100 DAYS: “THE TRIALS & THE TRIUMPHS” by Sen. Akpabio

The ground is shaking, it looks like there was a conspiracy of silence in the NDDC until I arrived. People were milking the NDDC like a cash cow. If NDDC was a company it would have gone bankrupt! I am not afraid of threats because I can’t be afraid of doing the right thing. 
I am humble enough to know I am only exercising the privilege of Mr President and I respect the President. But it is important Nigerians know that President Buhari is the first leader to ignore the free money in the NDDC where people were using government money to settle political cronies. He is the first Nigerian President who has carved a mandate for the poor and the less privileged. I call him a President who is pro-poor. And what is unique about his strategy is the way and manner he is fighting corruption. He is fighting corruption and also tackling poverty. No other Nigerian President has attempted to fight these twin evils. And all you have to do is look at his programmes, The Social Investment Programme, The Anchor Borrowers Programme and even Trader Money. There is no Nigerian leader who has impacted Nigeria positively the way President Muhammadu Buhari has done. 

In 2015 we said President Buhari will not be a Democrat that he will be a tyrant. We said he will not build roads but rather open more prisons. Unfortunately we all misunderstood the man and we owe him an apology. He is 360 degrees different from the impression that was created of him. This is one man who is not swayed by money before he takes a decision. This is why the President has ordered for a forensic audit of the NDDC to investigate how much government funding went into the NDDC from 2000 to date. And why the NDDC has twelve thousand abandoned projects. 

Unfortunately the people who want my removal are frightened they don't want us  to ask these questions. Those people must understand we will  still ask those questions whether you ask for my removal or not. People ask me am I afraid? My reply is, I  am not afraid of doing the right thing. Those who are calling for my removal when you investigate closely you will discover they have a father or mother that was given a contract in the NDDC. I will neither be intimidated nor implicated. When you fight corruption corruption will always fight back therefore I am fully aware of what is happening. 

What happened in our region was a shame, Niger Delta should have set the standard for development. There are contractors who collected mobilisation and ran away. They should have the funds to refund the mobilisation. For those big men in the Niger Delta who are afraid, let me make this clear, the forensic audit is not a witch hunt. I am glad contractors are already going to the sites of some of these abandoned projects. Once we see a  contractor on site it means the project is ongoing, if we do not find a contractor on site we will register the project as an abandoned project.

There is a misunderstanding which I must clarify. Some people are arguing and asking  what power has the President got to handover the NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. As far as I am aware the Honourable Minister of the Ministry Of Niger Delta Affairs  has always been in charge of the NDDC. As far back as 2016, my predecessor Honorable Minister Useni was in-charge of the NDDC. But even more significant is the fact that the constitution gives the President such powers.  Section 148 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states,” The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, may in his discretion assign to the Vice President or any Minister of the government of the Federation the  responsibility of any business of the Federation including the administration of any Department of government. Even the NDDC act section 7 (3) says , “The Commission shall be subject to the direction, control or supervision in the performance of its functions under this act by the President Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. This means the independence of the Commission stops where the power of the President starts. The NDDC
is quasi independent. And the President in his discretion is the Chief Executive of the Commission. When I assumed office as Minister, the President assigned that responsibility in writing to me. He delegated the function to me under section 7 (3). It was assigned to me as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

People who say this is the first time this is happening have not studied the NDDC. The President of Nigeria by virtue of the constitution can appoint a sole administrator or an interim management team to preside over the affairs of the NDDC, it is his discretion. It happened in 2016 when Ibim Semenitari was acting NDDC managing director, she was acting alone like a sole administrator she was there for over one and a half years.  Even  Prof. Nelson Braimbraifa, the last  Managing Director was a three man management committee. Did anybody protest? Therefore one can only conclude it is because of the forensic audit. They are afraid. The truth is this, so much money has gone into the NDDC and there is so little to show on the ground. We have twelve thousand  abandoned projects in the region.

Oil is a diminishing commodity. Right now in the world nations are  exploring and utilising green energy, they are going into solar, battery  and wind energy. There is coming a time people will plead with the youths to scoop crude oil from their backyards. What will happen to the Niger Delta when crude oil is no longer useful.  This is why Mr President is trying to reposition the NDDC for a post crude oil era.  People are resisting because they were using the NDDC as an ATM. 

I keep saying it - what happened in our region was a shame, we should have set the standard for development for the rest of Nigeria. The Niger Delta Region is the goose that lays the golden egg. The NDDC was strategic, it was a child of necessity to bring development to the Niger Delta Region. I believe that the NDDC has not performed well, I don’t want to say the NDDC has failed the region. However how can one explain twelve thousand abandoned projects in the Niger Delta Region by the NDDC? 

The forensic audit will cover eighteen years of NDDC’s existence. The audit will investigate the twelve thousand abandoned projects. During the forensic auditing one of our aims will be to identify projects I call low hanging fruits; these are projects  the contractors in-charge can execute quickly and we can commision. These are projects that will be of immediate benefit, economically and socially to the people of the Niger Delta. The audit will take care of two main areas, Projects and Financing.

The forensic audit is not going to be handled by the interim management committee. The work of the committee is to cooperate with the forensic audit. After the audit the Committee will handover. We have advertised in the Federal Tenders Journal for expression of interest from auditing firms. We have divided the forensic audit into ten lots, each lot will handle one of the nine States of the Niger Delta. We will take photos of projects we will look at what the contractor has done and place a value on the project, we will ask questions if the project is not complete and if it is the contractors fault he will return money to the NDDC. But if it is the Commission owing the contractor, the NDDC will immediately give the contractor money to complete the project. We will also have an International world renowned financial analyst at the headquarters. 

Let me make it clear that nobody has a problem with the NDDC board, remember I made contributions into that board and we also have alliances. People who want the board to replace the Interim Management Committee forget that before the board was cleared and confirmed by the senate Mr President had already constituted the Interim Management Committee. 

And it is important that during the audit we have people in-charge of NDDC, officials who have been throughly screened and whose hands are clean, this will be the key role of the Interim Management Committee. Remember there are people in the NDDC who have been in the Commission for over 18 years years some of them started in the days of OMPADEC. The Committee also has powers to protect the auditing process. Any NDDC director who tries to frustrate the work of the forensic audit is to be put on compulsory leave immediately.

Dr Joy Nunieh the acting MD of NDDC has just discovered that some people were collecting N1 billion a month from the NDDC for doing nothing, I have told her to put it in writing I want to see the vouchers. I want the President to see it. I also want the EFCC and Nigerians to see it. Let people know what was going on in the NDDC before I arrived. 

I happen to be one person who has not collected a single contract from NDDC. That makes me the best person to expose and deal with the rot in the NDDC. I am the Governor who left footprints in his State which will take fifty years for anyone to beat. In its eighteen years of existence NDDC has no single legacy project. NDDC has no garment factory. NDDC has a debt of over two trillion naira but it is difficult to separate the real debts from the political debts attached to political contracts. Can NDDC show Nigerians the 100km of road it has constructed? What was happening in the NDDC was that they were pouring  Laterite on black soil and then pouring Asphalt on top of it, then they would invite plays and dancers to commission the road but when the first rains fall the road is washed away. NDDC has not got one primary school but is happy to spend millions of naira to print exercise books for children. NGO’s were receiving thirty to forty billion and nobody knew what the monies were used for. Did you know twenty three ago during the days of OMPADEC, a thirteen storey building was started and in twenty three years that building has still not been roofed or completed. And NDDC has been renting an office building for three hundred  million a year. Some of these things are unbelievable. If NDDC was a company it would have gone bankrupt. I have therefore given the NDDC seven to eight months to complete the thirteen storey building and get it ready for commissioning by Mr President. 

I am appealing to the big people who have eaten from the NDDC, I am telling them you have eaten enough, let the poor people whose source of livelihood have been destroyed by Water Hyacinth let these people also have a taste of NDDC. Allow us do something for the people of Elebele in Bayelsa with a collapsed bridge who can’t pass to get good drinking water. Allow us build primary schools for the children in the Niger Delta Region. There is a lot of trauma in the Niger Delta, we cannot have  amnesty in perpetuity. We must have a vision for post amnesty. We must give our youths jobs. If we don’t deal with the problem today we are going to have lots of delinquent adults in the future.  

After the forensic audit,  I am convinced that the NDDC will be repositioned. People will do things with the fear of God. We will put the right parameters in place. We will establish guidelines and people will be held accountable for their actions. There is so much expectation. The entire Niger Delta is expecting a lot from the Ministry. Nigerians are expecting a lot from me. And my people in the Niger Delta are very excited and jubilant that change is indeed has come to the Niger Delta. 

My name is Godswill Akpabio and through the benevolence of Mr President I have been saddled with the responsibility to redirect the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and by implication see to the fast track development of the region. I hope to move the region to the next level which is the key policy thrust of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

(Thoughts And Speeches)

*Senator Godswill Akpabio (CON)*

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