Niger Delta Affairs Minister and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Godswill Akpabio, is currently locked in an image-damaging controversy with some repentant militants from the oil and gas region over an alleged diversion of N1.9 billion water hyacinth deal.
The repentant armed youths are challenging the former governor of Akwa Ibom State who has been under investigation in the late 2015 following accusations that he diverted over N100 billion from the oil-rich state between 2007 and 2015, an allegation which he has been denying. to explain his role in the alleged diversion of N1.9 billion from the water hyacinth contracts.
Before this unfolding water hyacinth row, when President Muhammadu Buhari nominated Akpabio for a ministerial slot, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Itse Sagay, a constitutional lawyer and professor, reportedly expressed reservation about Akpabio’s nomination.
‘’The only nominee I am not satisfied with is Godswill Akpabio. I don’t know how he got into the list. That is the only one I have a reservation about’’, the Daily Post, an online news portal quoted Sagay to have said, adding, ‘’you know when we have a programme in which anti-corruption is number one, if anybody is under investigation or not, I don’t think it is wise to include him in that list. But the president knows why he did that. Apart from that, I am quite happy with the list.’’
However, water hyacinth is one of the most prominent aquatic weed plant found throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Hyacinths are one of the most productive photosynthetic plants in the world. It has been estimated that 10 plants could produce 600 000 more during an eight-month growing season and completely cover 0.4 ha of a natural freshwater surface.
This rapid growth is the reason that hyacinths are a serious nuisance problem in southern waterways, but these same attributes become an advantage when used in a wastewater treatment system. Hyacinths on the water surface of a pond create a totally different environmental conditions in the water as compared to an exposed water surface. The dense canopy of leaves shades the surface and prevents algal growth thus limiting the production of oxygen. This in turn maintains the liquid pH at near neutral levels.
The mass of plants on the surface also minimises wind-induced turbulence and mixing, as well as surface re-aeration, and moderates water temperature fluctuations. As a result, the near-surface water tends to be low in oxygen and the benthic zone is usually anaerobic even in shallow ponds
Though former militants are accusing Akpabio in the controversy over the contract, the minister has stoutly denied any wrongdoing, claiming the contracts were awarded before his appointment and that he only authorised payments for jobs that have been completed by the militants to avoid crisis.
But the ex-militants are wondering how the former governor could condescend so low to appropriated 400 slots of the water hyacinth to himself after accusing the former Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board of misdeeds.
Spokesman for the ex-militants who are obviously on the warpath, General Ebi, is calling on President Buhari in a statement, to direct the anti-graft agencies to immediately swing into action over the matter.
According to them, ‘’the 21st century youths of the Niger Delta and agitators with conscience condemn the unprecedented and widespread fraud concerning the payment of the water hyacinth to the youths and beneficiaries of the Niger Delta. We therefore call on the minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio and the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC to come out clean and exonerate themselves from this primitive and shameful looting and diverting of the funds meant for the youths to themselves.
‘’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 for right years and is currently the minister of Niger Delta Affairs will condescend so low to have appropriated 400 slots of the water hyacinth to himself after accusing the former NDDC board of misdeeds. N1.9 billion was approved by Akpabio for the payment of the water hyacinth as an empowerment scheme to the various beneficiaries and youths of the Niger Delta.
‘’But so far, what we have heard from the Director of Environment, Boniface Sese, who is in charge of compiling the list, is that the master list of beneficiaries has been cancelled since the former board was dissolved and was directed by the present acting MD to compile a new list of just 100 slots for the youths, 400 slots for Akpabio, 300 slots for the current acting MD,
‘’But Sese refused to disclose how many slots were allotted to him. However, our findings reveal that all his staff and aides are allotted five slots each and some directors, 10 slots. We are therefore, using this medium to call on the attention of President Buhari to direct the EFCC and the ICPC to immediately swing into action. We are also calling on the minister to come out clean and exonerate himself as his reputation is being dragged to the mud to defraud the youths of the
A lot of scandals seem to be trailing Akpabio. He was allegedly linked to an employment scandal recently at the NDDC where over 300 persons were employed without the board approvals. The minister swiftly backpedaled when the alleged illegal recruitment exercise was exposed.
Speaking for his principal, Anietie Ekong, Akpabio’s media aide said the embattled minister only intervened in ensuring the payment of an already completed contract when the Militants staged a protest recently, pointing out, ‘’the story is not correct. It is mudslinging from people who have lost out. It is a payment made to companies. No individual gets such N3million payment. Payments for all those types of contracts go straight to companies and not individuals. These are jobs that have been done before Akpabio got to that office.’’