By Tunde Opalana, Abuja
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to step aside from office pending a comprehensive investigation of accusations against him in the unfolding allegations of fraud in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The party said the monstrous sleaze being unearthed in NDDC was just a tip of the iceberg of the stinking corruption and criminal racketeering that have pervaded the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The PDP said the shocking details of allegations by the former NDDC Managing Director, Joyce Nunieh, of “massive stealing, manipulation of budget processes, victimization and implication of innocent Nigerians as well as fetish practices” by corrupt officials, allegedly spearheaded by Akpabio, have further exposed how ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs) are run under the Buhari-led APC administration.
“Nigerians are still in a state of shock over reports of how the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, allegedly bullied officials to pillage the commission’s foreign currency account; how the laid down procedures of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) are allegedly circumvented to siphon unapproved budgets as well as how innocent workers and federal legislators, who are averse to corrupt practices, were victimized, implicated and even harassed with fetish practices.
“The allegation by the former NDDC MD that a certain NDDC top notch said he can kill if Senator Akpabio asks him to do so, shows the level of recklessness and the victimization in MDAs under the APC rule.
“The PDP therefore demands that Senator Akpabio should step aside and submit himself for investigation over these weighty allegations”, said the party in a statement on Monday by its spokesperson, Kola Oligbondiyan.
The party as well insisted that the silence and inaction by the Buhari Presidency and the APC since the uncovering of the fraud in the NDDC signposted complicity at the highest levels as well as validated public stance that treasury looting and cover-up for corrupt persons are normal official statecraft and manifesto of the APC and the Buhari administration.
It affirmed that any credible administration like the one the APC and the Buhari Presidency would want Nigerians to believe as running, would have spoken out and commenced immediate investigation into the matter, if its officials are not complicit.
The PDP said: “More distressing is that the Buhari Presidency and the APC had remained silent even when the embattled minister has not provided any concrete defence to the allegations beyond personal attacks on the whistleblower.
“Nigerians will recall that our party had in April, alerted of massive looting in the NDDC and called for investigation, which was however not addressed by the government.
“Our party had also alerted that the NDDC management has not been able to give cogent explanation to the reported Lassa fever contract fraud through which over N4 billion naira NDDC fund was alleged to have been frittered on hazy procurement deals.
‘”This is in addition to alleged N5.5 billion COVID-19 scandal which trails reports that the NDDC had already spent over N1.045 billion purportedly for supply of kits and palliatives to Nigerians in nine states”.
The party, therefore, charged the Buhari Presidency to speak out on the issue, particularly, given the delicate nature of the Niger Delta, and take steps to investigate and prosecute all those involved in the alleged fraud.
However, Akpabio has said that he is not deterred by the allegations against him since he has no skeleton in his cupboard.
The minster in what he termed a campaign of calumny alleged that the NDDC had failed to deliver to the people of the region almost two decades after its operation.
Akpabio was reacting to the allegations levelled against him by the immediate past MD of the NDDC Ms. Joy Nunieh.
Nunieh who was fielding questions from journalists had alleged that during her brief tenure at the commission, Akpabio repeatedly pressured her to take “an oath of secrecy” that was meant to keep her from exposing fraud at the commission.
The former MD who was relieved of her appointment after confrontation with the minister, said: “For instance, he told me to raise a memo to fraudulently award emergency contracts for flood victims in the Niger Delta. I would have been jailed if I had succumbed to Akpabio’s ‘oath of secrecy”.