The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has said that most contracts of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, were awarded to members of the National Assembly.
Mr. Akpabio said this in Abuja on Monday at the sitting of the House of Representatives committee investigating the NDDC, accusing members of the National Assembly of taking most of the NDDC’s contracts.
Akpabio’s testimony was preceded by the drama of NDDC acting managing director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, collapsing before the panel during interrogation.
The minister’s allegation however did not go down well with the reps. A lawmaker, Goodhead Boma, asked the minister to name the beneficiaries among the lawmakers.
Akpabio responded, “Are you asking me the beneficiaries in the National Assembly? I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given to members of the National Assembly but you (Boma) don’t know about it. The two chairmen (Senate and House) can explain to you. I was a member of the NDDC committee. I know what was going on.”
Boma countered, “You were a member of the NDDC committee in the 8th Assembly. Are you telling me that a lot of jobs were awarded to you as a member?”
The minister answered, “That is why we have to change the modus operandi. You must not allow the two chairmen to hijack the budget every year. You are like me. I was a member like you. I did not know what was going on.”
Another member, Shehu Koko, asked, “You were on air. You said they (NDDC) gave contracts to the chairman of the committee (Tunji-Ojo) in April 2019. And the chairman was appointed in November. He was not a chairman of the committee. He was not even a member of the House.”
The minister responded “I think I must correct myself. I was giving an example of a contract of N10.9bn in the chairman’s place. I am saying that contracts are split to a point where it comes below the threshold of the minister’s approval. The contract is not for the chairman, but for the chairman’s state (Ondo).”
Koko, however, insisted that Akpabio should state whether Tunji-Ojo was awarded contracts or not.
The minister responded by saying that it was not Tunji-Ojo because he was not even a member of the House then.
On the commission spending massively during the pandemic lockdown, Akpabio said, “We cannot close down the Niger Delta because of the security implication in the region. We cannot close down the NDDC because of the fact that we are doing forensic audit. The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region, and 90 per cent or more of the resources of the country, on a monthly basis, comes from there. If you close it in totality, all you will have will be chaos.
“It is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it. Who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people. If you look at your chairman, your chairman…”
Mr. Akpabio also denied the damning allegations against him by a former acting MD of the NDDC, Joi Nunieh.
He said, contrary to what was said, it was the late Chief of Staff to the President, the late Abba Kyari, who sacked Nunieh from the IMC over alleged insubordination and lack of certificates.
He said, “It is just that we don’t want to scandalise anybody. What we did was to expand the interim management and replace the then managing director, when we saw these flaws. But I pointed out on television that she was relieved of her appointment not because of anything but because of insubordination.
“My permanent secretary wrote seven letters to her. Even to attend the Federal Executive Council meeting on the 5th of February to come and give her scorecard, she refused to attend. She felt she was bigger than the minister and her budget was higher than the ministry’s.
“For insubordination, that was the reason she was relieved of her position. However, there were a lot of undercurrents. For instance, we did not want to scandalise her. She even swore to a fake affidavit that she had NYSC (certificate) when she did not have one.”
The minister added that he had never asked anybody to swear an oath of allegiance to him.