•Court restrains police from arresting her, Akpabio seeks legal redress
•Ex-NDDC boss appears before House via Zoom, says no forensic audit ongoing at NDDC
•PDP to Buhari: Suspend Akpabio, IMC immediately
By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu
Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Gobum Mukan yesterday did a dramatic about-turn and called on Governor Nyesom Wike to hand over to him, the former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr. Joi Nunieh, taking refuge at the Government House in Port Harcourt.
On the same day, Nunieh appeared before the House of Representative panel probing the activities of the commission via Zoom, and informed the panel that “there is no forensic auditing taking place at the NDDC.”
Wike had stormed the Port Harcourt residence of the former NDDC boss on Thursday and freed her from a police siege.
Mukan, according to Governor Wike, said his command was not aware of the incident.
But Mukan recanted yesterday while appearing on ARISE TV programme monitored in Port Harcourt and called on Wike to hand over Nunieh to the police.
He said the policemen came from Force Headquarters to invite the former NDDC boss to Abuja over a petition against her.
“We are aware of their coming. If people felt we were not aware of their coming, did they ask me? We are aware of their coming to the state to invite her,” he said.
Mukan also dismissed insinuations that the policemen were on an illegal mission as they did not possess a warrant of arrest.
“It is not in every situation that you need a warrant for an arrest. There are situations that you do not need a warrant to effect an arrest. So, the fact that they do not have a warrant of arrest at that moment does not mean it was an illegality within the confines of the constitution,” he said.
He also said while Wike might have freed her from the hands of people he did not trust, the governor should hand her over to the commissioner of police who is the chief law enforcement officer of the state.
Mukan said: “It is really unfortunate. Under normal circumstance, if the governor is coming to rescue her, he should have handed her over to me to protect her, as the chief law enforcement officer of the state. I still believe he will hand her over because the exercise was legitimate and within the confines of the law.
“So, he should turn her over to the police. I have gotten in touch with him personally and advised him to turn her over.”
The police commissioner also said the police did not come to prevent Nunieh from going to the National Assembly to testify in the on-going probe of the NDDC.
“We did not know that she was going to give evidence before the House of Representatives. As far as the officers who came to invite her are concerned, they are investigating a petition against her, which has nothing to do with the issue before the National Assembly. They are two different things,” he stated.
Court Restrains Police from Arresting Nunieh
Also yesterday, a Rivers State High Court issued an order retraining the police and the State Security Service from arresting or detaining Nunieh.
The Presiding Judge, Justice E. N. Thompson, gave the order on Suit No: PHC/1128 FHR/2020, between Dr. Joi Nunieh (applicant), and Senator Goodwill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs; Commissioner of Police, Rivers State; State Security Service (SSS); the Inspector General of Police; and the Nigerian Police Force (1st -5th respondents respectively).
Justice E. N. Thompson said, “That the 3rd -5th respondents are restrained from arresting, detaining and harassing the applicant pending the determination of the motion on notice.
“That the 1st and 2nd respondents are restrained from using the 3rd – 5th respondents to arrest, harass and intimidate the applicant pending the determination of the motion on notice.
“That the 3rd – 5th respondents should, without delay, unconditionally withdraw the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force from the premises of the applicant pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
The judge adjourned the matter to July 27 for hearing.
Nunieh Appears Before House Via Zoom, Says No Forensic Audit Ongoing at NDDC
Meanwhile, Nunieh yesterday appeared before the House of Representative Committee probing the activities of the development agency, and declared that “there is no forensic auditing taking place at the NDDC.”
She gave her testimony, via Zoom, due to her inability to travel to Abuja.
The Committee heard Nunieh’s position at the continuation of its investigative hearing into the alleged missing N40 billion from NDDC funds.
She told the Committee that the procedure for carrying out a forensic audit of the commission was ignored even when President Muhamadu Buhari specifically wrote to state that money required for the process should be included in the commission’s budget.
She alleged that Akpabio insisted on supervising the forensic audit, saying, the President had written a letter to the National Assembly instituting the forensic audit and suspending the appointment of the Board and that he was appointing the Interim Management Committee to supervise the forensic audit.
She stressed that what she met was not exactly what should be going on, as the minister insisted on supervising the forensic audit.
Nunieh said: “I reminded him (Akpabio) and showed him a letter that the President had written. There’s no way that we can spend the money that’s in our budget. He requested in his memo to the President that money for the funding of the forensic audit be gotten from the service wide votes. President Buhari in his wisdom refused that request and in writing said that it should be put in the NDDC appropriation budget, making NDDC the procuring entity.
“I said that to take the money and send it to the ministry will be like Federal Ministry of Health asking the Federal Medical Center that they will like to implement what’s in the budget. On the audit, while I was there, I was the one who prepared all the documents in the forensic audit.
“After that argument, I now came up to say that everything that’s done will be in accordance with the Act; the first thing I did was to go through the procurement of the lead consultants.”
She said many people clearly misunderstood the procurement process of the lead consultants, and that because she did not want any illegality or for the forensic audit to be discredited, she sought help from real consultants, and came up with the terms for the auditors.
Nunieh added: “The lead consultant that everyone is talking about is not a forensic auditor. The role of the lead consultant is to gather all the forensic auditors, all the reports and put them together.
“In the case of the forensic auditor, I do not know if they have ever carried out a forensic audit.
Can I now stand before this committee to say that the lead consultant has been procured? My answer will be no. Remember, you cannot give any approval or procure any consultant without the appropriation made by the National Assembly. The 2020 budget hasn’t even been considered or discussed not to mention being passed.”
The former NDDC managing director, who served from October 29, 2019 to February 17, 2020, noted that “everyone in Nigeria had been deceived that the forensic audit is going on, but the forensic auditors have not even been procured.
“I want to say here that if Nigerians find out that the forensic audit is going on, every testimony and allegations that I have made should be canceled and disregarded. There’s no forensic audit going on. Secondly, can I say that the forensic auditors have been procured? My answer is no.”
Asked by the committee to explain the rationale behind the sum of N641 million used by the NDDC for media support for the forensic audit across the nine states of the Niger Delta, Nunieh said she knew nothing about it and that it did not happen during her tenure, adding that she only spent N8 billion throughout her tenure.
“Contracts were given out to some companies that were not registered; some got registered after they were given the contract. In some cases, contracts were pre-awarded before the designs were given. So, you find out that most of the projects were abandoned,” she said.
She recommended that the committee should get a list of certified forensic auditors in Nigeria from the Auditor General of the Federation in order to help in carrying out a proper forensic audit of the NDDC.
Nunieh said, “The audit is not just financial, it’s supposed to look through the personnel of the NDDC. When we are talking about billions of Naira being spent by the commission, it’s unbelievable that they don’t have up to 10 engineers. The staff audit is necessary.
“Mr. President should direct the immediate establishment of a national procurement council in NDDC; it should be the first thing even before we talk about a forensic audit. That could help Nigeria save so much money in terms of fraud and corruption.
“We didn’t have this problem from the records I saw when the NDDC was under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The NDDC, I will recommend, should be taken back to the office of the SGF.
“At the NDDC, I want to make it clear that when Akpabio saw I was not cooperating, he refused them to give me an official vehicle. I didn’t have an official vehicle. When I first came in, there were two bulletproof cars that I was using. I came to Abuja, a gentleman met me at the airport and said I’m one of your contractors, I’m the one that gave you the car that you are using, and I said so I’m using a contractor’s car and I’m supposed to supervise a forensic audit.
“I told Akpabio I thought the car I was using was from the commission. He said don’t worry; the man is a very good friend of mine. When I got back to Port Harcourt, I returned the car. The second car is still at the mechanic’s, but after what happened yesterday (Thursday), I asked them to go and collect it so they won’t say it’s because I wrecked the car.”
Nunieh also called on the National Assembly to intensify its oversight function, adding, “To Akpabio, he felt the President has delegated all the powers to him. He felt he also had the powers of the Board. There must be a reorientation for the ministers.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives committee yesterday summoned Akpabio, as well as the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC to appear before it on Monday to answer questions on allegations against them.
The committee issued the summons after Nunieh, made a series of allegations against him, concerning his administration of the NDDC.
The investigation of the NDDC got messier on Thursday as the police invaded the Port Harcourt residence of Nunieh.
It was alleged that the invasion was to prevent Nunieh from moving from Port Harcourt to Abuja to testify before the panel.
The police later broke the back door of the house, gained access to the kitchen and tried to break the connecting door into her apartment.
However, before they could gain entrance, Wike arrived with his team of security men from Government House and took her to the Government House where she is currently taking refuge.
Nunieh has been engaged in a running battle with Minister of Niger Delta, on the alleged corruption in the NDDC.
PDP to Buhari: Suspend Akpabio, IMC Immediately
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday called on President Buhari to immediately suspend Akpabio, following huge fraud allegations against him in the worsening corruption saga rocking the NDDC.
The party also asked the President to immediately disband the corruption-ridden IMC of the NDDC where officials have been fingered to engage in unbridled looting of funds meant for the development of the area under the Buhari administration.
The PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said with the unearthing of corruption, treasury looting, recklessness and manifest public unruliness of the NDDC’s management, the minister and the IMC have become a huge embarrassment, not only to the Buhari administration, but also to the Niger Delta region and the nation at large.
The party insisted that though President Buhari had ordered a “speedy and coordinated investigation” of the activities of the NDDC management, such an important probe would not yield any credible result as long as Akpabio and the indicted IMC were still in charge in the commission.
The PDP stated that the immediate suspension of the minister and members of the IMC was the only way to ensure that such individuals did not interfere with investigations or tamper with vital documents.
According to the PDP, “Our party also urges the IGP to provide adequate protection for Ms. Nunieh and other witnesses in the probe from the corrupt cabal in the NDDC, who have shown to be desperate to silence witnesses in order to cover their trails.”
Akpabio Seeks Legal Redress
In a related development, Akpabio yesterday threatened to take legal action against Nunieh, for allegedly defaming his character.
This threat was contained in a statement titled, “Akpabio to sue Joy Nunieh for defamation, denies ‘false allegations’,” signed by his special assistant, Anietie Ekong, in Abuja, said the minister has already instructed his lawyers to seek legal redress.
Ekong described Joy’s allegations against his principal as tissues of lies noting that at no time did the minister make advances towards her.
The statement read in part, “The Honourable Minister’s initial attitude was to allow his lawyers and the judicial system vindicate him of the false allegations against him, but he is compelled to react to some of the wayward allegations levied against his person by Ms. Nunieh, especially the one bothering on sexual harassment.
“To start with, let it be known that there is no scintilla of truth in all the allegations peddled around by Ms. Nunieh. They are simply false.
“The Honourable Minister did not at any time, place or circumstance make any form of sexual advances to Ms. Nunieh, not even to put himself in a position or posture suggestive of sexual advances towards Ms. Nunieh, or any female staff of his Ministry or the NDDC.