Barely two weeks after Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio expressed serious disappointment over the performance of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), an interventionist agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently probing some contract deals and the fat bank accounts of the staff.
The anti-graft agency is investigating the finances of the commission and some top management staff especially in the Finance and Administration Department as well the projects that are undergoing interrogation.
It was also gathered that the EFCC has frozen the bank accounts of all staff of the interventionist agency. Sources say there is unease in the Port Harcourt headquarters of the NDDC in Rivers State as some staff might find it hard to justify their huge bank accounts.
The disappointed Akpabio publicly declared that NDDC has not lived up to its responsibilities, pointing out that the real youths of the oil and gas region who undertook the clearing of water hyacinth were sidelined by the commission in preference for its political youths.
According to the minister, ‘’those that are owed between N500,000 to N1.00 million are over 400 and they have indulged the NDDC and the money has not been given to them thereby piling up over N2.00 trillion debt as a result. The problem we are having is that you will not even know those that are real from those that are not.’’
While addressing NDDC directors, Akpabio said ‘’since the day of OMPADEC, the headquarters building for the commission has remained uncompleted in the last 20 years after the construction started. “You should have a kind of sobre reflection and think inward for not being able to complete the project for this long while chunking out between N200 to NN300 million to pay for rent of office facility on annual bases to the state government.
‘’I speak as a Niger Deltan and as somebody who if saddle with responsibility I will perform. I speak as one who has track records that speak for itself. I don’t want a situation as when you look at me as a politician that speaks from both sides of the mouth. You have before you a representative of President Muhammadu Buhari who is very poised in working with you to redirect the NDDC if you so desire.
‘’We have to refocus the NDDC to ensure that it lives to the yearning of the people. You should get worried that I am the one here, if you are not worry there is a problem. Those on forensic, analyses and audit should go back to year 2000 up till now to know what came in, what went and out and why we have not recorded much result on ground.’’
Sources say the investigation by the EFCC is also extended to contractors who have been doing businesses with the commission. It was also gathered that the EFCC has seized petrol stations, houses, warehouses and other properties belong to staff of the commission suspected to have acquired same through fraudulent means.
Some staff of the commission revealed that some of them who went to bank to pay their children’s school fees for the new term or do other transactions at their various banks were told by their Account Officers that they cannot access those accounts.
The obviously disappointed staff were planning a mass protest this Thursday, September 19, when Akpabio is expected at the commission’s new headquarters in Port Harcourt. They are lamenting that though they were aware the EFCC was investigating the commission and many top management staff of the agency have been interrogated and therefore, wondering what business an ordinary staff has to do with the account of the commission or the alleged massive corruption going on in the establishment.
Chairman of the NDDC staff union, Runmsin Williams, a Redeemed Christian Church of God pastor, confirmed the freezing of the staff accounts, pointing out that he has been talking with the Central Bank of Nigeria on how to unfrozen the accounts because he is not sure that it is the EFCC that did it as speculated.
On the protest planned by staff this Thursday, Williams said the it may not hold because one cannot protest when a solution to the subject of the protest is underway.
What is happening in NDDC should not come as a surprise because Akpabio had announced that his ministry will carry out a forensic audit of the finances of the commission since 2000 till date.
The minister was angry that the commission was paying more than N200 million naiira annually as rent for its headquarters in Port Harcourt while the permanent headquarters is yet to be completed after several years and billions of naira sunk in.
Akpabio expressed dissatisfaction with the level of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta despite billions of naira allocated to the agency annually. He alleged that there were sharp practices in the award, execution and payments for the various contracts awarded by the commission and decried the huge number of abandoned projects that dots the region.
Meanwhile, neither the NDDC Director Corporate Affairs, Charles Odiili, nor a media aide to the acting Managing Director of NDDC, Dr. Akwagaga Enyia, Bekee Anyalewechi, was willing to comment immediately on the issue.