The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has been dragged before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on allegations of corruption and financial recklessness in the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The petition to the Anti-Corruption agencies was dated April 07 2020 and signed by Hosanna Oluyemi Jalogho-Williams. Both agencies have acknowledged receiving the petition.
The petition, titled ‘Petition Against Chief Godswill Akpabio over Gross Mismanagement, Financial Recklessness, Fraud and Indebtedness of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Under His Supervision/Leadership as Minister for Niger Delta Affairs’, the five-page document details allegations of graft and financial recklessness in the NDDC orchestrated by Chief Akpabio and the interim management committee.
According to the petitioner NDDC is in a state of “indebtedness because funds are being looted and siphoned using three forms of phoney contracts, namely: Clearing of Water Hyacinths; Emergency Jobs; and River De-silting,” which it claimed are “phoney contracts used by corrupt and greedy leaders at the helm of affairs within the NDDC and their cohorts in the Presidency to steal the monies that have been voted to improve the livelihood of the Niger Delta people.”
It added that the contracts did not follow the “regulations and approved threshold stipulated by the Bureau of Public Procurements (BPP), as they are not genuine and cannot be verified.” Yet, these contracts are prioritised for payments “because the funds are circling back to the corrupt executives, while payments of genuine contractors with jobs that have followed due process, have been completed and verified are ignored and left to suffer,” because the “well-intentioned forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of the looting of NDDC’s resources has become a ruse; the level of looting currently going on in the Commission has gone from bad to worse.”
It stated that “with the appointment of Chief Akpabio as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and the subsequent handover of the Commission to his Ministry for supervision, we thought that the so called celebrated Forensic Audit ordered by Mr. President would put an end to the looting through these phoney contract. Sadly, Chief Akpabio has instead taken advantage of the current rot within the NDDC and perfected an existing small-scale looting, that he is supposed to investigate and flush out with the supposed Forensic Audit, to a full-blown open corruption mafia-style ring.”
On Akpabio’s role in the fraud in the Commission, the petitioner stated that, rather than stem the tide of fraud, Akpabio “has taken up the same trend that began in 2016 to a higher level,” which has dashed the “hope of the Niger Delta people in the much-celebrated Forensic Audit and its promise to flush out the looting going on in the NDDC.”
The petition details what looks like a calibrated contract payment network managed by the Minister and run using the interim management committee, some select staff of the Commission and his cronies in the Central Bank of Nigeria. It claims that, among others, “Sixty Billion Naira (N60b) has been expended as payments for clearing of Water Hyacinths from the tenure of Nsima Ekere (appointed in November 2016) as Managing Director till date. These payments are in serious violation of the Public Procurement Act of 2007. In the period under reference, Chief Godswill Akpabio, the publicly known political god-father of Nsima Ekere, got a chunk of these phoney contracts.”
Also, since he assumed office, the Minister has caused more payments to be made for water Hyacinth, including one where he “publicly ordered Mrs. Akwagaga, the Acting Managing Director at the time to pay One Billion, Nine Hundred Million Naira (N1.9b) whilst in the company of Festus Keyamo (SAN) when the latter was the Minister of State for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Within two weeks, another Seven Hundred Million Naira (N700m) was paid to his cronies under the usual corrupt phoney contract of “Clearing Water Hyacinths”.
“Mrs. Akwagaga was also ordered to release the sum of Four Billion Naira (N4b) as payments for equipment for Lassa fever that were never supplied. Chief Godswill Akpabio demanded yet again for the further release of Thirty Billion Naira (N30b) as payment for the non-existent and bogus water hyacinths contracts. On Emergency jobs and River De-silting, Chief Akpabio again mounted pressure on Mrs. Akwagaga to release the sum of Thirty Billion Naira (N30b) as payment for phantom Emergency jobs and De-silting of rivers and creeks in the Niger Delta.”
It also raised the payment for the head office building at an inflated sum of N16 billion for which payment has been made on the instruction of Akpabio while the job has not been finished.
Accusing the Minister of flouting the Public Procurement Act in the running of the NDDC, the petitioner alleged that the interim management committee are mere errand boys to Akpabio, while he directly intervenes in the running of the Commission by deciding staff postings, even extending the cronyism to the appointment of the NDDC acting managing director and other executives. According to the petition, “after successfully removing Dr. Joy Nunieh, Chief Akpabio brought in his former classmate at Federal Government College, Port Harcourt as the MD, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, and the former campaign manager of Akpabio’s direct younger brother as the EDFA, Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang. With this team in power, Chief Akpabio has now perfected his looting squad who have now successfully transferred and booted out some of the Commission’s seasoned Directors and Chartered Accountants that are usually opposed to the phoney payment demands from Akpabio.”
It also accused Akpabio of doctoring contract papers as “he took over 100 of such phoney project files of his cronies to Abuja which is very unethical. Without a doubt, the dates and values of such phoney contracts must have been tampered with and recycled into the system for another round of payment as checks and balances have completely collapsed in the system since he took over the mantle of leadership of the commission.”