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NDDC Audit And The Gathering Storm:  Will Akpabio Scale The Hurdles?

By Substance Nature-Udo


Expectedly, since his appointment as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio has been a constant voice and face in the news, unpretentious and dramatically relentless in enforcing his planned ideological and physical reforms in his new office of assignment.
Amidst the symphonies and cacophonies, the former Akwa Ibom governor, so far, has proven to be the proverbial cricket that cannot close its eyes to sand. He looks typically unruffled by the persistent hullabaloo and arsenal of daily threats from those he calls “Vultures” over his determination to clean up the accumulated miasma in NDDC.
The Minister on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 inaugurated a 3-man Interim Management Committee for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The Committee comprises Acting Managing Director, Dr, Joy Ghene Nunieh (Rivers), Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr, Cairo Ojougbor (Delta); and Acting Executive Director, Finance/ Administration, Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang. Consequent upon the changes, the then Acting Managing Director, Dr. Akwagaga Enyia, had on October 30, 2019 handed over to Dr. Nunieh.
Perhaps more than others, this latest action by Mr. Uncommon Transformer, to critics of his style, blew a gasket even as they are now seeking to bite his head off. The loudest of the remonstrations for all one knows is that the powerhouse minister, in this instance, has no power to overrule the President. Recall that in August 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Office of the Secretary to Government (SGF), Boss Mustapha, had announced the appointment of a 16-Member Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and forwarded same to the Senate.
The list consists of the former deputy governor to former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomole, Dr. Pius Odubu as Chairman; Bernard Okumagba (Delta State), Managing Director; and Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom State), Executive Director Projects. Others are Maxwell Okoh (Bayelsa); Jones Erue (Delta); Victor Ekhatar (Edo); and Joy Nunieh (Rivers State). Also on the list are Nwogu Nwogu (Abia); Theodore Allison (Bayelsa); Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); and Maurice Effiwatt (Cross River). Included also are Olugbenga Edema (Ondo); Uchegbu Kirian (Imo); Aisha Murtala Muhammed (Kano), representing the North-West area; Ardo Zubairo (Adamawa), representing North-East zone; and Ambassador Abdullahi Bage (Nasarawa), for North-Central geo-political zone.
Coincidentally, Akpabio’s Interim team manifested the same day the Senate initiated the process of confirming the appointments of nominees -Tuesday, October 29, 2019.  Justifying the essence of the Interim Management Committee, Akpabio who disclosed that the Committee will be in office until the conclusion of the forensic audit of the NDDC from 2001 to 2019, said it was to create “enabling environment” for the forensic audit exercise which was earlier announced by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While some were quick to question the orchestrated urgency and clash of interest, others in their opinions sensed some underground conspiracy, wondering if Akpabio could just have taken such a huge step without the knowledge of or consultation with his superiors, although the NDDC falls under his superintendence.
Interestingly, the Interim Committee which nonetheless has since commenced work has made more discoveries of the endemic rot in the NDDC and has disclosed that the Commission is currently indebted to some spooky contractors to the tune of N3trillion. Executive Director, Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, had in a media interface lamented over the situation and pointed fingers at some of the contractors as masterminds and sponsors of attacks and opposition against the audit ordered by the President. In particular, a serving Senator who was allegedly awarded over N300million naira worth of contracts by the NDDC, out of which120 of them have been fully paid for, was yet to mobilize to site.
Giving more insights on the necessity for the Interim Committee, Dr. Ojougboh stated: “And so the issues at hand were, one, which management will oversee the forensic audit? It was thought that bureaucracy is part of the problem in the NDDC…So, the system came up with the idea that an independent body must be put together to oversee the forensic audit for a period of three to six months”.
In another twist, some persons have said that Akpabio allegedly greased his palms with some wads of naira from the immediate past MD of the NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere, to possibly stalemate the ongoing audit of activities of the Commission. They also see the minister as a conspiratorial part of Niger Delta dilemma. But describing the peddlers of such accusations as ‘vultures’, Akpabio, has vehemently refuted the wild claims and insinuations, seeing it as a war of attrition and coordinated ploy to devalue the forensic audit.
As it stands, there can be no doubt that heads will roll in the final analysis. But, given the typical Nigerian situation, the question now revolves around whether Akpabio will sustain the tempo and drive the matter to a logical conclusion, ensconced from politics, or it is a mere farce.  Such reservations and fears may have roots in Lord Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton’s postulation that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Sen. Akapbio ostensibly  appears to be in the eye of the storm. But those doubting his powers and hunger for change may have forgotten that he is a man of uncommon things!

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