By Benprince Ezeh
IN compliance with the ultimatum by Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives in Nigeria, Godswill Akpabio, minister for Niger Delta Affairs, has listed the names of some legislators who got contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
They include Nicholas Mutu, representing the Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency of Delta State and former chairman of the House Committee on the NDDC is among those linked by the minister with contracts.
The minister listed Mutu’s name against 74 projects, including various emergency road projects in Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Rivers states.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had on February 3, 2020, arraigned Mutu before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged abuse of office and fraud involving about N320 million.
Akpabio also linked the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta-North), with 53 projects, which included emergency repairs of Asue Street, Owa Phase 2; ldumuogbe Road via Ojemaye; Otolokpo College Road, Otolokpo; and the Police lshu Ani Ukwu Road, Issele Uku.
Other lawmakers that Akpabio listed projects against their names are Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Edo-South), six projects; James Manager (Delta-South), six projects; Samuel Anyanwu (Imo-West, 8th Senate), 19 projects; and others simply identified as Ondo and Edo Reps.
Realnews gathered that contracts listed against the names of the lawmakers were not up to 60 percent of the 266 on the list provided by Akpabio. Though the list provided by the minister did not state if the lawmakers were directly awarded the contracts or they were part of the constituency projects they nominated.
Akpabio had at the hearing of the House Committee on NDDC last week alleged that most of the contracts by the NDDC were given to members of the National Assembly. Miffed by the allegation, Gbajabiamila ordered the minister to publish names of the legislators, who were given 60 percent of the NDDC contracts. The legislators are investigating the misappropriation of N40 billion at the NDDC.
However, two days later, the minister denied accusing members of the House of Reps of receiving 60% of NDDC contracts in a letter he sent to the House, stating that members of the present 9th House of Reps were not the beneficiaries of NDDC contracts as the Commission was yet to implement the budget since the 9th Assembly began.
“As to the reference to 60 percent of contracts, the investigative committee refused and neglected to give me the opportunity to explain that; I was responding to a question by a member of the committee. Permit me to explain that any reference to 60 percent during the investigative hearing was in answer to a question by a member of the committee as to whether or not, a medical doctor could act as Executive Director Project, which I answered in affirmative.
“That the greatest project in the world today is COVID-19, which is medical in nature; furthermore, I am made to understand that 60 percent of NDDC yearly budget is medical in nature, therefore it is better for a medical doctor to serve as the Executive Director Projects,” Akpabio said.
It will be recalled that many controversies surrounding the NDDC include the face-off between Akpabio and Joy Nunieh, former managing director of the NDDC, for saying she slapped the minister for harassing her. The minister has threatened to sue her for defamation.
Meanwhile, the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, on Sunday in Abuja, waded into the controversy and expressed disappointment that Gbajabiamila allegedly refused to disclose the names of federal lawmakers, who benefited from the contracts awarded by the NDDC.
In a press statement released by Solomon Adodo, president of the youth council, said: “Mr. Speaker did not do us justice when he did not disclose to the National Assembly that the list of the beneficiaries he demanded was attached to the letter sent to him.”
According to the council, Gbajabiamila’s decision to cover up his colleagues is unfair to the fight against corruption, quest for transparency, and to the commonwealth of our nation.
“We, therefore, urge Gbajabiamila to resign for covering up for a set of people, who had erred and breached the rules of the contract. All the National Assembly members, who benefitted from the contracts without executing them should be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to those who may want to follow a similar path.
“It is a clear case of organised crime to have individuals who benefitted from illegality now rising to probe the fact that their illegality is being exposed.
“We call on all the anti-graft agencies and security agencies to, in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, immediately investigate the matter,” he said.
The youths said they were fully in support of the forensic audit instituted by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs because it had exposed those who had benefitted in the corruption that had festered in the NDDC.
In the document displayed by the youths council, Akpabio was quoted as saying that his letter became necessary because “the investigating committee on NDDC refused and/or neglected to give me the opportunity to explain that reference to most commission contracts yearly being allegedly awarded since 2001 from the records to members of the National Assembly in both chambers was done without the knowledge of the alleged beneficiaries.
“However, the two chairmen of the committees in both chambers had adequate knowledge,” Akpabio reportedly stated.
The minister’s letter, as released by the youth council, further reads: “To show you some typical examples, herewith attached are documents showing nature of contracts, amount of such contracts ‘in some cases’, date of awards and beneficiaries. Some were awarded to the two chairmen of both committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, serving at the period of the awards ‘Annexures ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’,” the letter stated.
The council, which declared it got the document from the National Assembly, however, said Akpabio failed to make the document public because he obtained it from the forensic auditors in confidence.
The contracts were mainly for road construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation within the nine Niger Delta states. Names of a few serving senators and members of the House of Representatives were among those contained in the document, while others were names of persons who had served in the two chambers of the National Assembly in the past.
Eric Omare, a former president of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, and ex-militants, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the Interim Management Committee, IMC, NDDC, and inaugurate the substantive board of the NDDC already cleared by the senate.
Omare, under the umbrella of the 21st Century Youths of the Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience, 21st CYNDAC, said Akpabio should stay and ensure the conclusion of the forensic audit of the agency.
According to him, the scandal in the NDDC did not come as a surprise to some of the people of the Niger Delta because it was obvious from the beginning that the inauguration of the duly nominated and cleared board of the NDDC under the leadership of Odubu/Okumagba was truncated because of the inordinate ambition of some people to use the IMC as a conduit pipe to loot the NDDC.
“However, I am shocked that President Buhari, despite the shocking revelations from the ongoing probe has not deemed it fit to act swiftly to bring the show of shame to a stop.
“It would be recalled that when the illegal IMC was put in place, instead of Buhari to be on the side of the law establishing the NDDC which requires that there should be a substantive board at every point in time, he decided to endorse the illegality called IMC which was set up by Akpabio because it enjoyed the support of his inner caucus.
“President Buhari’s endorsement of the illegal IMC gave the leeway for the ongoing massive looting of the NDDC at the expense of the already impoverished people and communities of the Niger Delta,” he said.
“Already, the sordid revelations and the attempt to illegally arrest Joy Nuineh, protest from different groups and more protests that are being planned by groups in the region have heightened tension in the Niger Delta. If urgent steps are not taken to douse the tension, the fragile peace in the area may be breached.”
Omare also called for a reversal of the supervision of the NDDC to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, to avoid the alleged distractions from the Niger Delta Ministry. He said, “the forensic audit should be directly supervised by the Presidency.”
But the ex-militant group, in a statement, said Akpabio should be applauded for his boldness in exposing the endemic corruption and vested interests that had been inimical to the development of the region.
Izon Ebi, leader of 21st CYNDAC, who signed the statement, urged President Buhari to allow Akpabio to see to the timely conclusion of the forensic audit.
“We the 21st-century youths of the Niger Delta and agitators urge the minister not to be deterred by the drama that was acted in the National Assembly. He should be focused to use the same zeal that was used to transform Akwa Ibom State when he was governor to see that NDDC as an interventionist agency is reformed to perform its functions with transparency and accountability in order to serve the purpose for which it was established.
“It takes a man that means well, a man with the courage to confront and expose the rot that has been endemic for 20 years. Anything short of the timely conclusion of the forensic audit will not be accepted by us and the Niger Delta people,” Ebi said.
– July 27, 2020 15:30 GMT |