By Stephen Ubanna
The quarrel between Joy Nunieh , immediate past Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC and Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom state and now minister of ministry of Niger Delta has taken a turn for the worse.
Nunieh had accused Akpabio of being instrumental for her removal from office by President Muhammadu Buhari. She had made some damning allegations against the minister of collecting 30 different Contracts from the Commission on distilling and water hyacinth.
More damning was her exposition that the minister made a demand for $1 million during Christmas. It could not be ascertained whether it was a yearly demand or not. She had also said that the minister mismanaged the Intervention agency N40 billion as well as influences its yearly budget.
She may have dragged Akpabio into a major confrontation with the National Assembly when she said he asked her to write a letter to President Muhammadu Buari, indicting Peter Nwaoboshi, Chairman , Senate Committee on NDDC and his counterpart in the House for collecting Contracts from the Commissiion which she refused to do.
She had said that Cairo Ojougboh, Executive Director, Projects had agreed to do the letter but the minister insisted that she must do the covering note with her letter head , before submitting it to the Committee. Again, Nunieh, who would not allow herself to be pushed around by Akpabio said she refused to do it. Instead she disclosed that she wrote was that Ojuogboh, Executive Director Projects who did the letter had left NDDC.
The NDDC , Senate Committee members may have gotten wind of the accusations and counter-accusations between Nunieh and Akpabio over the issue of the Committee members collecting contracts from the Commission that it challenged the agency to publish the records of the alleged multiple contracts awarded the Senators.
Pehaps, to get to the root of the matter, Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President had Constituted a seven-man Committee to investigate the allegations of Corruption and counter –allegations of Corruption between Nunieh and Akpabio. Recall that the former NDDC boss, had said that the minister would never want to sign any document to avoid being linked to any fraud but would encourage the Directors to do it.
Nunieh who had appeared before the Senate Committee where she made the damning allegations against Akpabio was due to appear before the House Committee on NDDC, on Monday to face a similar interrogation. Butsecurity report might have leaked out that her life was in danger forcing Nyesom Wike, the People’s Demoratic Party, PDP, governor of the state to give his words to rescue her from any attack.
True to his promise , on Thursday, July 16, 2020, some 50 armed police were said to have stormed her residence in PortHarcourt in an unholy hour with the intention to whisk her away. While speaking with Channels Television, she disclosed that they made several attempts to break into the house as she was said to have made efforts to reach out to the governor. The governor may have gotten wind of the security agents raid in her house that he rushed to scene. His appearance may have frustrated their plan to forcefully arrest her as he took her away the state government House. She was said to have reached out to Joseph Mukan , the state Commissioner of Police ,who promised to send to reinforcement but that was how far he could go.
Many believe that both for the governor’s intervention, she could have been kidnapped by the security operatives , who claimed to be members of the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Monitoring Unit . Wike , who could not hide his feelings , said he police raid on Nunieh, the former NDDC , Managing Director’s residence was a’’ disgrace’’, stressing that the best option would have been to invite he for questioning instead of using force to take her away.
He pointed out that for the security Operatives to have stormed the former NDDC, helmsman’s residence at such odd hours of the night suggests some sinister motive that could not be tolerated. ‘’Who knows what would have happened to her if they had gained access to her main room’’, he queried. Infact, the embattled former NDDC , boss said they banged at the back door of the house heavily with the intention to broke in but were not lucky.
A s at the time of writing this resport, Nunieh , the former NDDC boss was still at the state government House .But Mukan, the state Commissioner of Police has asked the governor to hand over to the state Command as it is their responsibility to keep her their Custody. The CP, who could not hide his feelings had told Journalists on Friday, July 17, 2020, that though it is the governor is free to protect his Citizens, ‘’he should however do that within the Confines of he Law’’. He stated that under normal circumstance he is supposed to have turned her to the Command that he is in a better position to take to the Government House.
The governor may have his reason for still keeping her at the government. This is because of the way and manner the armed security agents raided her house without warrant of arrest. Reacting to the governor’s claim that the police Operation in her house was illegal, the police Chief had explained that there was nothing wrong about it. He explained that ‘’it is not in every circumstance that a warrant of arrest is obtained’’. He may have shocked Nigerians when he said ‘’the operation was valid’’ .He is optimistic the governor will still hand over to the state Police Command.
The House Committee on NDDC, may have taken a cue from the Senate Investigative Committee as it has invited Akpbabio and Kemebradikumo Pondei, a Professor and the Managing Director of the agency to appear before it on Monday, July 20, 2020.
Recall, that Nunieh, the Rivers state born former Managing Director of the Commission, had appeared before the Committee on Friday, July 17, 2020, where she gave her presentation, via Zoom. She was billed to appear before the House Committee last Thursday but her house was besieged by armed security men but she was said to have asked the Committee members to disregard allegations and news making the rounds that the agency Contractors paid bribe , stressing that there was nothing like that. ‘’No Contractor paid bribes to secure a job’’, she said.
Pondei, may have angered the Lawmakers when he said he will not partake in an Investigative hearing presided over by the Chairman of the House Committee on NDDC who has been accused by the Commission of ‘’ hijacking the agency’s Contracts. Pondei, the NDDC, Managing Director, had refused to make presentations to the House Committee on the ground that ‘’the Commission will not get a fair hearing’’.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, has ordered ‘’a speedy and effective Coordination among the security and Investigating agencies along with the National Assembly into the allegations of Corruption rocking the NDDC.
Garba Shehu,a senior Special Assistant to the Kastina state born Nigerian President on Media and Publicity, may have spoken the mind of the President when he said that ‘’such Coordination had become imperative in view of the Administration’s efforts to bring sanity, transparency and accountability to the management of the huge resources being allocated to the development of the Niger Delta sub-region yearly. There is no gain saying the fact that between 2007 and now, billions of naira have been allocated for the development of the region but nothing to show for it as the agency had turned itself as an agency noted for dolling out multi-million Contracts. This may have informed why the nine states that make up the region are dotted with several abandoned projects.
Many believe that the rofoRofo war of words between Nunieh, the former NDDC, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, and Akpabio, have exposed the rot in the Commission and while the region has remained underdeveloped. Many believe that the plan to kidnap the NDDC boss by the 50 armed security men was designed to silence her from talking .