By Gidado Ibrahim
Institutions of state are created to, among other things, accelerate the socio-economic development. So was the intention of the federal government for establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC) at the return to democracy in 1999 to fastrack the development of the Niger Delta region.
Sadly, the noble initiative has become for nefarious men a conduit pipe through which money meant for the development of the area that lays the golden egg is channeled into private purses, leaving the Niger Delta littered with abandoned projects. This is to the extent that audit report revealed the region has become a graveyard for white elephant project.
It was in a bid to redress this ugly trend that Minister of Niger Delta Development, Obong Godswill Akpabio, cried out for urgent and drastic action to be taken, including auditing of the outfit since inception. As expected, those who had been milking the ‘fat cow’ have since started a hunt for the former governor of Akwa Ibom State.
The call for Apkabio’s sack by certain Niger Delta groups is greatest mischief of the century. If not, how would some hawks describe a situation Akpabio’s intention of repositioning the NNDC as an offense. For the records, President Muhammadu Buhari’s choice of Akpabio as the Minister of the Niger Delta is deliberate and an eloquent testimony of him as an uncommon achiever.
To achieve their sinister plot, financed by those who don’t mean well for the people of the Niger Delta and Nigeria but only themselves, they have conscripted the disgruntled section of the media, who despite been aware of Akpabio’s pedigree and track records, are standing truth on its head by dangling false claims before Nigerians, the aim of which is to discredit Akpabio.
In one of their sponsored falsehood, a publication claimed presidency may takeover NNDC. All these are handiwork of mischief makers, who have soiled their hands in the coffers of NNDC. But the president will not succumb to their antics. Rather, Akpabio will be given all the support he needs to implement his lofty plans and those who play one role or the other in reducing the NNDC to lame-duck should be ready to face the music because under president Buhari, it is no longer business as usual. No amount of intimidation will deter Akpabio from executing the president’s plans.
Good enough, the founding fathers of the NDDC have expressed full support for the Niger Delta Minister on his bokd step to setting up an Interim Management Committee for the commission. At a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, Prof Jasper Jumbo, who wrote the blueprint for the establishment of both NDDC and its predecessor, OMPADEC, said that the founding fathers have no doubt that the Dr Joy Nunieh-led Interim Management Committee will do a good job of attending to the needs of the long suffering people of the region.
They observed that in the past few years, politicians had used the commission as a cash cow to further their political interests, and warned those of them that wish to realise various political ambitions in 2023 general election putting the use of the NDDC in their calculations that they will be vehemently resisted by the youths of the Niger Delta. Prof Jumbo advised the leaders of Ijaw Youth Congress who called for the sack of the Niger Delta Affairs Minister to tread softly as the Commission had many challenges and obstacles that required an outstanding political leader with pedigree of the caliber of Senator Akpabio to tackle.
He called on the Federal Government to ensure that the Forensic Audit of the Commission from 2001 – 2019 should be conducted by knowledgeable professionals who should do a thorough job without any outside interference, in order that the nation will know exactly the degree of corrupt practices, number of abandoned projects and how billions of naira went down the drain instead of alleviating the sufferings of the Niger Delta people.
As part of their strategy, these unpatriotic elements have also resolved to penetrate the judiciary so that within the period of the audit, the aggrieved stakeholders would have ample time to seek legal scrutiny of the law and ask that the new board members be inaugurated to supervise the forensic audit.
The gang up might be intense and high wire but Obong Akpabio is coming with clean hands. So he has nothing to fear. A body which styled itself as ‘Forum Of APC State Chairmen’, called for the sack of Akpabio as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Also, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has called for the immediate sacking of Akpabio, over his interference in the affairs of the NDDC.
The successful screening the former deputy governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu as the nominee for the position of Chairman, Board of NDDC is a pointer that Akpabio master plan is working and their gangup is falling like packs of cards. The Senator Peter Nwaoboshi-led Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs also screened the nominee for the position of Managing Director, Bernard Okumagba from Delta State.
Rather than condemnation and backstabbing, Akpabio should be commended for his courage to bell the cat. The issue of neck-deep corruption in NNDC has been a pain in the ass of every Nigerian but the courage to take decisive action has been lacking but Obong Akpabio, knowing exactly what the intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari are before appointing him, decided to turn the table in order to ensure that the NNDC is repositioned for optimal performance.
Ibrahim is Director, Communication and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC)
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