Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has opened fire on the troubled Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), accusing the interventionist agency of squandering public funds on partisan political schemes for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Wike who is insisting that the Commission has deviated from its original mandate of developing the vastly neglected oil and gas region of Nigeria, says NDDC has become a cash cow for politicians.
The outspoken Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor said NDDC wasted N10 billion it would have committed into a tangible development of the oil region, to fight against his re-election bid in 2019.
“Unfortunately, they have turned it to a different thing; NDDC is a cash cow for politicians. In my own election, NDDC brought N10 billion cash to fight against me”, Governor Wike says.
Wike was speaking as the Commission was busy claiming that Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, is still standing by the list of contractors he released, which contained the names of some federal legislators and ex-governors as NDDC contractors.
NDDC says the names emanated from files in the possession of its forensic auditors, claiming further that it was part of the volume of 8,000 documents handed over to the audit team.
During an investigative hearing by the House of Representatives this past July, Akpabio claimed that some federal legislators were beneficiaries of juicy NDDC projects, and released a list of contractors, which included the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Peter Nwabaoshi, whose name was listed against 53 projects.
Akpabio equally said Senator Matthew Urhoghide and Senator James Manager got six projects each, while a former senator, Samuel Anyanwu, got 19 projects.
Former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC, Nicholas Mutu, was also named by the minister as receiving 74 contracts, as well as a former Delta State governor, James Ibori, and ex-Abia State governor, Orji Kalu.
While they have all denied the damaging allegations by Akpabio, NDDC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, said in a statement on Tuesday, “the Interim Management Committee of the commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors.
“It is not an Akpabio’s list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors. Prominent indigenes of the Niger Delta, whose names were on the list, should not panic as the commission knew that people used the names of prominent persons in the region to secure contracts, and the ongoing forensic audit would unearth those behind the contracts.”
NDDC is justifying the release of the contractors’ names, noting that the “intention of the list was to expose committee chairmen in the National Assembly, who used fronts to collect contracts from the commission, some of which were never executed.”
The development agency is, however, inviting President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate a 29-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road in Bayelsa State, a project that cuts across 14 communities.
NDDC says the project which gulped N24 billion, was built in conjunction with the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major, Shell, to create a land link between Yenagoa and Nembe for the first time.
“The road has cut the journey time to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, from three hours to one and a half hours. This project is not only a flagship of intervention in the Niger Delta but it is also a model of the development partnership between the commission and international oil companies in the region, Odili said in the NDDC statement”
In the meantime, Governor Wike told Channels Television on Tuesday during an interview on Sunrise Daily in Port Harcourt, his state capital, “I have said before and it is very clear; my concern is everybody knows that NDDC was set up for the development of the oil region.”
On the ongoing probe of the NDDC by federal lawmakers, Wike said, “when they are talking about probing IMC, I said what are you doing only with IMC, what about the other committees? Professor Kemebradikumo, and the rest of them. They (the lawmakers) have not invited us and why I don’t want to go is that what am I doing with the IMC?
“I am one governor who challenged the NDDC; we went to the Federal High Court, the Federal High Court returned the matter to the state High Court. NDDC went to appeal and we won them and at the state High Court, we have won them.
“You cannot go to a state and begin to carry out projects without the permission of the state government, you don’t know what their plans are. You can’t come into my state to disturb my development plan, you must let me know.”
The Rivers governor holds the view that in order to reverse the fortune of the agency, technocrats and not politicians should be placed in charge of the commission to enable it to function effectively, pointing out, “under the NDDC Act, there should be a governing board made up of the governors.
“Since 2015 we have been asking for that board, but it was only last year that the President was able to … constitute a governing board. But that is just theory.”