Many Battles of NDDC Boss

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Following alleged refusal to pay his debts and failure to honour a loan obligation, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Corporation, Nsima Ekere ‎had his bank accounts frozen, following an order of a federal court. Segun James takes a look at the many battles Ekere has had to face since he was a deputy governor of Akwa Ibom state

In Nigerian politics, there are two ways in dealing with aching problems in the polity: one is to blame imaginary enemies for whatever is happening even though the truth is obvious and glaring; the other is to pretend and assume that the problem would go away with time.

Whichever of these solutions Mr. Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) and former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom state may have applied, it seems not to be working for him.

Recently, a Federal High Court in Uyo ordered that all monies in his bank accounts be frozen. His plot of land located at Plot A, 921 Lagos Street, Ewet Housing Estate, Akwa-Ibom was also seized.

The court’s decision came at a most embarrassing time for Ekere who, since being announced the NDDC boss has assumed more respectability after years in the (political) cold.

He was said to have obtained a twenty-seven million naira loan from now defunct Oceanic Banks and refused to pay the debt, a common practice among Nigerian political class.

As a result of his failure to pay the debts, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the receiver company of Oceanic Bank dragged Ekere to court and got an injunction freezing all his bank accounts, until the plaintiff (AMCON) recovers its money from the defendant.

In the ruling delivered on Thursday, March 20, 2017 in case number: FHC/UY/CS/36/2017, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Uyo ordered as follows:

“That an order is thus granted to freeze all monies and/or whatsoever assets due to the defendants from all bank accounts maintained by him with all commercial banks in Nigeria to wit: Access Bank Nigeria Plc, Citi Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Eco Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monumental Bank, And First Bank Of Nigeria.

“Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Heritage Bank Plc, Jaiz Bank, Keystone Bank Plc, Skye Bank Plc, Stanbic Ibtc Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Plc, Union Bank Plc, Unity Bank Of Nigeria, United Bank Of Nigeria, Wema Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, situate up to the Plaintiff/Applicant’s claim of the sum of N27,022,720.93 (Twenty-seven million, Twenty-two thousand, Seven hundred and Twenty Naira, Ninety-three Kobo) only being a debt owed by the defendant as at 20th February 2017 in respect of the credit facility granted to the defendant by the defunct Oceanic Bank International Plc. (now Eco Bank Plc.).

“The defendant, his agents, privies or any other person natural or artificial, however so-called, under the control of the defendant, is restrained from transferring or otherwise dealing with any monies standing to the credit of the defendant with any of the aforementioned banks wherever situated up to the amount of the plaintiff/applicant’s claim of the sum of N27,022,720,93.

The court also ordered the commissioner of police to provide mobile police security to the plaintiff to assist the enforcement of taking over of Ekere’s plot of land located at Ewet Housing Estate in Uyo.

All these are coming on the heels of a bombshell released by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Prof. Itse Sagay, saying the NNDC was extremely corrupt and lacked transparency.

According to him, the recklessness with which public officers spend public funds is insensitive to the point of insanity.

Sagay who spoke in March, 2017 at the opening of a two-day national dialogue on corruption organised by PACAC in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President accused NDDC of buying 70 cars, including eight Super Lexus Jeeps at N78 million each and 10 Landcruisers SUVs each costing N63 million.

He said: “The cars were bought with money from funds meant for infrastructure, water, housing, hospital and schools, without conscience and without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta.

“These huge sums were plundered from their allocations and yet the Managing Director was ironically complaining as reported by the newspapers of Feb. 6, 2017 that the NDDC lacks funds to executive projects. The managing director also said that NDDC was in debt up to the tune of N1.2 trillion. What an irony.”

Ekere was not new to controversy. As deputy governor to Godswill Akpabio, in 2012, he resigned from office through a two-paragraph letter to the governor saying he resigned for personal reasons. However, it was generally believed that the resignation was tendered to stave off an impeachment notice from the House of Assembly. Ekere, who until then was been considered as one of the leading candidates to succeed Akpabio in the 2015 election, was caught up in the intrigues surrounding the 2015 race.

In the resignation letter, dated October 31, 2012, Ekere said: “Pursuant to Section 306 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), I kindly notify you of my resignation from the office of Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State forthwith on personal grounds.

“I want to thank you immensely for the opportunity to serve Akwa Ibom State and wish you and the good people of Akwa Ibom State well in the remaining years of your administration.” The resignation letter personally signed by him was received by the governor.

Speaking on the reason why he had to let go Ekere as his deputy, Akpabio has this to say. “My choice of deputy was Nsima Ekere. I brought him on board, that is the one you could say there was a disagreement and then, the disagreement was not because of the fact that he was not a good guy, the problem was that of political exigency.

“The reason was that a mega party was coming in Nigeria, and the emergence of the mega party meant that some of my colleagues like the one in Rivers state were a key player and it was time to recruit people very close to me as part and parcel of the mega party. And he may have resisted, but because of their very close relationship, he could also be used as a medium to create insecurity in my state.

“So the reason is that it was for the political survival of my administration that Nsima Ekere resigned. That’s why I’m very happy that God has given him opportunity as Managing Director of NDDC. I applaud him and I wish him the best and a successful tenure in that establishment.

“A deputy governor is like a wife, it’s a marriage between a man and a woman and so the man has to be comfortable with his wife for the marriage to continue. You can have social friends and there is social cohesion, but politically you may not be cohesive because people have different ideologies, so sometimes, there could be disagreement between friends politically, but socially they agree. So that almost ended up in impeachment. You can’t blame him. It must be the political barometer because you can see that politics is dynamic, just like you see insecurity is dynamic.”

That President Muhammadu Buhari was going to appoint a person from Akwa Ibom as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was not surprising. Following the Act that established the commission, it is not only the turn of the state to produce the chief executive of the commission which rotates among the oil producing states according to oil production quota, but that the state still has about two more years to run on its four years tenure, before another state takes over

The surprise however is the submission of the name of former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Nsima Ekere to the Senate for confirmation by the President. Ekere replaced Mrs. Ibim Semenitari who had acted as the Managing Director of the commission since Mr. Bassey Dan Abia was removed by the president. With only 17 months and two days in office, Mr. Ekere had the shortest tenure as deputy governor in Akwa Ibom’s history.

Today, Ekere’s credibility is on the line in his battle to extricate himself from the belief that he is one of those who used political influence while in office to take loans from bank without any intent of paying back.

This is triggering a nasty debate over whether such people who have been found wanting should be allowed to continue holding public position, but whatever the situation, Ekere has a lot of explaining to do.

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Ekere was not new to controversy. As deputy governor to Godswill Akpabio, in 2012, he resigned from office through a two-paragraph letter to the governor saying he resigned for personal reasons. However, it was generally believed that the resignation was tendered to stave off an impeachment notice from the House of Assembly. Ekere, who until then was been considered as one of the leading candidates to succeed Akpabio in the 2015 election, was caught up in the intrigues surrounding the 2015 race.