A seeming political rapprochement is currently developing between President Muhammadu Buhari and the combative Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on the messy Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)
Wike has unequivocally promised to support President Buhari’s effort to reposition the supposed development agency that is fast becoming a conduit pipe for corrupt officials, and an amphitheatre for a sex scandal.
Rivers’ Information and Communications Commissioner, Paulinus Nsirim, in a statement, says: ‘’We wish to state categorically that the Rivers State Government will never support any action that will prevent or jeopardise the laudable intentions of President Buhari to positively reposition the NDDC and fulfil the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the Niger Delta.’’
While the Wike administration publicly declares that it is not interested in identifying with the present unfolding nasty drama in NDDC, it however promised, ‘’we will not fail to protect our daughter from actual harm or perceived danger.’’
Former NDDC Acting Managing Director, Dr. Joi Nunieh, who said she dazed Niger Delta Affairs Minister and former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, with a slap for harassing her sexually has been hot with her claims on news portals.
Nunieh, an Ogoni from Rivers also claimed that Akpabio was carrying out a verification exercise at NDDC instead of the forensic audit President Buhari ordered for last October.
But, Akpabio is shaking off the damaging allegations against him un-impressively as corruption fighting back from those resisting “the wind of change.”
He has also dismissed the sexual harassment charge against him by Nunieh, and simply claimed, “as a minister of the Federal Republic, I can’t talk about individuals. I’m more concerned about what this administration can deliver to Nigerians and how to make sure NDDC delivers its mandate to the region.
‘’All the rumbles you are hearing are because of the change that is coming; for the first time, the people will have a say on how their funds are used. Change is coming and they should be prepared for it. N18 billion was inserted into the NDDC budget for schools, yet, they have no school to run.
“Since I became a minister, I have only given out two contracts. The first was for the forensic audit of NDDC and the other for COVID-19 intervention to states in the region. NDDC is assisting states to set up two testing centres.
‘’We also assisted the governors financially to set up isolation centres. The story of the Niger Delta will change. The forensic audit will throw up who has money to refund, who still has a job to do. And even now, over 70 contractors have gone back to work. All the participating forensic audit firms are registered with the Auditor General of the Federation.
‘’With a mere mention of the forensic audit, over 70 roads have been completed in the Niger Delta. The forensic audit is meant to block leakages in the system. On the first day of the forensic audit, 8,000 documents were given to them.
‘’Some who collected money in 2004, 2006, are now coming back to do the work. Someone collected billions to supply fingerlings in the past and when I assumed office, he came to me and said the fingerlings are now ready. I just laughed and asked him to return the money to NDDC.”
The minister failed to respond to asking the ex-NDDC chief executive to subscribe to a fetish oath, one of the alleged common features of his administration when he dominated the affairs of Akwa Ibom as governor from 2007-2015.
On the alleged N40 billion fraud, he said “money could have been missing in those days when they had over 300 bank accounts, but now, because of the Treasury Single Account, the NDDC now has only one account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
‘’So, no money can be taken out just like that. We’re very determined to reposition the NDDC. The root of the problem has been years of corruption, endemic corruption. Mr. President is determined to leave a legacy that he came and cleared corruption at the NDDC. For me, I believe we will achieve that objective
“For 19 years, you can’t point at one project of the NDDC in the region, but you could point at cars and limousines of those who managed the place. The Federal Executive Council has approved the forensic audit and they have since started work. The forensic audit is not a witch-hunt.
As a former governor of Akwa Ibom and when I was the Senate Minority lLeader in the Eighth Senate, I didn’t like what was going on there. They were doing things that would put things in people’s pockets. I’m not interested in that.
‘’Now, I’ll like to see the completion of the East-West Road; at least, two sections have been completed. I’ll like to see an end to amnesty, see a place where there would be jobs for our people. I’ll like to see Niger Delta rice sold in Lagos, and also see an NDDC specialist hospital where major health problems can be solved. If we put things right, children of the Niger Delta can get employment within the region.”
Apparently not persuaded by Akpabio’s rhetoric, the Wike administration says it is viewing with concern, the developments at NDDC in which the name of their daughter, Dr. Joi Nunieh, has been dragged into.
‘’We hereby call on those involved in the ongoing investigations in the NDDC to ensure that Dr. Joi Nunieh does not suffer any harm in the course of their undertakings. The State owes it as a duty to protect her citizens from danger no matter their political affiliation and we cannot fold our hands and watch anyone harm her or indeed any Rivers citizen.
‘’We advise those involved in the present altercations in the NDDC to thread with caution in their actions and utterances’’, says Nsirim, the state’s Information and Communications Commissioner