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NDDC: How plot to smear Minister Akpabio failed

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Until recently, blinding and intolerable sleaze was the name of the game at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where the main players thought that its treasury was their private cash-point. The approval of the tenure extension of the Professor Keme Pondei-led Interim Management Committee from May 1 to December 31, 2020, by President Muhammadu Buhari, has, however, changed the dynamics.

In a statement by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Thursday, April 30, the tenure extension will cover the period of the forensic audit of the NDDC as approved by the Federal Executive Council. The audit became expedient given the groundswell of corruption in the agency.

Coming on the heels of sustained campaigns of calumny against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who superintends over the NDDC and is the mastermind of the IMC, the tenure extension is seen as perfectly taking the wind out of the sail of corrupt elements and vested interests in the NDDC.

An interventionist agency set up with the mission to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful, the NDDC, alas, had faltered perplexingly in the delivery of this mandate.

Since his appointment in July 2019, Akapbio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State has spoken extensively of how corruption among NDDC officials and contractors has prevented the commission from achieving its mandate of developing the country’s Niger Delta region. “I think people were treating the place as an ATM where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away, I don’t think they were looking at it as an interventionist agency,” he said.

Akpabio once revealed that at a time the NDDC was complaining of a paucity of funds for projects, it was discovered that it had a $70 million ‘abandoned’ in a bank since 2006. “I know of a bank that came to say that they have $70 million from 2006. One also came to say that N170million had been abandoned and they said they are ready to refund. I said no problem, just hang on, we will sort all these out when the forensic (audit) comes in to let us know all the recoverable and all that,” Akpabio told The Nation in an interview. There were also cases of contractors collecting money for contracts that were never or haphazardly done or abandoned halfway. Such infrastructural carcasses dot the Niger Delta. All of these had virtually driven the agency into the doldrums.

The former Senator, therefore, constituted the Interim Management Committee to countervail the monumental sleaze, rid the NDDC of corrupt elements and help it recover as much funds from fraudulent contractors as possible. But this was, understandably, not warmly received by beneficiaries of the corrupt system who resorted to planting falsehood in the media to smear the IMC, NDDC and its supervising minister. Several attempts to make the president disband the committee were frustrated.

Akpabio posited, “The rotten system that made this sanitisation process needful took almost 19 years to occur, so we cannot do everything in a month, but the process is on and I assure you in the next three to four months you will see the result and you will be very impressed and the region will be glad for it.”

He added, “The forensic audit of the NDDC will be one of the greatest legacies of President Muhammadu Buhari; being able to cleanse it and being able to refocus it to achieve more for the people of the Niger Delta. History will remember him positively.”

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