Probe: How Akpabio Laid The Foundation For Buhari Planned Probe of NNDC

By Suleiman Umaru

Godswill  Akpabio, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria  and former governor of Akwa Ibom state and now minister of the ministry of the  Niger Delta , appears to have laid the foundation, for President Muhammadu decision to  carry out a forensic Audit of the budgetary allocations and expenditures  of the  Niger Delta Development Commission,NNDC, since its establishment about   16 years ago by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Akpabio may have complained loud to the Katsina born Nigerian President  that the Commission has over N2 trillion debt to settle its Contractors  as against  the N1 trillion which  Senator Ewa- Henshaw, the Chairman said the Niger Delta agency ministry, wed the Contractors  who executed  one project  or the other  in the Niger Delta region , comprising of  Abia,  Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River,  Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers state  are still being owed N1 trillion.

An aggrieved  Ewa-Henshaw,  had said that if it is a private Enterprise, it would  have filed bankruptcy. Giving an insider information,  the Cross River state born politician  disclosed that the contracts  were awarded for the sole purpose  of ‘’collecting advance payments’’ from the agency. The NDDC  Chairman, major worry was that the same contracts  were awarded  to two or three Contractors.

More worrisome , the Chairman said was the fact that  the Contracts were awarded without any design  and specific location . Bassey Dan-Abia, the agency  Managing Director  had revealed that since inception  it had  awarded over 6,000 project Contracts in different parts of the Niger Delta. It is not surprising why  the Commission  had been dubbed  a ’’Contract Cow’’ by critics  because of the large number  of projects handled  at different locations in the region.

Note that there had been rumour making the rounds over the years  that the Commission  Contract award letters  are being hawked  in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities in the country but past Managements dismissed  it as untrue. But  Akpabio, the minister of the Niger Delta, had told the Dan-Abia, led NNDC, Managment team in Abuja  last Wednesday  that  the ministry will look into the budgetary  allocation  of the agency  and see how  it can be  improved upon  , stressing  that the success of any Organisation  starts from budgeting. The minister who could no hide his  feelings  said  the impact  of the Commision  on the entire Niger over the last 19 years  could have been more  but for some factors , which he idenfied  as ‘’personal interest and undue interference ‘’ ,among others.

An aggrieved Akpabio had said that  that there are too many  uncompleted  projects  across the region due to lack of proper Coordination . He was said to have made it clear the Commission officials that the ‘’ministry will not allow that any longer’’. There are indications that over 80% of the N40 billion NNDC projects in Cross river state alone  had been  abandoned by  the Contractors between 20 and 2016, after collecting the mobiisation fee.

Godswill Akpabio: NNDC Owe N2 trillion To Contractors

The nine Niger Delta region governors , including Nyesom Wike, of Rivers state, may  have taking advantage of the too many NNDC  abandoned projects in the region to seek   the intervention of Buhari to do something  urgent about it.The Katsina state born Nigerian President was said to have held a closed- door meeting with the governors   over development of the region and also discussed about what is going on in the NNDC, a critical agency to the development of the region. The President’s meeting with the Niger Delta regional governors  and their discussion on the NNDC, may informed why he ordered  the probe of the Finances of the agency  between 2001 and now.  The President who was said to be unhappy  about the agency  based on the briefing from Akpabio , the minister of the  Niger Delta and the governors from the region  became convinced  that the projects  that had been executed over the years by NNDC, was not commensurate to the budgetary allocation  to it .

An aggrieved President Buhari had said: with the amount of  money  which the government  has allocated   to the Commission  ,over the years, there ought to be projects on ground to show for it. He has made it clear to those that cares to listen that those responsible  for  the control  and management of the agency since inception have explanation  to give on certain issues. This is bad news for Onyema Ugochukwu, a pioneer Managing Director of  the Commission and those that came  after him  as their years in the agency would be subjected to serious scrutiny.  

But the  question on the lips of most people is: why  is the  region be littered with may  abandoned projects? .  Investigation by The Value News shows that  past and present Administration had  made adequate budgetary allocations to the Commission to enable it carry out  its mandate of developing the region.   Take for instance in 2017, the budgetary allocation for the Commission for Capital projects was N61 billion  but in 2018, the Katsina state born Nigerian President was said to have increased to   N71,20 billion.

 The President had justified the increase  to further  support  the development  of the  region.    Henshaw , the NNDC,  Chairman , however,revealed  that only  N50 billion was released to the Agency  that year., which analysts believe was not enough given the terrain of the region.  This because only one two Contracts could easily  take the budgetary  allocation , leaving little or nothing other projects.

This may have informed why the Oil Producing  and Exploration Companies operating in the region  had thrown their financial weight behind the Commission to ensure they execute their projects without complaints of  paucity of funds.  Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC,  alone was aid to have remitted  over  $2 billion or about N720 billion , going by the official  current exchange rate of N305.00 to a dollar, to the Commission over the last 16 years.   That w much was confirmed by  Igo Weli,  the Company External Manager,  External Relations. Shell revelation may have opened a can of worms on how the Staff frittered  away its resources to suit their personal interest.

Senator Ewa Henshaw: Chairman NNDC, Put The Agency Debt Owed Contractors At N1 trillion

Worried by  Complaints  of too many abandoned projects in the region by the people,  Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, had set up an Ad-hoc Committee on NNDC, to  look into the matter and report back to the House.

It was learnt  that the Committee had  extended invitation to some of the Contractors to appear at its  public hearing over the uncompleted projects  linked them. The public hearing may have provided opportunity for the Contractors to open up on the rot in the Commission.

 The Contractors who were said to have appeared at the House Ad-hoc Committee on NNDC, public hearing  had blamed  the indiscriminate award of Contracts  by the agency  with financial back up to the problem of abandoned projects that litter the region.   More shocking revelation was the allegation of the  active Connivance between  some top Officials of the Agency  and  some  Engineers of the agency hired as Consultant  who bargain for cuts  from the  Contracting firms for assisting them  to get the jobs.

 Perhaps, what may  shocked the House Committee members  was the revelation of how the Commercial Banks were   involved  in the abuse  of the due process in the award of the Contract, thus  complicating  the issue of the Contractors  access to funds to execute projects which they have won the contract in different parts of the region.

Already, Buhari , has won the heart of the people of the Niger Delta for taking the bold initiative to probe the Commission. Jeffrey Emerson, a Development Economist based in Port Harcourt , Capital of Rivers state, had described  the move as very ‘’laudable and Commendable’’.

Johnson Dibia, the President of Ijaw Diaspora Coalition  reportedly  cited the secret  interview that was said to have been conducted by the present   Management of the agency to engage 300 new Staff without the approval of the Board as one of  the clever ways of perpetuating fraud in the agency. According to him, ‘’it took the intervention of well- meaning people in the region to stop the exercise. T

Dibia may have given the President a clue on the areas to cover in the probe to get to the root of the rot in the agency and how  past and Present  Management   spent the yearly budgetary allocation of the agency.

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