By Etim Etim weighs in on the season of musical chairs at the Niger Delta Development Commission
The sack of Ms Joi Nunieh last week as the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC has provided dubious contractors and corrupt politicians another opportunity to betray their anger at the reforms going on at the agency. These compromised politicians and their fronts, some of whom are fraudulent contractors who were paid mobilization fees by the NDDC, but did not execute the jobs, are still asking the President to sack the Interim Management Committee of the agency. They are so scared of the forensic audit and the ongoing verifications of contracts exercise at the NDDC that they have gone back to their old tactics of sponsoring articles and news stories to denigrate the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio and spread falsehood against the President and the federal government. I have always known politicians to be men of selfish and parochial tendencies, but it is unimaginable that they would openly go against a programme of the federal government that seeks to reposition the commission for the greater benefit of the people.
In an article titled “Why Buhari must stop Akpabio’s circus at the NDDC” published in a blog (National Template), Mr. Abiye Tolofari argues that the IMC should be sacked because it is a waste of time. In another piece titled ‘’Akpabio has brought NDDC to its knees’’, written by Festus Ahon and published recently in Vanguard newspaper, the writer spent precious newsprint space insulting Senator Akpabio and President Buhari. The writer curiously alleges that Akpabio has succeded ‘’in arm-twisting Mr President to concede the supervision of the NDDC to him…’’. Such an insulting and intemperate accusation could only come from people with warped minds and cruel agenda. The mere thought that a minister can ‘’arm twist’’ a leader of General Muhammadu Buhari’s calibre is thoughtlessness taken too far. Clearly, these writers are working for people who have personal grudges to grind with the honourable minister. We have identified a few of them. There are those from Akpabio’s home state of Akwa Ibom who believe that the minister is standing between them and their political advancement. They are the ones who sponsored scurrilous articles in the newspapers and online news sites against Senator Akpabio soon after the last general elections, hoping that they could thwart his ministerial appointment.
These phantom and hack writers are also paid by some members of the National Assembly who are sad that the IMC has truncated their previous dealings with the NDDC. These spineless politicians have forgotten that the President has access to the most sophisticated intelligence in the country. He is being briefed daily of their clandestine scheming. The President, who ordered the forensic audit exercise, is also aware that these politicians and their fraudulent contractors do not have altruistic reasons for their actions. Everything is about them and their families only. They only indulge in massive acquisition of properly, estates and women. President Muhammadu Buhari is not a man of fickle mind. He is committed to anti corruption war, a major thrust of his administration, and the overhaul and strengthening of the NDDC is a major programme of his administration. There is no amount of newspaper articles that will sway this President from the path of righteousness which will benefit the people of Nigeria. Have they forgotten so soon who General Buhari is? This is the same Buhari who dealt a fatal blow on economic saboteurs in 1984 by changing the colour of our currency, thereby sending counterfeiters to their waterloo; this is the same Buhari that pursued drug barons mercilessly when he was a military Head of State and this is the Buhari that has closed our land borders against smugglers and drug pushers irrespective of the wailings of other ECOWAS leaders. So, oh ye! Niger Delta politicians, continue wailing and sponsoring articles against the NDDC, Akpabio and forensic audit. But I assure you that the IMC will succeed in taking this exercise to its fruitful conclusion.
On the issue of the former Ag Managing Director of the Commission, I should note that Ms Nunieh was removed from office for insubordination and inability to function effectively at senior executive capacity. The controversy over her NYSC participation did not help matters though. With a new Acting MD in the person of Prof Pondei appointed and the infusion of more hands into the IMC, the President is unrelenting in his efforts to rid the commission of its sordid past. I am however surprised that many of disgruntled stakeholders in the Niger Delta region are still obsessed with the notion that the forensic audit exercise is a personal agenda of Senator Godswill Akpabio. These naysayers and blackmailers, who are no longer feeding off from the contract bazaars, slush funds and underhand deals at the NDDC, are now venting their anger on the Honourable Minister. It is important to reiterate that whether Akpabio remains the Niger Delta Minister or not, President Buhari will never backtrack from implementing the forensic audit exercise.
So far, the Federal Executive Council has already appointed the Lead Auditor, Olumuyiwa & Co, who will in turn appoint several other auditors to work with. Their total fee is N318m. Please note that the Lead Auditor is neither an Akwa Ibom man nor a Fulani man! The audit exercise should last about six to eight months from the day of commencement. Senator Akpabio has consistently assured that the exercise is not out to witch hunt any past management team or managing director of the NDDC. Rather, the auditors are mainly to ascertain those contractors who have bolted away with the commission’s upfront payments without executing the jobs. The auditors will also recommend new governance systems for the Commission to cushion it against further abuses.
The appointment of Prof Pondei as the new Ag. MD, a professor of medicine and former university VC, attests to the President’s inclination to look outside politics in sourcing key leaders for the agency. I congratulate Prof Pondei and wish to assure him of the support of genuine Niger Deltans in his new assignment.
With all these assurances, it is easy to deduce that the unceasing insults heaped on the person of the Honourable Minister and members of the IMC by some politicians, contractors and their paid hack writers like Tolofari and Ahon (assuming they are real persons) are borne out of their guilt.
These nefarious individuals and economic saboteurs should be reminded that President Buhari does not flinch once he’s mind is set on a noble cause. If the President had not capitulated over border closure, pursuit of corrupt politicians and terrorists, he will never waver in his avowed commitment to enthroning a new order at the NDDC.It is notable that every key stakeholder in our region supports the forensic audit exercise: the oil companies, development partners, the sociopolitical groups, the NDDC employees and political leaders. It is only the circling hawks, hovering around for their prey, that have been whining against the President and his agenda. Why?
Etim is a journalist and PR practitioner