The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has dominated news space in recent times mostly for the wrong reasons. The name of the minister in charge of Niger Delta Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is NDDC’s supervising minister, has also featured prominently. In a brief interaction in Abuja, Akpabio explained why he took certain steps. SANYA ADEJOKUN here brings an excerpt.
ROOT causes of NDCC crisis.
We are very determined to reposition the NDCC. I think the root of the problem are the years of corruption; endemic corruption. Mr President is very determined to leave a legacy of having an NDCC that is free of corruption. For me, I believe strongly that we shall achieve the objective.
As of today, the Federal Executive Council has approved a forensic Lead Auditor, Olumiyiwa Bashir and Co, and we have started work. Over 8000 documents have been given to them.
As a governor of Akwa Ibom State and as Minority Leader, I was personally not impressed with the way things were being done in the NDCC. They will do road but within one year, the first rainfall will wash the road away. I had decided to correct those things in the Niger Delta, and to the God’s glory, I succeeded. It is not new, people do not like change.
Some of the roads I did in 2007, 2008, 2009, that is 11 years after, they are still there without potholes. I took cognisance of the terrain and I made sure that I was better to spend money and do a quality job, than to spend money every year to attend to the same thing.
An opportunity to clean up NDDC
I remember before I became a governor, that time I was a junior lawyer, I took my car from Lagos to my town, but I could not reach the place. I had to park my car in Ikot Ekpene, which is next to my village, and about three and half kilometres. I spent five days and when I was going back to Lagos, I took okada to Ikot Ekpene and I returned to Lagos.
Like I have always said that if God gave the opportunity, I would change the narratives, and now, God has given the opportunity. I listened to what people were saying.
As the Minister of the Niger Delta, I want to see a Niger Delta region where employment opportunities are created for the people. I want to see major bridges connecting Okrika to Yenegoa. I want to see NDDC specialist hospital.
As the minister of the Niger Delta, I am committed to those objectives and I am working towards them. But I can’t achieve all these if the only parastatal under my ministry, NDDC, still remains the way we all know it. I am not a fugitive from reality, people used to pretend that such does not exist, but I will not.
I know as a governor, I didn’t like NDDC, I know as the minority leader, I did not like the NDDC because of most things that were going on there. The major projects there are not the projects that can turn the life of the people around. They believed in the projects that would put money in peoples’ pockets. They are more interested in retreats, training and re-training. They supply equipment to hospitals that they do not need.
They started three specialist hospitals, one in Port Harcourt, one in Ondo and up till now, they have not completed them. I like to see an NDDC that has its international headquarters where people can come and negotiate. I like to see an NDDC with a balance sheet that is careful of going to everyman and it will fall that will develop the Niger Delta region. That is the agreement we had with the International Food and Agricultural Development (IFAD) to give $173m for farming and request for $5m as the counterpart funding but that was not possible, it was thwarted by the budgeting process. I want an NDDC where the final budget that comes out will be the one that will bring infrastructural development to the region.
A cesspool of corruption
What happens today is that if the National Assembly passed nine items, Health, N55m, education, maybe N50m but you don’t know the nitty-gritty but when people go and sit down and try to balkanise it, they can put 100m for the three special hospitals and if it was N10m, the balance of N9.9m they will put into the supply of project. That means that such project has failed.
For 19 years, we can’t point out one project, we cannot point out one industry from the NDDC, and we cannot point one hospital from the NDDC. What we can point is the cash probably in the pockets of those who have had the opportunity. But for me, I want to see the total turn around. When we finish the forensic audit, it is not meant to witch hunt anybody, but it is meant to reposition the NDDC.
Fraud and contracts
In the NDDC one of the things we have done is that, since I became a minister, I have not given out a contract but I only have been involved in the execution of two contracts.
The first contract was the appointment of the forensic auditor and off course; the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved that. The second contract was the COVID-19 intervention of the NDDC. I didn’t know I will meet you here (referring to the journalists), I would have brought the list of what was being supplied in the nine states of the region.
Allegations of missing money
About the story you heard about the missing money. Money could have been missing in those days in the NDDC when they had over 311 accounts across all banks in Nigeria and when they had the culture of foreign accounts. But today, they have one only account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) because of the TSA. It is no longer possible for somebody to go to the CBN and take out N40bn without a trace. I am aware when you are coming to a commission, you will inherIt both the liability and the asset. And in the case, their liability included a pile up of debt to the tune of over 2trillion naira. Sometimes, people do the job and they are not paid, and in some other instances, those who were paid, did not do the job. And those who have the papers in their hands, they did not perform but they have signed the contract. That means they have indulged in what is called contingent liabilities.
So, I want to see the NDDC with a clean balance sheet. That is it, the forensic audit will throw it up, that is, which one was laid, which one was not laid. Who collected money that did not execute the job, who has money to refund, who has the job to go back and do.
Even when they announced the forensic audit, over 70 contractors have gone back to site. Today in the Niger Delta, people have seen over 50 completed roads in the in the last six months because of the fear of the forensic audit,
People who collected money in 2004, 2006. I know about a man who came to my office that he was given money to supply fingerling in billions, that the fingerlings are ready. But unfortunately, we can’t take fingerings without the fish pond. So, I asked him if is it possible to sell the fingerings and bring the money.
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