time that members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will embark on the investigation of financial recklessness only to be trapped in the same web.
OUR POSITION AND DEMAND
The statements and counter statements from the National Assembly probe on NDDC are beyond scandalous and shame. With these scandalous revelations, it becomes extremely worrisome the way and manner the NDDC expends monies without recourse to prioritization of projects that will impact on the people of the region.
The NDDC is a very sensitive Commission and should not be treated in isolation when so many financial infractions are been committed on a daily basis. With all of these disclosures such as claims of giving monies to the Nigerian Police up to the tune of N475 million to buy sanitizers and face mask, N3.14billion expenditure for Covid-19 pandemic palliatives to selected staff of the Commission when their salaries subsist, the issue of attending graduation ceremony in the united kingdom in the months the entire world was on lockdown and payment of scholarship grant into personal accounts of top officials of the commission and other sundry expenses to the tune of N81.5 billion Naira, nothing was spent for the common man for whose purpose the Commission was set up.
These schemes follow a pattern that are ingrained in the NDDC, which have become institutionalized corruption where the purported beneficiary Agency of government does not get the items claimed to have been requested for.
We need to hear from the Nigeria Police what they actually got from the NDDC; is it cash or the physical items of sanitizers and face mask? These are proving questions which answers must be provided for.
Again, the National Assembly is a major problem affecting the delivering of development in the Niger Delta region. Aside the current leadership or chairmen of NASS Committees on the NDDC, the previous ones are equally culpable in terms of negative influence on the Commission.
When one considers the level of underdevelopment of the Region, level of poverty and ecological devastation, which is tantamount to environmental massacre to the people of the region, then all those who have got anything to do with that Commission should be jailed, mostly those that have got to do with its mismanagement from inception till date.
Former Olusegun Obasanjo did not make any mistake when he established the Commission to be used to touch the sufferings of the people who lay golden eggs upon which the Nigerian nation harvest the money to run this country.
We are therefore calling for the constitution of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe alleged financial malfeasance at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
We are of the firm belief that such independent commission will do a more thorough job than any other panel and shall also allow more locals in the south- south to make their contributions to the probe of NDDC.
More so, since the National Assembly has been caught up in the web of the corruption in the Commission, therefore not in a position to be an unbiased arbiter in the crisis rocking the commission.
Furthermore, we wonder why the substantive Board of the Commission approved by the Senate on November 5th, 2019 was not allowed to work. we do not see why a forensic auditing cannot take place when you have a regular board in place.
President Buhari must have now realized that the contrived Interim Management Committee was sold to him with dubious and unpatriotic purpose going by the absurd revelations coming from the Committee members at the NASS probe.
Also, the NDDC Act needs to be amended to make it more effective in blocking leakages and frittering of the Commission’s resources.
Going forward, The Interim Management Committee (IMC) should be dissolved because it has completely lost the confidence of the Nigerian people and people of the region. The appointment of lead consultant for the forensic audit should be reviewed immediately and an audit firm with pedigree engaged.
We would like to appeal to the President His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to take a close look at suggestions and submissions from his appointees to avoid the numerous flaws in his government. Most appointees put their personal interest first and foremost. Furthermore, he should allow due process to take center stage from now on.
Finally, it is shocking with the revelation that NDDC has not been audited in the last 20 years. This practice alone is a recipe for corruption and mismanagement.
All hands must be on deck to empower the office of the Auditor General to do her work of ensuring integrity and transparency in government.
*Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; National Coordinator: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA);
*Miss. Zainab Yusuf;
National Media Affairs Director.