Clark Urges Akpabio to Give NDDC Free Hand

Edwin Clark

•President, minister didn’t impose me, says sole administrator

By Udora Orizu

A former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has urged the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to concentrate on his mandate and leave the running of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for its appointed managers.

However, the Sole Administrator of NDDC, Mr. Effiong Akwa, has refuted the claims in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari and Akpabio imposed him on the commission.

Both spoke yesterday when Akwa paid a courtesy visit to Clark in Abuja.

Clark, while acknowledging remarks earlier made by the sole administrator, said Akpabio was interfering unnecessarily in the affairs of the commission.

He urged the minister not to abandon his ministry to over concentrate on the agency.

The former minister said he was surprised when the minister announced that the East-West road would be completed by spending about N15 billion from the commission’s budget, adding that there is no provision anywhere that part of the money in the budget of NDDC should be used for it.

He called on the president to provide enough money for the completion of the road.

He said: ”NDDC was under the presidency and we know what happened; how the NDDC was used by people who had no interest in Niger Delta. Many of us never believed that removing NDDC from the presidency to Niger Delta ministry was the best thing to do because it could be misused.

But we said okay, Niger Delta ministry is our own ministry, therefore, NDDC going to Niger Delta ministry is not a bad idea.

”We know how it started but NDDC is an independent agency. The minister should not abandon his own ministry to go and concentrate on this agency. That’s the problem we have.

“Some of us have advised the minister: you have a ministry, don’t abandon your ministry to focus on NDDC. It’s not fair. The problem we have, therefore, is the constant interference with the affairs of NDDC by the minister of Niger Delta.”

He urged the federal government to make available funds for the completion of the economic road, adding that in the 2021 budget, Kano State alone has three roads costing about N50 billion.

“Do we have to go and beg for money to build roads ourselves? The minister should live above his personal interest and put the interest of Niger Delta first,” Clark said.

According to him, ”The president should provide enough money for the completion of East-West road. NDDC belongs to the people of the South-south. There was a time Obasanjo realised that he made a mistake by bringing in Ondo, Abia and Imo. So, at a certain stage, he made some amendments by saying that the coastal states of the Niger Delta reverted to the original six states. That very law establishing the NDDC provides that the amount of oil produced in a state should also determine the quality of development in that state.

“But what we have found today – you produce two-and-a-half per cent, you want development in your area more than those who produce more than 40 per cent. No individual, including Mr. President, can change the law of Nigeria. So, whatever appointment that’s made that’s contrary to the provision of the NDDC law is null and void.”

Speaking on the forensic audit, Clark said he believed in it as it will reveal a lot, adding: “I think the forensic auditing will reveal so many things. There’s nothing to show in the Niger Delta compared to the total number of years that NDDC has been in operation.”

Earlier, Akwa had said the idea that Buhari or Akpabio imposed him on the commission was not correct.

According to him, the commission will pursue payment of contractors that did their verified jobs.

“I’m pleading that people of Niger Delta should support our leaders and allow peace to reign. And in a short while, Niger Delta will be like any other country in the world.

”I gladly took up this job from Mr. President because as a son of Niger Delta, I know the problems of the region,” he stated.