Etang’s Demise: The Suspicions and Controversies

By Ekemini Simon


During the wee hours of Thursday, May 28, 2020, the Executive Director of Finance in the Niger Delta Development Commission, Ibanga Bassey Etang, passed away.

The sudden demise has not only caused weeping and wrenching in the mind, but it has stirred much ripples, suspicion and controversies.

Root of Controversies

The reason for the suspicion and controversies are not far-fetched. This death came few weeks after series of calls and counter-calls for the probe of the Interim Management Committee of NDDC. The quest for this probe stemmed from the alleged misappropriated sum of over N40billion, among other improprieties suspected to have reigned supreme in NDDC within few months the committee was inaugurated.


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Consequently, the National Assembly had ordered that prudent investigation be undertaken to ascertain these claims. As expected, the man in charge of Finance, the Executive Director of Finance of NDDC, IbangaEtang, was billed to appear before the National Assembly Sub-Committee on NDDC to give account of what was going on in the juicy Commission.

Sadly, four days to the scheduled date of appearance, IbangaEtang who was the Executive Director of Finance was announced dead.

Plethora of Suspicions

Immediately after the death, reports saturated online platforms alleging that the NDDC Finance Director died of food poisoning.

Other sources reported that one week before his death,Etang was sick and was never taken to any hospital but opted to go to New Birth Bible Church in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital, for prayers. Etang is a member of the church.

It was reported that Etang stayed in the church for days receiving prayers from the church. Report has it that it was when his lungs were affected that he was immediately moved from Uyo to Braithwaite Memorial Hospital in Port Harcourt, where he was tested of COVID-19. However, the rush for ventilator and oxygen could not save him as he was later reported dead. Yet, suspicion heightened when the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) did not publish his test result.

Calls for Investigation

The Akwa Ibom State Government has vowed that it will probe the mystery surrounding the sudden death of the acting Executive Director of Finance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), MrIbangaEtang.

The State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, during the commissioning of an ultra-modern Infectious Disease Isolation and Treatment Centre in Uyo, called for an autopsy of the late IbangaEtang, should the COVID-19 test result of the deceased come out negative.

Governor Emmanuel, who expressed his interest in the lives of his citizens, pledged that he will stop at nothing to ascertain the cause of Etang’s death.

He said, “I know I am not supposed to say this but every life of my citizen is important to me. All of a sudden, I think between yesterday and today, a lot of things have been written on social media about the only citizen we had in the board of NDDC.

“He was my special assistant before he left to NDDC. Why is it that of all the persons who are there, it is our own son who has died?

“There will be a time we’ll start asking questions. From the internal memo, NDDC has been shut down and the information there says he died of COVID-19.”

The Governor said immediately the news broke out, the state government asked the Commissioner for Health in Rivers State of the result of COVID-19 test on Etang.

He said he was told that the result is not out, hence he wonders how people concluded that COVID-19 was the cause of his death.

He added, “Once the result is out, we’ll ask questions certainly. I want to say here that we stand for our brothers and sisters, and we stand for the lives of our citizens. We’ll rise to this situation. We’ve informed the Commissioner that if the COVID-19 test result is out and the deceased result shows negative, they must do autopsy on that body.”

The state government was not the only one who raised questions over the sudden death.

AfighIwaadEkid, one of Nigeria’s renowned socio-cultural organizations domiciled in Eket Federal Constituency where IbangaEtang hails from, on June 1, 2020 in an open letter to President MuhammaduBuhari demanded probe of the NDDC Director’s controversial death.

They insisted that IbangaEtang died under unexplainable and very suspicious circumstances, thus, his death has evoked questions begging for answers.

The organization queried, “ One, how come Hon. IbangaEtang died just few days to the probe of the NDDC by the National Assembly, especially after the Commission had, some weeks ago, admitted that the sensitive documents which would aid the probe were in the custody of the Executive Director for Finance and Administration?

”Two, how come the NDDC was quick to link the death of the Ag. Executive Director to the dreaded Corona Virus, even when the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the body authorized to make such declaration, had not done so?”

AfighIwaadEkid stated that they are wondering what could have been the motive behind the Commission’s hasty decision to take the “precautionary measure of temporarily shutting down its headquarters for two weeks without the involvement of the NCDC, if not for the purpose of eventually attributing the cause of his death to coronavirus?

The group pointed out that on that premise, they consider the defence presented by the Commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Charles Odili, on Friday, May 29, 2020, an afterthought, or the desperation of a drowning man who is willing to clutch at a straw.

The organisation posited that the answers to the above rhetorical questions confirm that Hon. IbangaEtang’s sudden death is connected to the move by the National Assembly to audit NDDC’s account and to investigate the alleged misappropriation of the N40 billion palliative funds.

It added, “It is obvious that our brother has been sacrificed on the altar and guise of forensic audit and investigation. In other words, we are certain that Hon. IbangaEtang was deliberately killed to cover up certain undercurrents related to the impending probe.”

The organization said that they will not accept or allow what they described as rape on them to be swept under the carpet, especially now that they are aware that NDDC’s plan to eventually link Hon. Ibanga’s death to COVID-19 was thwarted by public outcry against the intended foul play.

They stressed,” On this strength, we pledge our commitment, as a pressure group who is pained by the loss of its former President-General, to keenly follow up the process of unravelling the real cause of his death. And this, we will do as a mark of last respect and honour to our brother, ObongIwaad (Hon.) IbangaEtang.”

The NDDC Submission

A day after the allegation and call for investigation by AfighIwaadEkid, on June 2, 2020, Niger Delta Development Commission, in a press statement signed by Charles Obi Odili, Director, Corporate Affairs, gave the verdict.

They noted that the Rivers State Ministry of Health has written to the Commission to confirm the cause of Etang’s death resulted from complications attributable to COVID-19.

The Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC) stated that they have consulted with the family of Elder IbangaEtang and the family has authorized the Commission to announce that the late executive director tested positive to COVID-19.

NDDC added, “ During the meeting with the family, they expressed fervent desire that the death of the Executive Director should not be politicised, wishing to be left alone to mourn with dignity. This also is the position of the Commission”.

With the submission by NDDC, has the questions raised been answered? Will the call for investigation cease? These questions are left to be answered as event unfolds.

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