Enduring Drama at NDDC: Press Pause


Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that federal lawmakers investigating financial infractions at the Niger Delta Development Commission may have established a prima facie case against the Minster of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the NDDC Interim Management Committee

Three weeks of enduring action drama highlighting sordid happenings at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been put on hold as the leadership of the House of Representatives pressed ‘pause’, while the audience which had been following every move as federal lawmakers probe alleged financial infractions involving over N80 billion in the interventionist agency now have to wait with bated breath.

No one knows when the “indefinite suspension” on the probe will be lifted. It could be that the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila will have a rethink if Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio acts fast on his demand to name within 48 hours federal lawmakers who got NDDC contracts. In desperation to save his reputation and moral character which have been torn to shreds by the incisive probe and damning evidence from the former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Ms Joi Nunieh, Akpabio made a last ditch attempt to turn the tide against the legislators.

He fired a salvo that rattled his hunters. According to him, ‘sixty percent of contracts at the NDDC were given to the legislators.” Sensing that Akpabio was primed to do maximum damage to them, the Chairman of the committee whose repeated banging of the gavel to halt the altercation between the Minister and a female legislator were ignored, shouted that Akpabio’s microphone be put on mute.

His action, however, was akin to shutting the barn when the horse had escaped. Akpabio had already fired his revenge and may have continued wrecking more destruction on his trail had he not been reined in.
The Akpabio salvo against the legislators nearly took attention away from the manifest weakness of the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Professor Kema Pondei. Another glaring flaw became apparent. There is no First Aid facility at the National Assembly.

Whatever hit Pondei and caused him to lose composure temporarily remains in the realm of conjecture. Some of the theories being bandied about include, but are not limited to, suspect physical fitness pronounced by unaddressed health challenges, a round of voodoo attack from Akpabio and plain acting.. Nigerian politicians and political office holders are known to go into spells of fainting in public, particularly when put under weight of interrogating authorities. We have seen such drama play out with Senator Dina Melaye and the former National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh; to mention a few.

Before the curtain was drawn temporarily on the continuing drama at the NDDC, it may be assumed and correctly so that the case of financial infractions which the lawmakers sought to establish have been made clear for all to see.

And that was the point at which Pondei fainted. The weight of evidence against his management team which he admitted was so much. First he admitted that the amount they spent on themselves was N1.3 billion and not N1.5 billion, but no one cared to know the difference between six and half a dozen. He said they were making arrangements to pay students on NDDC scholarship. The question is, was it right to spend monies not appropriated, since the NDDC has no approved budget for 2020? Pondei could see where this was leading and the force of the coming judgement knocked him out.

But not Akpabio who was still grandstanding and was not at all remorseful, even though he admitted that he sometimes assumed the powers of the MD of the NDDC. So, in total disregard to all the laws governing procurement and public spending, the Minister went on a spending spree of NDDC monies. Even if the probe ends now, the lawmakers have enough to prove that the Minister and the NDDC Interim Management Committee exercised financial discretion that completely trampled the laws of the land.