By Eddy Odivwri
One of the liturgical elements I detest in the Anglican Communion (my church) is the part, during intercessory prayers, where worshippers are enjoined to pray for the leaders in authority at every level of governance. Although it is biblical, I am not sure the intendment of the Bible is to pray for those preying on us. I do not see the rationale of beseeching the good Lord to pour blessings and benison on the leaders who are visiting the led with the harshest and most wicked acts of deprivation, roguery and injustice. I know that the Anglican Communion had copied the liturgy from the Church of England, where leaders—political or monarchical, are rather benevolent not malevolent.
Even the Catholic church, since 1998, has been offering ‘Nigeria in Distress’ prayers. But these leaders have refused to free Nigeria from distress regardless of the bounteous blessings God has bestowed in Nigeria.
I know of more radical prayer patterns in some latter day churches that will demand, in a fiery manner, that such club of leaders “fall down and die”.
If the argument is that the Bible commands it and so we should keep praying for them who inadvertently want our death and utmost discomfort, then all the prayers of the past should have touched their minds and altered their wicked ways. But no, it appears that the more they are prayed for, the more toxic they become in their bid to undo the rest of us. Were it not so, who can rationalise the load of evil deliberately perpetrated by most of those in government?
Every day we are regaled with endless and vexatious tales of how a few connive to corner our collective commonwealth while we are left in the lurch of lack, poverty, squalor and acute deprivation.
Who can rationilise the raw robbery that has been taking place at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), especially with the advent of the Interim Management Committee (IMC)?
Pray, what do sane and rational people need all those monies for? The raw heist is simply a pandemic. They are human beings, but are not being human.
How can a nation develop with such audacious crooks in the commanding height of governance? As my people would say, you get to know what a man is carrying only when his load falls.
NDDC it is whose load has fallen and that is why the nation is aghast. When the load of the NNPC or CBN or AMCON or NIDB or TETFUND or NPA or NIMASA or EFCC or ICPC, PPRA, or just any such national institution falls, perhaps many Nigerians will have cardiac arrest. Every formal entity, almost, has its own temple of corruption. It is as pervasive as air in the atmosphere.
While Dr Cairo Ojougbo, the IMC Acting Executive Director, Projects was busy hiring flying boats for N52 million to go assess awarded projects and the NDDC officials were settling themselves with N2.32 billion, Niger Deltans, nay, Nigerians are suffering and even dying because of bad roads.
Between Ologbo and Koko junction along the Benin-Warri road has totally collapsed on both sides of the road. Motorists literally burrow through bush paths, drive several kilometers in the bush just to cut off the bad portions of the Benin-Sapele highway.
But some Akpabio boys are spending N3.14 billion on COVID-19 palliatives! People can’t travel from Point A to Point B in the Niger Delta but NDDC under Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei and Senator Godswill Akpabio as acting Managing Director and Minister of Niger Delta respectively, are doling out N475 million to the Nigeria Police for Face masks and sanitisers, splurging N1.95 billion on Lassa fever, blowing N23.8 billion on Consultancy and even spending N85.6 million on foreign travels at a time the whole world is on lockdown. The way the figures are being bandied, one would think they are discussing Zimbabwean dollars. But it is our dear Naira, the stealing of 20,000 of which, or less, has sent many to jail.
At the end of the lockdown, our dear leaders in the NDDC had splurged a total of N3.14 billion. They say N40 billion is missing in a commission within seven months. But not a bridge was built nor a kilometer of road tarred anywhere, in a region starving of development. How can we be praying for such leaders who are preying on us?
All these are happening at a time that N100 billion is also missing from the coffers of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
The other day we were told that the Kaduna refinery in the whole of 2018 generated zero revenue but yet spent N65billion , some of it on staff training. Hey, what training? But no head rolled! Government is still funding that fraud. Are we a serious country?
Or what do we say to the smelly bunkum from Mr. Andrew Yakubu, former GMD of the NNPC who claimed that the $9.8m raw cash found in his house are gifts from his friends. Friends my foot! In this same country a former Petroleum minister, Professor Tam David-West was jailed for drinking tea and receiving the gift of a wrist watch.
These crooks sell short our collective intelligence and lie so cheaply. $9.8 million as gifts. Raw rubbish!
Just anywhere you turn, you are confronted with mindless acts of corruption as if there is a running promo on fraud and sleaze. It is perhaps the height of irony that corruption is peaking at a time the noise to fight it is loudest. What’s more, most of it are in the Ministry of Petroleum, headed by Mr President as its substantive minister.
All these high scale fraud would give the impression to outsiders that Nigeria is highly solvent. They would not know that the same Nigeria is neck deep in debts. As at April this year, our external debt has climbed over $25 billion. Yet these raiders masquerading as leaders are robbing the till blind. How can they be stealing borrowed money?
It is interesting hearing the national lawmakers struggling to deny the accusation that they are part of the major contractors in the NDDC. Mr Godswill Akpabio had named some lawmakers, some of whom are denying. But their denial is evidently weightless and beggars belief. If there was one truth Akpabio spoke at that public hearing, it is that lawmakers are major contractors in the NDDC. We all know they prey on the NDDC. It is very true that not only do they insert and execute many of the NDDC contracts at frightening costs, they indeed pad the NDDC budget every year. They are one of the reasons the NDDC has failed to meet the needs of the region. They must be named and shamed. Enough of crooked cover-ups. We are not all under oath!
A job that can be done with N40 million would be awarded at N400 million or more, most times to the lawmakers. Hey, if it is untrue, how can it be explained that for years unend, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi has remained the chairman of the senate committee on NDDC? No senate president dares removes him from that juicy committee. Or how is that Senator James Manager has, for over 12 years, been a veritable member of the senate committee on NDDC? What value have they brought to the funds and fortunes of the commission?
Was the story not told of how one senator uprooted the signboard of water project executed by the state government and passed the same project as NDDC-executed with a hurriedly ‘planted’ NDDC signboard when his colleagues came for over-sight functions? Did one of these senators, more than ten years ago, not get the NDDC contract for the fencing of the school in his village at the cost of N350 million? How much is the school itself?
Many of the lawmakers are clever crooks. They have been using the companies of their proxies like aides and family members to execute these huge contracts. That is why some of them are bold to challenge Akpabio to publish the names of those contracts and the CAC-verified name of the contractors. To expect that when the list of contractors is published, we would see companies belonging to Senator ABC or Hon XYZ is to expect the sun to rise from the west.
But anybody familiar with the wiles of these lawmakers in NDDC surely knows that they are a pest to the management of the commission. They harass, intimidate, blackmail, threaten and arm twist the management, all so they compel the latter to do their will.
In January I wrote “The greasy mess at the NDDC”. At the time, I didn’t even know the mess had become an oozing miasma.
Was it not revealed recently that the N3.4 billion contract for the supply of plastic chairs to schools, was awarded to fifteen different companies, all belonging to a certain senator? What is worse? When eventually the chairs were supplied, they ended up being delivered to an address which turned out to be the warehouse of the same contractor. What an ungodly greed! Gosh, how can they be this wicked and crafty and still have the nerves to sleep and wake? Do such crooks deserve our prayers?
I actually look forward to the forensic audit unearthing the masquerades in the national Assembly. That is if the audit will not be edited by some beaded crooks. It is such devilry that defies description and understanding.
That is why many Nigerians demand that the public hearing must be properly concluded. It is surprising that the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila hastily ruled that Prof Pondei would no longer physically appear before the panel probing the financial heist at the NDDC. He should be brought back, whether he is wont to faint or not. The fainting drama cannot discount the financial rape.
It is not enough to ask them to refund N4.9 billion illegally paid out, there must be consequences for confirmed fraud. In China, it is met with capital punishment. We cannot be romancing fraud and not expect a spike in corruption.
If they can take brazenly and unlawfully “take care” of themselves, they should have the strength to explain their deeds.
Hon Gbajabiamila must reassure us that the whole idea of the probe is not mere legislative shenanigan. Nigerians want to see the end of it. People who were given privileged appointments to preside over the affairs of the people cannot so brazenly indulge in barefaced financial malfeasance and they would be allowed to frolic with their loot. The lawmakers must realise their credibility (or whatever that is left of it) is at stake. Those who do not know the boundary between public treasury and their private pockets must be made to face the music squarely.