Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has described the rumble and allegations of malfeasance against him in the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as corruption fighting back from those resisting “the wind of change.”
At a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, the minister also dismissed the sexual harassment allegation against him by former NDDC acting Managing Director, Dr. Joi Nunieh. He also dismissed allegations of N40 billion of NDDC funds squandered under his watch.
Asked to respond to Dr. Nunieh’s sexual harassment allegation, Akpabio replied: “As a minister of the Federal Republic, I can’t talk about individuals. I’m more concerned about what this administration can deliver to Nigerians and how to make sure NDDC delivers its mandate to the region. All the rumbles you are hearing are because of the change that is coming; for the first time, the people will have a say on how their funds are used. Change is coming and they should be prepared for it. N18 billion was inserted into the NDDC budget for schools, yet, they have no school to run.
“Since I became a minister, I have only given out two contracts. The first, was for the forensic audit of NDDC and the other for COVID-19 intervention to states in the region.
“NDDC is assisting states to set up two testing centres. We also assisted the governors financially to set up isolation centres. The story of the Niger Delta will change. The forensic audit will throw up who has money to refund, who still has job to do. And even now, over 70 contractors have gone back to work. All the participating forensic audit firms are registered with the Auditor General of the Federation. With a mere mention of forensic audit, over 70 roads have been completed in the Niger Delta. The forensic audit is meant to block leakages in the system. On the first day of the forensic audit, 8,000 documents were given to them. Some who collected money in 2004, 2006, are now coming back to do the work. Someone collected billions to supply fingerlings in the past and when I assumed office, he came to me and said the fingerlings are now ready. I just laughed and asked him to return the money to NDDC.”
On allegations of missing N40billion, he said: “Money could have been missing in those days when they had over 300 bank accounts, but now, because of the Treasury Single Account, the NDDC now has only one account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria. So, no money can be taken out just like that. We’re very determined to reposition the NDDC. The root of the problem has been years of corruption, endemic corruption. Mr. President is determined to leave a legacy that he came and cleared corruption at the NDDC. For me, I believe we will achieve that objective
“For 19 years, you can’t point at one project of the NDDC in the region, but you could point at cars and limousines of those who managed the place. The Federal Executive Council has approved the forensic audit and they have since started work. The forensic audit is not a witch-hunt. As a former governor of Akwa Ibom State and when I was the Senate minority leader in the Eighth Senate, I didn’t like what was going on there. They were doing things that would put things in people’s pockets. I’m not interested in that. Now, I’ll like to see completion of the East-West Road; at least, two sections have been completed. I’ll like to see an end to amnesty, see a place where there would be jobs for our people. I’ll like to see Niger Delta rice sold in Lagos, and also see an NDDC specialist hospital where major health problems can be solved. If we put things right, children of the Niger Delta can get employment within the region.”
Meanwhile, Rivers Government has declared that it has an obligation to protect its citizen, irrespective of political affiliations warning that people should thread with caution.
Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said the state would not fold its hands and watch Nunieh suffer any harm in the ongoing controversial probe of the NDDC.
“Rivers State government has viewed with concern the recent developments at the NDDC in which the name of our daughter, Dr. Joi Nunieh, the immediate past acting Managing Director of the Commission, has been dragged into. We hereby call on those involved in the ongoing investigations in the NDDC to ensure that Dr. Joi Nunieh does not suffer any harm in the course of their undertakings.
“The state owes it as a duty to protect her citizens from danger no matter their political affiliation and we cannot fold our hands and watch anyone harm her or, in deed, any Rivers citizen. We advise those involved in the present altercations in the NDDC to thread with caution in their actions and utterances.”