By Deji Elumoye
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has stated that contrary to the allegations of the National Assembly, no N40 billion fraud has been perpetrated in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The two chambers of the National Assembly had on Tuesday resolved to probe the alleged N40 billion financial recklessness of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC in the last three months.
Akpabio, whose ministry supervises the NDDC, in a statement entitled “Re: National Assembly probes alleged N40bn corruption in NDDC”, issued on Friday by his Chief Press Secretary, Anietie Ekong, explained that under the supervision of the Niger Delta Affairs ministry, no corruption has been recorded in the NDDC.
According to the release, there has been an upsurge in attacks on the Commission, the IMC and the minister through spurious and unsubstantiated allegations since the commencement of forensic audit of the Commission, adding that unfortunately, these phantom allegations have found their ways into the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly.
The Commission, the statement said, had explained that the IMC has only approved the total payment of N18 billion for contractual claims.
The release stated inter alia: “The payments to contractors are all payments for contracts awarded by previous administrations, especially the payment for contracts below N50 million. The present management has not awarded any single contract. So where is the bogey N40 billion coming from?
“It is instructive that the Commission under the supervision of Senator Akpabio has devised a strategy by which only duly verified and inspected contracts with photo and video evidences are recommended and approved for payments. The Interim Management Committee has been very prudent in managing the affairs of the interventionist agency.
“The interest of Senator Akpabio has been to ensure that the NDDC completes its headquarters building started since the days of the defunct Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), the contract of which was awarded with the approval of the Federal Executive Council many years before Senator Akpabio became the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
“Following the recent presidential approval, the NDDC is also providing intervention support to complement efforts of the federal and state governments against further spread of Covid-19 in the nine states of the Niger Delta.
“Senator Akpabio is upbeat about the plan to probe the NDDC as he has no skeleton in his cupboard. In fact, he will welcome a public hearing beamed live for all Nigerians to see. The probe of the Commission along with the ongoing forensic audit will expose those who have used their exalted positions over the years to fleece the NDDC through fully paid contracts which were never executed and other forms of contact racketeering.
“While we await the probe if carried through, we find it extremely insulting for Senator Akpabio’s name to be dragged into what is obviously a smear campaign.
“The general public should not be misled by spurious claims. The NDDC under the supervision of Senator Akpabio will not be distracted, neither will the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission be derailed through blackmail and intimidation. The minister will remain focused on the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari to reposition the Commission for sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.”