TROUBLE is brewing in the ministry of Niger Delta affairs after new minister Senator Godswill Akpabio assumed full control of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and its powers to award contract.
Recently appointed as the minister of Niger Delta affairs, Senator Akpabio, the former Akwa Ibom State governor has wasted no time in taking full control of all the agencies associated with the region. It is believed that he has even usurped the statutory powers of President Muhammadu Buhari to enable him annex and have a firm control of the NNDC, which constitutionally, should report to the presidency.
This has, however, led to rumblings as online platform the New Diplomat, reported that Senator Akpabio has deployed phoney companies to scoop the huge sum of money to himself and cronies. It alleged that he even awarded himself a N1.9bn hyacinth contract under questionable circumstances.
Apparently payment was carried out without raising any voucher or recourse to any tender, due process or proper documentation. Stakeholders in the Niger Delta are now expressing concern that some underhand deals that might have taken place and are unhappy about the fact that Senator Akpabio now has full control of all Niger Delta matters.
In an official memo on September 2, Abba Kyari President Buhari’s chief of staff, had delegated the effective control of the NDDC to Senator Akpabio. His memo also quoted a letter written by Senator Akpabio on August 22 requesting that the powers of the president be transferred to him.
Niger Delta stakeholders are wondering why the minister’s first assignment, barely 24 hours after assuming office, was to scheme for the control of the NDDC, a statutory commission that was meant to be autonomous but under the supervision of the president. One NDDC member of staff added that it is also believed that Senator Akpabio had promised the powers-that-be a huge share of the contracts to be awarded in the commission.
As public outcry trails the alleged N1. 9bn, it is even alleged that Senator Akpabio has also submitted 11 files for payment that have to do with some emergency de-silting projects under suspicious circumstances. These files were submitted to the acting NDDC managing director but he refused to sign for onward payment.
General Ebi, a spokesman for the Niger Delta militants, said: “It is so pathetic, disgusting and shameful that our so-called leaders are the real problem in the Niger Delta, If a distinguished leader that was once the governor of Akwa Ibom state for eight years and is currently the minister of Niger Delta Affairs will condescend so low to have appropriated 400 slots of the water hyacinth contract to himself after accusing the former NDDC board of misdeeds, it is sad.
“We, therefore, use this medium to call on the attention of the president Muhammadu Buhari to direct the EFCC and the ICPC to immediately swing into action and we also call on the honourable minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to come out clean and exonerate himself as his reputation is being dragged to the mud to defraud the youths of the Niger Delta.”
Some groups have petitioned the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami opposing the transfer of NDDC to a ministry. Their petition affirmed that the NDDC Act charged the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the sole responsibility of overseeing the affairs of the commission.