The minister of the Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio has been summoned by the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to appear before it on Monday following damning allegations levelled against him on Friday by the commission’s former acting Managing Director, Mrs Joy Nunieh.
Mrs. Nunieh, among other things had accused the Minister of hijacking the forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
She said this when she appeared before the House panel digging into allegations of illegal expenditure and mismanagement by the commission, explaining that Mr. Akpabio flouted various laws in a bid to hijack the forensic audit.
Nunieh, who made her presentation via online meeting platform, Zoom, apologised for not showing up at the hearing on Thursday because some police operatives attempted to abduct her without a warrant of arrest.
Asked by the panel chairman about the forensic audit ordered by Buhari, for which the IMC was constituted, she said, “What I met was not exactly what is going on. Akpabio insisted that he would supervise the forensic audit. I reminded him and showed him the letter that the President had written, that there is no way we could spend the money that was in our budget.
“In his memo to the President, he requested that the money for the funding of the forensic audit be got from the Service Wide Vote. Mr President, in his wisdom, refused that request and in writing said it should be from NDDC’s appropriation, making NDDC the producing entity.”
Nunieh further alleged that auditors had not been appointed to conduct the audit as being claimed by Akpabio.
She said, “When I was there, I was the one who prepared all the documents for the forensic audit and sent in the applications. The first thing was for us to go through the procurement of the lead consultant. Many people have clearly misunderstood the procurement of the lead consultant. Because I did not want any illegality and the forensic audit to be discredited, I ensured – with the help of big consultants – we came up with the terms of reference for these auditors.
“The lead consultant that everyone is talking about is not the forensic auditor. He does not have a lot. The role of the lead consultant is to gather. When all the forensic auditors have got all the data and reports from the field, they will put them together and give to the lead consultant who will put them together in a report. That is just his role. He is not the one to carry out any forensic audit.
“This (Messrs Olumuyiwa) Basiru and Co, I do not know if they have ever carried out a forensic audit. So, I will be asking to tell them to give you evidence that they have ever carried out a forensic audit before, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, which requires that for any consultant or contractor, must show evidence that for the past three years or thereabouts, they have carried out that.”
The ex-NDDC boss challenged the minister and IMC to prove that the fund being spent on auditors was appropriated by the National Assembly.
According to her, “It is a criminal offence to procure any consultant without the appropriation made by the National Assembly because it will be an anticipatory budgeting. In this case, has the National Assembly appropriated funds?”
Mr. Akpabio misled the Federal Executive Council to approve the procurement of auditors even when the audit was to be funded with the 2020 budget of the NDDC, she alleged.
Nunieh boasted that she spent a total of N8bn during her stay as acting MD between October 2019 and February 2020, while the NDDC has spent not less than N81.5bn in 2020 alone.
During her time in charge, she said that Akpabio gave her a list of NDDC officials to be redeployed or sacked, including the only northerner in the management. Adding that he threatened to sack her from office if she failed to do his bidding.
She also said that two days after the inauguration, at the Le Meridien Hotel, at Akpabio’s first meeting with the IMC, the minister told her he wanted her to send some workers away.
“He said the first thing I would do is to write a letter to him – he gave me the draft, that I should put it on my letterhead. In that letter, I was supposed to write about most of the companies; Senator (Peter) Nwaboshi owned the 98 companies.
“I never ever told the world that Senator Nwaboshi was the senator that was collecting the N1bn. The issue of the N1bn was different. I said ‘how can an individual be collecting N1bn every month?’ The case of Senator Nwaboshi is the case of the 98 files which I was supposed to write about.”
She declared, “I want to tell the world that I never did any employment. I never gave out a single contract from NDDC.
“I am not corrupt. No contractor can sit anywhere and say they gave me N10. And I can say before the world that I’m the most unpopular MD ever that came to NDDC. The money of the people of Niger Delta is blood money, I refused to touch it. Even when my friends were contractors, even when they claimed that they were owed monies, my instruction was that everybody should finish their jobs. Everybody saw contractors going back to site when I was the MD.
“I was privileged to see all the videos. For one job, five people would send me videos of completion – the same job, the same video – and I would just laugh.”
Nunieh analysed NDDC’s problems as three-pillared – the IMC, NDDC workers and people of the Niger Delta.
She said, “The problems that you are investigating today have three major groups that are responsible for the things that have gone wrong in the NDDC. One group is the management, which is the IMC, and everybody is against the IMC. The second group is the staff of NDDC. And the third group, which I will start with, is the people of the Niger Delta.
“This story that we are all calling embarrassing cannot be complete without saying that the people of the Niger Delta region are responsible for what has happened – the frauds and corruption that have taken place in the NDDC.
“I’m speaking from a personal experience. As soon as the MD is appointed, people begin to rejoice and celebrate, not because they want you to do the right thing; not because they are interested in the development of the Niger Delta, they believe it is now their turn to eat out of the national cake.
“They are not interested in anything; all they wanted were like palliatives. That is why for those who did not harden their heart like me, they fell for this palliative matter and they started giving out. But because I was strong; because I always remember the case of Gani Fawehinmi; Fawehinmi fought for the masses of this country. When he said he wanted to contest an election, they were not there. I remember that I needed to stand properly.
“The second class is the staff. The staff members of NDDC are from the Niger Delta region. The contracts that have been awarded are from their communities. When I was appointed, I went from office to office; I sat in their offices and I told them, ‘You people are responsible for what has gone wrong in the zone.’ All the staff members have in their wards or local government areas projects. If every staff of NDDC takes up a project in their local government area and ensure that they are well delivered, we will not have these issues.
“Thirdly, the IMC; for the first time in the history of NDDC, no palliatives were given. I did not give out Christmas palliative. I was under pressure to bring N10bn – N1bn per state – but I refused. The youth were complaining that things were difficult and I said ‘the day I give you this money, you know I have started collecting your money.’ I never gave any Christmas bonus or palliative during my time. For the first time in the history of NDDC, NDDC worked throughout December. There was no break except on public holidays.”
Recall that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State had on Thursday stopped Nunieh’s arrest by police operatives who had stormed her Port Harcourt residence. He then took the former NDDC boss into protective custody in Government House, Port Harcourt.
Nunieh says it was an attempt to stop her from testifying before the house panel.