Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio appears to be having a difficult time getting alleged contractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to confess to receiving juicy contracts.
While he was being grilled recently by the National Assembly over an alleged misappropriation of N81.5 billion at the NDDC, the minister had pointed an accusing finger first at some lawmakers, who one after the other denied the claim.
On Monday, more persons denied involvement on the matter.
Former Delta Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, said the allegation linking him with a Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) road contract in Port Harcourt, Rivers, was false.
Uduaghan in statement in Warri which was signed by his media assistant, Monoyo Edon, urged the public to disregard the allegation as reported by the media on Monday.
According to the media report, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, had in a letter linked two former Delta governors, James Ibori and Uduaghan, to various contracts awarded by the commission.
The letter was said to have been addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Uduaghan, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in Delta, said he had reached out to the minister to immediately correct the falsehood.
The former governor who served for two terms under the PDP before he defected to the APC, said that he had never approached the commission for any contract.
“The publication states that the former governor was linked to the contract for the emergency repair of Close B, Alhaji Estate & Environs, Rumuodomaya, Port Harcourt, at a cost of N429m.
“I want to state clearly that the said accusation is false. Uduaghan has never approached the NDDC for any contract whatsoever. It is even more ridiculous that the said contract is a road inside Port Harcourt town.The attention of the Minister of the Niger Delta, Sen. Akpabio, has been drawn to the publication and I hope he makes a correction,” he said.
Also, a former Delta State governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, “on hearing the news of the alleged Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) contract award to him this morning,” said he did not want to join in the ‘dancing in the market square’ going on in the NDDC right now.”
A statement by Tony Eluemunor, his media assistant, reads: “He has decided to make this clarification for the records because friends and associates inundated him with phone calls this morning. So, he is stating categorically that he never solicited for, or was awarded, or indeed executed any contract with NDDC or any government agency, at any time, for that matter.
“And in all he has been through in and out of public office, he has never been accused of being a government contractor, let alone a failed one hence he did not want to dignify the allegation with a response because it is ridiculous. So, Ibori is advising Akpabio, his brother, friend and member of the former Governors Forum, to please calm down and focus on the task at hand.
“Ibori said that the NDDC we have today is a product of his personal sacrifice as well as those of his Niger Delta colleagues (1999 -2007) who rose to the occasion to override the veto of President Olusegun Obasanjo who refused to assent to the NDDC Bill at the time. ‘If not for the exemplary courage some of us exhibited, there would have not been an NDDC to bicker about today’.”
Ibori added: “Watching the level the NDDC has degenerated to, is a tragedy. We owe it a duty to the people of the Niger Delta to make NDDC work to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the region and to realise the dream for which we fought for it to be set up. So, let everybody involved in the NDDC do their duties to the good people of the region.”
Similarly, Chief Whip of the Senate Orji Uzor Kalu said NDDC had yet to pay some contractors that he facilitated to build community roads.
Kalu, a former governor of Abia, said this while reacting to a communique said to have been written by Akpabio, which named him (Kalu), as beneficiary.
In a statement signed by Mr Emeka Nwala of office of the Senate Chief Whip, Kalu said that he believed the issues at stake in the NDDC had to do with missing funds and not works done.
He said that he was becoming worried over his name being used indiscriminately to sell newspapers without verification.
According to the senate chief whip , the road projects mentioned by the minister are the interventions he facilitated for the communities as a private citizen before he became a senator.
Kalu noted that his name was mentioned because he used his letter headed paper to write a sympathetic letter to the NDDC in 2016 requesting and pleading with the body to rescue roads in Abia.
“I wrote to the NDDC informing the body of the conditions of these roads and the need for their attention since Abia is an NDDC state. The NDDC in their consideration for which I am very grateful, awarded the roads to companies that duly tendered for the projects and not myself. Whatever link I have with the projects is because it was considered due to my intervention,” he said.
“It would interest Nigerians to know that the contractors who built these roads have not been paid any dime. It has not been easy with the contractors but because it’s a community project they have only but kept hope alive on the NDDC,” he added.
Meanwhile, Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition (NDRC) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to match his words with action by sacking the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Niger Delta Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
This was contained in a statement on Tuesday signed by National Coordinator, Comrade Godknows Sotonye.
The statement reads: “President Muhammadu Buhari’s admission of Wrongdoing by the Interim Management Committee at the Niger Delta Development Commission should be backed with action. When he was asked what he thought of the ongoing revelations of corruption at the EFCC and NDDC, the president said that some of his appointees have abused trust by misusing their offices for their self-aggrandisement. While heartwarming, the president’s acknowledgement does not address the ongoing corruption at the Commission. By delaying action, the president emboldens the Niger Delta Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio, and the IMC to continue the pillage of the NDDC.
“For instance, despite the National Assembly report on the misuse of N81.5 billion in just a few months, Akpabio and the IMC are not letting up in their financial recklessness, as whistleblowers have discovered fresh fraudulent and self-serving payments that have been made by the IMC.
“The Acting MD Prof Keme Pondei and his IMC colleagues should not remain in office a day longer. We cannot afford delayed action by the president, which gives these officials that have abused public trust such as Akpabio and the IMC more time to commit further infractions, when there are already established cases of fraud, corruption, self enrichment, financial recklessness, abuse of due process and mismanagement against them.”
This came as the NDDC cried out against what it described as renewed false allegations of massive fraud against the commission and appealed to the people concerned to give it a chance to serve the Niger Delta people.
Director, Corporate Affairs of the Commission, Mr. Charles Obi Odili, made the appeal in a statement he published in Port Harcourt on Monday.
The statement reads in part: “Less than two weeks after an exhaustive and exhausting public hearings by both chambers of the National |Assembly, another round of false reports have surfaced in the media alleging all manners of improprieties by the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
“One of the reports alleges that a fresh massive fraud has been uncovered in the Commission. Reading through the story, there is no evidence of fraud in the Commission. The report is merely a rehash of the allegations which led the National Assembly, on May 5, to order a probe of the 74-day administration of Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei at the Commission.
“Lest we forget, that probe was set up to uncover the sum of N40 billion alleged to be missing from the Commission. In order to allay the fears of our stakeholders, we took the unusual step of publishing the list of payments made by the Commission since Pondei came into office.”
He said that with that publication, “the rug was pulled from the feet of our accusers. When the hearings proper started, there was no talk of the missing N40 billion any more. It was now about financial recklessness. As we pointed out in an earlier release, the issue of missing money is one needing objective proof. The issue of financial recklessness is a matter of subjective judgment. The reports of the hearings have been submitted and it is clear there was no money missing at the Commission.
“The response of the Commission to the new reports is that there is no fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission. Prof Pondei has run a very transparent administration and this transparency is now apparent after the searchlight put on his administration in the past one month,” he stated.
According to the Director, another report rehashed the claim of the Contractors Association that the management demanded between 20 per cent and 30 per cent kickback before paying contractors, which he dismissed as false.
Odili stated that the allegation was made at the hearing of the Ad hoc Senate Committee which probed the affairs of the Commission, adding that the management of NDDC was at the hearing when the allegation was made and challenged the man who did so for evidence, but that there was no single case that the accuser could allude to.
He said: “Without any evidence, the allegation became so outlandish that not even a single newspaper reported it the following day.
“Prof Pondei famously said that if any contractor can prove he paid him any money, he would resign. Four weeks since that challenge was thrown on July 9, no one has come out with any proof. It is instructive that the Senate report did not adopt the allegation as valid. It beats the imagination why any newspaper will report a baseless claim, four weeks after it was made and for which no one can prove.
“We suspect that after the scheming of the past four weeks failed to achieve the purpose of sacking the management and scuttling the work on the forensic audit exercise, the schemers are out again to heat up the polity. The point they miss is that the forensic audit exercise is a project of Mr President. Hounding and haunting an innocent academic who is merely on a national assignment will not scuttle the audit,” he continued.
The commission, therefore, appealed to those it said were putting their personal interests over and above that of the people of the Niger Delta to have a rethink, pull back, and allow the Commission the space to serve the people of the region.