Blackmail and smear campaign against Interim Management Commitee of the NDDC and Senator Godswill Akpabio
Setting the records straight
We have watched with utmost disgust recent sponsored smear campaign against the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio by people peddling allegations that are baseless, irresponsible and false in their entirety.
This smear campaign is intensified by those who have looted the resources of the people of the Niger Delta with the intention of derailing the forensic audit of the Commission as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is not a mere coincidence that the spurious and trump up allegations have intensified in the past one week following the handing over of preliminary report and documents of over 8000 projects to the Lead Consultants, Olumuyiwa Bashiru & Co to signal the commencement of the forensic audit by The Acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei.
As a responsible socio-political organization with the interest of the Niger Delta people at heart we have taken it upon ourselves to investigate these wild allegations and have come to the conclusion that this is a calculated blackmail by vested interests. We shall proceed to state the facts and the readers can see for themselves through this sponsored falsehood.
NDDC HEADQUARTERS BUILDING
Upon assumption of office as Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio directed that the Headquarters of the NDDC be completed and commissioned before March 31st 2020, to terminate the cost of paying huge sums of money as rent for the NDDC Headquarters. It is noteworthy to mention that the Honorable Minister was never part of the contract award, termination or cancellation of the contract whatsoever, as the said contract was awarded in 1996; terminated in 2016 and re-awarded to Messrs Rodnap whilst he served as Minority Leader of the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The facts are that the contracts for the Construction of the NDDC Headquarters were awarded and re-awarded at a time when Senator Akpabio had no relationship or control whatsoever with the NDDC. At the time, he was a leading member of the Opposition party and served as the Minority Leader of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between June 2015 – August 2018. There are records to support the facts that consequent upon Obong Nsima Ekere becoming the Managing Director of the NDDC in 2016, Messrs RodNap was re-awarded the contract after the sum had been reviewed. When he was appointed Minister of Niger Delta Affairs in August 2019, Obong Nsima Ekere had ceased to be the Managing Director of the NDDC (since January 29, 2019).
From the records of the NDDC, the sum of Five hundred Million Naira (N500 Million) was paid to Messrs Marshaland Nig Ltd by the NDDC based on the advice of the then director of the legal department, Barr Moljengo Kaltungo. The NDDC had then sent the recommendation to the Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr Boss Mustapha, who dutifully presented it to the Federal Executive Council; and that the payment was approved by the Federal Executive Council as the full and final settlement since the Contract had been re-awarded to Messrs RodNap Nig Ltd. Even the last review of this contract happened before Senator Akpabio became the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
As at today, the Contract has reached a milestone completion level of 95 per cent. Elevators, air conditioners and ancillary furnishings have been installed. However, due to the hiatus caused by the ongoing Covid -19 global pandemic, Messrs Roadmap was compelled to invoke the force majeure clause of the Contract. We have also been briefed that in a bid to hasten Project Completion and beat the ports constraint issues; Messrs RodNap eventually resorted to air freighting some vital Project Components.
Again, it should be pointed out that while past administrations took 24 (twenty-four) years to get the Head Office Project to 50 per cent completion, it has taken the Interim Management Committee six months under the supervision of Senator Akpabio to attain 95 per cent completion of the project. Hence, his supervisory acumen has occasioned in six months, an unprecedented level of work as against the state of abeyance which the NDDC Head office project suffered for about twenty-four years.
On the issue of financial impropriety leveled against the Senator Akpabio in respect of the water hyacinth contract, we wish to state that upon his assumption of Office as Honourable Minister, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, he paid a facility visit to the NDDC office in Port Harcourt in the company of the then Minister of State, Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN). While they were lodged at the Le’Meridien Hotel in Port Harcourt, the Minsters were informed of a mob protest at the hotel premises by aggrieved youths and contractors of the Commission. The agitation of the angry mob was on the inability of the Commission to fulfill its contractual obligations to them by paying for Water Hyacinth contracts, executed by them. It is equally noteworthy to mention that the Water Hyacinth contracts were all awarded and executed during the tenure of Prof Nelson Braimbaifa as the Managing Director of the NDDC and that Senator Akpabio was not the Minister of Niger Delta at that time. However, while addressing the irate youths, he appealed for calm and requested to be briefed on the subject. He also inquired from Mrs Akwagaga Enyia, the acting Managing Director, at that time, if the Commission had sufficient funds to pay the aggrieved contractors to defray the lingering contractual debts wherein she replied in the affirmative, and informed that the Commission had enough funds to pay for the N1.9 billion bill owed. Based on that briefing, he advised the Acting Managing Director to verify the contractual documents and pay accordingly. His action was Ministerial. He was not one of the contractors and derived no personal benefit for acting intra vires my powers.
LASSA FEVER CONTRACTS
On another breadth, the allegations with regard to the Lassa Fever contract are unfounded, frivolous and vexatious. The contract for the supply of Equipment for curbing Lassa Fever was executed before Senator Akpabio was appointed as Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was informed that the NDDC took the decision having been compelled by circumstances to act quickly in order to mitigate the accelerating spread of the scourge in the Niger Delta Region. Indeed, the equipment was supplied and distributed before his coming into office as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
The stories making the rounds are speculative, hypothetical and vexatious. We thereforewish to state that there is no scintilla of truth in alleging that the NDDC under the present dispensation is in a state of quagmire or indebtedness. In the unsubstantiated allegations against Senator Akpabio, his traducers have failed to distinguish between when he became Minister of Niger Delta and Supervising Minister of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the respective periods the contracts were awarded, cancelled or reviewed etc.
We have found out that he is not culpable nor engaged in acts amounting to improprieties, phoney contracts such as clearing water hyacinths; emergency jobs and river de-Silting as falsely peddled by his accusers. Indeed Senator Akpabio ordered that payment should not be made on River De-silting contracts.
The interest of Senator Akpabio is to ensure that the NDDC is repositioned in the interest of the people of the Niger Delta region and to justify the confidence reposed on him by President Buhari on behalf on Nigerians. He has never inflated contract sums or indulge in acts that could undermine his integrity; having worked so hard to earn a reputation in Public Office through the years; having served as Governor, Akwa Ibom State (2007-2015) Senate Minority Leader (2015-2018) and Minister, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (2019 till date).
From records made available to us, the Interim Management Committee has never paid a Kobo for de-silting and the Minister had placed all de-silting contracts and payments on hold, pending certain investigations. It is on record that the Interim Management Committee has only approved the total payment of (N18,000,000,000) Eighteen Billion Naira for Contractual claims; as against the One Trillion, Two Billion Naira (N1.2tr) expended by the previous administration within nine months. It is in a bid to forestall the payment of over inflated contracts as done by the previous administration, that the Interim Management Committee has devised a strategy by which only duly verified and inspected contracts were paid.
Nigerians should discountenance the smear campaign as it is an orchestrated product of calumny, blackmail, perpetrated to distract the ongoing forensic audit as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, in the interest of the people of Niger Delta and the development of Nigeria.
Barrister Kenneth Adagogo
For and on behalf of Niger Delta Forum For Equity and Justice
11 Khana Street, D-Line, Port Harcourt, Rivers State