Niger Delta

Latest Development In NDDC: Is Sen. Akpabio As ‘Guilty’ As Assumed?

By Substance Nature


“Make the best use of what is in your power; and take the rest as it happens” – Epictetus

From that Wednesday, August 21, 2019 when he was appointed into the Federal Executive Council, the aphorism that “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” has become truer of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio. This is especially consequent upon the good, the bad, and the ugly that has happened in recent times.

The inherent burden of the crown may only have been bearable for Akpabio because, as a two-term former governor and one-strike Senator, positions that placed him constantly against the waves of public opinion, this cannot be the first time he finds himself in a hot seat. Right from the onset as a minister, Akpabio, like an earthquake, hit the ground with seismic momentum that left no one in doubt of his idiosyncrasy and sagacity to make a difference. “I love leaving marks wherever I visit…Being a Niger Delta person, I will ensure that things are better for further and effective development of the region” – he assured in his inaugural speech in Abuja.

Again, speaking on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) programme, WEEKEND FILE, Akpabio who is trade-marked for going into public office with anger and hunger for change, said he took up the mantle of ministerial stewardship fully aware of the perennial challenges of the Niger Delta region. “You need to be angry with the situation of the NDDC, and I am angry. I was angry with what was going on in my state and I wanted to show that government could work and I did. I am not running NDDC; I’m only a minister and my job is to supervise NDDC. Mr. President has entrusted that to me and ordered the proper supervision of the commission and I’m assuring you that it will work”.

RELATED: Niger Delta Transformation: Sen Akpabio cannot do it Alone

Perhaps, the three most prominent things that have happened so far in terms of organic restructuring of the NDDC by Akpabio are – the sudden and controversial emergence of the 3-man Interim Management Committee (IMC) and the shocking revelations; the annexation of the NDDC to the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry; and lately, the sudden sack of the acting Managing Director of the Commission, Dr, Joi Yumebe Nunieh, Wednesday, 19th February, 2020.

Critics refuse to believe that a typical Akpabio has not been the architect or mastermind of the above changes. They say that each and every of the happenings in the NDDC since August 2019 have had the mercurial Uncommon Transformer as a centrifugal force. Those who hate to love him do so largely because they say he is naturally too smart, savvy and swervy to be taken for granted in any game of interest. They say any time, any where – Akpabio is a risk-taker, ambidextrous strategist, and game-changer when there is something at stake that can catapult one’s name to the heights in the Nigerian political stratosphere.

Let’s now examine three of the big issues involved. First, the idea that Sen. Akpabio on his own powered the creation of the original 3-man Interim Management Committee (IMC), comprising the sacked Acting Managing Director, Dr, Joi Nunieh (Rivers), Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr, Cairo Ojougbor (Delta); and Acting Executive Director, Finance/ Administration, Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang, on Tuesday, October 29, 2019, must be seen as highly hypothetical and specious.

That that happened on the same day the Senate was in plenary to consider the list of 16-member board of directors for the NDDC sent to it by the President a week earlier on October 18, 2019, makes the situation more debatable. Only the credulous can be so easily fooled. Latter findings have shown that a few days to the inauguration of the IMC by Akpabio, President Buhari had forwarded a covert stay of execution order to principals of the Senate.

The second matter of theatrical remonstrations in official and public theatres was the assertion that Akpabio also inspired and cajoled the President into annexing the NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. President Buhari announced this during his Independence broadcast on 1st October, 2019. Preceding this release was a restricted letter earlier written to Akpabio by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari, September 2nd, 2019, informing him of the imminent development. There can be no debate however that this was a favourable response to an initial letter by Akpabio, dated August 22nd, 2019, just a day after his appointment, alluding to that by mere suggestion. Logic holds that the President was not under any duress to approve the memo.

The most controversial and current is the sack of the former Acting MD of the NDDC, Dr, Joi Nunieh. This too is said to be Akpabio’s handiwork. With metaphoric indictment, a social crusade group, Niger Delta Watch (NDW), through its Executive Director, Mr. Peters Nkang on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, was quick to accuse Akpabio of bringing NDDC to its knees: “Today, what the region wakes up to see is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs hiring and firing acting Managing Directors of the Commission, who are now more than his personal staff, having succeeded in arm-twisting Mr. President to concede the supervision of NDDC to him, which he now administers as a privately-owned company”. Of course, Dr, Nunieh exited office the same way and manner she entered – with striking suddenness, controversy, and lingering questions.

The Convener, South-South Reawakening Group, Joseph Abakederemo, in his interview with Vanguard, berated Akpabio with the words: “Agreed, NDDC is under his ministry, but let him allow the people there to concentrate and do their work. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio, should leave NDDC alone”. Eric Omare, President of Ijaw Youth Council, had in a press statement issued on October 29, 2019, stated: “The activities of Chief Godswill Akpabio since his appointment as Minsiter of Niger Delta Affairs have led to instability and confusion in the Niger Delta region especially with respect to the management of the NDDC”.

Writing in the Sun Newspaper edition of February 26, 2020, under the title: “Time for Buhari to Stop Akpabio’s Circus at the NDDC, Abiye Tolofari asserted: “There are three principal grounds why the presidency must disband the IMC. One is that the IMC is a one-man operation of Akpabio and does not represent the diverse states and groups as provided for in the NDDC Act”.

The opponents seem to have forgotten so soon in their condemnation the volume of fraud and related malfeasances so far discovered by the IMC. They tend to also have forgotten the revival of dead contract sites; recouping of debts and payment of debts to a million contractors; verification of contracts and streamlining of structures to checkmate recrudesce; as well as the quality speed that has been brought to the ongoing completion of the NDDC headquarters.

From the grapevine it is said that the President necessarily had to sack Nunieh to forestall a repeat drama of the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, as well as safe the dwindling face of his anti-corruption crusade. Fejiro Oliver, an Investigative Journalist, writing on the title: “Acting NDDC MD JOI NUNIEH: A NATURAL DISGRACE UNFIT TO EVEN HEAD A WHATSAPP GROUP” (https://thenigerianvoice, com/news, 285287/, observed, “Her educational background is a secret cult, just as her work history is shrouded in secrecy. For weeks, she has been accused of not possessing NYSC certificate. She has not only been accused but dared by the accusers to produce one if she truly has”. This was why she refused to appear for screening by the Senate on two occasions she was invited.

Although Akwa Ibom Leaders Vanguard speaks in innuendoes over perceived compromise of their sons in the hanky-panky game with Aso Rock, others are asking: If the President finds in Akpabio the character and ideological weapons that were needed but missing to sanitize the commission over the years, why would Akpabio refuse to paly card?

Judged by the manner it was born and the grace it has enjoyed so far, the IMC cannot be Akpabio’s. Although his office may place him in strategic position to play the catalyst and surrogate, the discerning can see that Sen. Akpabio only operates on classified superior directives. Therefore disparaging the masquerade and forgetting the Chief of the Masquerades and his cryptogram that directs the episodic dramas in the NDDC can be far too presumptuous. And the rule is that you owed your loyalty to your superior who calls the final shots. The question then is: Why is Akpabio stigmatized? Why is he given a bad name to be hanged?

President Buhari can lift this burden of acidic assumptions off Akapbio’s shoulders by reviewing his (the President’s) characteristic taciturnity and curious silence on some burning issues. The Presidency should be more expressive on matters that demand official expressiveness. Or are we to go with Friedrich Nietzsche that, “All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power, and not truth”?

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