- House Committee stopped Minister from further discussion on the contracts issue
Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs released the first bombshell on Monday as he accused members of the National Assembly of cornering contracts of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The minister who made this known during the House of Representatives public hearing on alleged mismanagement in the NDDC specifically said 60% of NDDC contracts goes to lawmakers.
It will be recalled that Hon. Bunmi Tuni-Ojo, Chairman of the House Committee on Niger Delta, stepped aside from presiding over the affairs of investigative Committee after the fainted Acting managing director of the NDDC, Prof Pondei accused him of corruption and being on a revenge mission.
Addressing his colleagues and guests on Monday, Tunji-Ojo said he was stepping aside from presiding over the hearing to allow fair hearing and to protect his integrity.
Akpabio in the course of his testimony also claimed that the former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh was not qualified. He stated that Joy Nunieh does not have a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate.
He also revealed that the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, asked him to sack Nunieh who few days ago accused Akpabio of illegally benefitting from the NDDC contracts and also harassing her sexually.
Akpabio also disclosed that the NDDC had over 300 bank accounts when he was appointed by President Buhari.
The Minister was later to get into a heated argument with the lawmakers whom he accused of bullying him.
Hon Tunji-Ojo had asked the Minister if the three major projects he had carried out had the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
Akpabio, who was interrupted while answering the question, said, “Mr Chairman, the condition, where we are in now, does not require bullying, with due respect.”
However, Tunji-Ojo responded, “We are not bullying you, honourable minister. Answer the question directly. You know you are my leader, an uncommon leader.”
On the rift with the former acting Managing Director of NDDC, Ms Joy Nunieh, Akpabio alleged that she was sacked for insubordination.
On the forensic audit, Akpabio said that the forensic audit directed by President Muhammadu Buhari is ongoing and that the process had not been hijacked as alleged in some quarters.
He explained that the NDDC draws its funds from two sources, the Federal Government and the oil companies.
Akpabio recommended that the budgeting system for NDDC be changed so that it will reflect budget lines in the Appropriate Act.
He also recommended some amendment to the NDDC Act to prevent the management from spending beyond its threshold by splitting big projects into small components.
Akpabio said that management of the NDDC had spent N4.2 billion, which is beyond its threshold by splitting projects into small components of N49 million to evade the approval of the supervising minister.
The minister said that no member of staff of the NDDC had been sacked under his watch, saying that even those on leave got COVID-19 allowance.
Contrary to allegations claiming that the IMC had spent N81.5 billion between February to May, Akpabio said only N23 billion had been spent.
The minister said that only three contracts had been approved since he was appointed as minister of the ministry.
According to him, the contracts include the procurement of forensic auditors, purchase of official cars for NDDC and the award of emergency project on the control of COVID-19.
He told the lawmakers that all contracts were approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC); except of the emergency COVID-19 project.
Akpabio said that at the time of his appointment, there was no budget running and could not have compelled the then IMC to pay N10 billion for Christmas largess to all state.
He said, prior to the implementation of the of the TSA account, the NDDC had over 300 accounts across commercial banks saying that with such systems, monies could get missing.