The primary aim of creating the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo in June 2000 is to bring about infrastructural development of the region as well as cater for the general wellbeing of the hitherto marginalized, impoverished and underdeveloped people of the oil-bearing communities. Twenty (20) years down the line, the mission statement of the Commission which states inter alia “to facilitate the rapid, even, and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative, …” has remained a mirage. In spite of the enormous amounts of monies that have been released, NDDC continues to be plagued with gross mismanagement, indebtedness and multi-billion Naira worth of abandoned projects.
NDDC is in this current state of quagmire and indebtedness because monies are being looted and syphoned using three forms of phoney contracts, namely: Clearing of Water Hyacinths, Emergency Jobs and River De-silting. These phoney contracts are used by corrupt and greedy leaders at the helm of affairs within the NDDC and their cohorts in the Presidency to steal the monies that have been voted to improve the livelihood of the Niger Delta people. None of these contracts, from the award process to the payment of billions of Naira follow the regulations and Approved Threshold stipulated by the Bureau of Public Procurements (BPP). They are not genuine and cannot be verified. From investigation, we can confirm that this madness of awarding fictitious Water Hyacinths, Emergency Projects and River De-silting jobs without due process only began in the history of the NDDC in 2016.
These phoney contracts are awarded without specifying an amount or contract sum, and at the point of payment, the Executives in charge cooks up any amount they deem fit, from hundreds of millions of Naira to billions of Naira, and these contracts are paid to their cronies within days of its concoction; without any verification whatsoever because most of these jobs are unverifiable. The payment of these phoney contracts are prioritized because the monies are circling back to the corrupt Executives, while payments of genuine contractors with jobs that have followed due process, have been completed and verified are ignored and left to suffer.
Following a probe of the NDDC by the House of Representatives in 2019, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) revealed that the sum of Seven Hundred and Thirty Eight Billion Naira (N738b) had been released to the Commission from its inception in June 2000 to September, 2019. This is besides additional billions of Naira (and Dollars) the Commission receives monthly from other local and international sources, as well as the mandatory monthly contributions from oil companies. There is however nothing tangible on ground to show for this enormous amount of money so far received by the Commission. Rather, the environment and the living conditions of the people have gone worse, incidences of youth restiveness still abound and no help is in sight for the people of the Niger Delta. Discoveries made by the country’s anti-graft agencies have confirmed repeatedly that many of the managers of the resources have been enriching themselves instead of carrying out the mandate of the Commission. No regime is exonerated! As horrible as the situation is, the well-intentioned forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of the looting of NDDC’s resources has become a ruse; going by the massive scale of looting that is still taking place in the Commission at the moment.
With the appointment of Chief Akpabio as the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs and the subsequent handover of the Commission to his Ministry for supervision, we thought that the so called celebrated Forensic Audit ordered by Mr. President Buhari would see an end to the looting through these phoney contract. Sadly, Chief Akpabio has instead taken advantage of the current rot within the NDDC and perfected an existing small-scale looting, that he is supposed to investigate and flush out with the supposed Forensic Audit, to a full-blown open corruption mafia-style ring. Chief Akpabio has shamelessly taken up same madness that began in 2016 to a higher level.
Ordinarily, originators of these phoney contracts running into Trillions of Naira without due process are supposed to be thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and jailed, if convicted. But Chief Akpabio has turned the table from being on the frying pan to fire! He is using those same contracts to loot the NDDC dry. The hope of the Niger Delta people in the much-celebrated Forensic Audit and its promise to flush out the looting going on in the NDDC has again been shattered by the devilish devices of some seemingly powerful few. 3 We can confirm with hard evidence that a whopping sum of Sixty Billion Naira (N60b) has been expended as payments for Clearing of Water Hyacinths from the tenure of Nsima Ekere (appointed in November 2016) as Managing Director till date.
These payments are in serious violation of the Public Procurement Act of 2007. In the period under reference, Chief Godswill Akpabio, the publicly known political god-father of Nsima Ekere, got a chunk of these phoney contracts. On assumption of office as the supervising Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio again made no pretence about his interests. He publicly ordered Mrs. Akwagaga, the Acting Managing Director at the time, to pay One Billion, Nine Hundred Thousand Naira (N1.9b) whilst in the company of Festus Keyamo, (SAN); when the latter was the Minister of State for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Within two weeks, another Seven Hundred Million Naira (N700m) was paid to his cronies under the usual corrupt phoney contact of “Clearing Water Hyacinths”. Mrs. Akwagaga was also ordered to release the sum of Four Billion Naira (N4b) as payments for equipment for Lassa fever that were never supplied. He (Chief Godswill Akpabio) demanded, yet again, for the further release of Thirty Billion Naira (N30b) as payment for the same non-existent and bogus water hyacinths contracts. On Emergency jobs and River De-silting, Chief Godswill Akpabio again mounted pressure on Mrs. Akwagaga to release the sum of Thirty Billion Naira (N30b) as payment for phantom Emergency jobs and De-silting of rivers and creeks in the Niger Delta. Chief Godswill Akpabio, the new deadly Sherriff in power visited the site and ordered the board to pay 2.5 billion Naira to the contractor and made so much noise about completing the permanent site of the NDDC Headquarters located along Eastern Bypass, Port Harcourt, by March 2020. This project was initiated by the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) and the contract was awarded to Marshland Nigeria Limited at the cost of Six Billion Naira (N6b). The project is currently about 65% complete and Four Billion Naira (N4b) has been released to the real contractor thus far. The contractor demanded for an upward review of additional Four Billion Naira (N4b) for the completion of the headquarters due to delays in the project caused by failure of the Commission to meet its payment obligations over the years. As obligated by law, the Commission’s Engineers re-evaluated the project and 4 pegged the cost of completion at Six Billion Naira (N6b), and also recommended Julius Berger to complete the job. Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director at the time, jettisoned this recommendation and reassigned the contract to Rodnap Construction Limited at the sum of Sixteen Billion Naira (N16b). Messrs. Rodnap Construction Limited happens to be Chief Akpabio’s cronies since his days as Governor of Akwa-Ibom State. Nsima Ekere needed Akpabio’s political support for his 2019 gubernatorial ambition in Akwa-Ibom State, hence this patronage. And for fear that the real contractor Marshland Nig. Ltd will go to court for breach of contract, the sum of FREE N500m was paid to them as full and final payment to close that case. So far, Rodnap Construction Limited has been paid Thirteen Billion Naira (N13b), which is 81.25% out of the Sixteen Billion Naira (N16b) for which it was awarded; which is two times higher that the cost estimated by the Commission’s upward that pegged the cost of completion of the Headquarters at Six Billion Naira (N6b). In spite of this, the March 2020 deadline Chief Godswill Akpabio made so much noise about is here, but nothing tangible has gone on at the site and the headquarters is not near completion to this day. Chief Godswill Akpabio is very public about his need for control and he exercises even the darkest measures to ensure everyone in the NDDC bows to his every command. The IMC is currently worse than figureheads as they live, breath and move only on the orders of Chief Godswill Akpabio. To ensure his looting is unhindered, Chief Akpabio has masterminded the change of five (5) CEOs in just (6) months of Akpabio’s reign as the supervisory minister. Any Chief Executive Officer that refuses to honour the crooked payment demands for the phoney non-existent, unverifiable and bogus contracts in billions of Naira gets framed and kicked out by Chief Akpabio. These bogus jobs for the Clearing of water hyacinths, River De-silting and the most ridiculously annoying Emergency Projects do not follow due process, exceed the Approved Threshold for Parastatals like the NDDC according to the Procurement Act.
Under normal circumstances, any job that exceeds 250 million Naira is supposed to be approved by the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Federal Executive Council. But, Chief Akpabio is forcing the payments of jobs running into billions of Naira without any approval whatsoever. 5 Chief Godswill Akpabio handpicks hundreds of these phoney contracts, inflates the contract sums, groups them together in a list and orders the NDDC to pay the contractors immediately. Once these payments are made, Chief Akpabio and his cronies then collects 30% bribe from the crooked contractors. Chief Akpabio and his cohorts in the Presidency, like Pirates in power, have made a mess of the entire system. They are looting, hijacking and running the commission like a one-man show, leaving the appointed managers of the Commission with no autonomy or authority whatsoever. Every decision begins and ends on Akpabio’s table. The laws set up to govern the Commission have been subverted, its core mandate drifting and the resources plundered without any reservations. The setting up of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) for the NDDC instead of constituting a substantive board according to the NDDC Act of 2000 in itself is an aberration and goes against the laws that established the Commission. The exercise is an act of lawlessness, and lawlessness begets lawlessness.
The IMC is currently worse than figureheads as they live, breath and move only on the orders of Chief Godswill Akpabio. Dr. Mrs. Joy Nunieh, the Acting MD that replaced Mrs. Akwagaga, entered Chief Akpabio’s bad books when she declined to take an oath of allegiance with him, a diabolical and fetish means, akin to the infamous practice in the “Okija Shrine” made public by Chief Chris Ngige when he was governor of Anambra State. She also refused to honour most of his financial demands hence her very infamous replacement. He has become so diabolic that every MD and other members of the IMC are requested to take an oath, which requires rituals involving incisions on the tongue. He once confided in someone that he has unfettered access to the president and secures unlimited approvals from President Buhari because of the power of divinity derived from the incision in his tongue. To blackmail Dr. Mrs. Joy Nunieh out of office, some militants were sponsored to issue continuous threats about destroying some crude oil installations in the Niger Delta as a form of protest against her refusal to pay over 50 phoney contracts belonging to Akpabio and his cronies. These militants got a reward of One Hundred Million Naira (N100m) from Chief Godswill Akpabio through his crony.
Rodnap Construction Limited 6 provided the funds through Zenith Bank, which were released to the militants in three tranches on the 10th of February, 2020. On successfully removing Dr. Joy Nunieh, Chief Akpabio brought in his former classmate at Federal Government College, Port Harcourt as the MD, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, and the former Campaign Manager of Akpabio’s direct younger brother as the EDFA. With the team in power, Akpabio has now perfected his looting squad.
They have now successfully transferred and booted out of some the of Commission’s seasoned Directors that usually opposes to the phoney payments demands from the Akpabio. He has also deployed his agents in the CBN where one Mr. Akpan monitors and reports directly to Chief Akpabio how much comes in and of the NDDC. They have hijacked the entire Finance Department and filled it up with their spies and conies from Akwa-Ibom that are viewed as saints, that do their bidding. Chief Akpabio has instructed Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, to pay only contractors on a list he (Chief Godswill Akpabio) submitted to him, containing over a hundred (100) contractors. This is a list of over 100 of such fake projects that Akpabio claimed was approved for payment from Abuja. They are currently being processed for payment and the sums of those payments amount to 200 billion Naira. At the point of payment, these contractors offer 30% kickbacks to Akpabio and his cronies. No genuine contractor that went to site and completed their jobs can afford to pay Akpabio such ridiculous amount. What is then the fate of these genuine contractors? Who will come to their aid? When and how will they get the money they worked for? With this directive from Akpabio, no genuine contract should be paid. This corrupt and shameful act is being perpetrated in the open because they are confident that they cannot be stopped by anyone. Besides the massive looting going on at the moment, Chief Godswill Akpabio has introduced despotic and clannish tendencies into the NDDC workplace. Chief Godswill Akpabio who should normally just be playing a supervisory role from the Ministry of Niger Delta has personally taken charge of staffing and staff redeployment in the NDDC. Many principal staff of other ethnic nationalities working at the headquarters are seen to be replaced with people from Akwa-Ibom, the home State of Akpabio. The most worrisome aspect is the use of less qualified and inexperienced persons to replace the 7 most qualified and experienced staff especially in critical offices just to have his way.
This is creating bad blood and unnecessary ethnic enmity amongst the staff in the Commission and has the potential of being extended to the general public in the Niger Delta. This needs to be resisted at all cost because the Niger Delta needs to be united now, more than ever. We are aware that the essence of Chief Godswill Akpabio’s autocratic and nepotistic move is to ensure that no staff stands on his way whenever he wishes to pull out funds from the Commission. We also know that he is in dire need of enormous access to money to fund his rumored Vice-Presidential ambition, come 2023. Thus, we will not allow Chief Godswill Akpabio mar the collective efforts of all Niger Deltans; one we fought for with our blood and tears because of his selfish and devilish interests. Chief Godswill Akpabio should pay more attention to the sorry state of the uncompleted East West road directly under his Ministry if he really means well for the Niger Delta, execute innovative (and sustainable) projects that will better the wellbeing of the Niger Delta, and allow the NDDC run as an independent agency that it is; with the necessary supervision, checks and balances, but never as slavery agency under the lordship of one man. Chief Godswill Akpabio therefore needs to be reminded that the NDDC is a product of “a people’s struggle” – the “Ijaw Struggle” and that lives were lost and are still being lost in the struggle for sustainable development of the Niger Delta. Those alive should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of the struggle genuinely and not to be taken for a ride. It is imperative to note that the people will not hesitate to confront the authorities, in every way possible in the near future if Chief Godswill Akpabio is not removed and replaced with someone who means well for the Niger Delta people.
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