NDDC Probe: Akpabio Grilled; Pondei Collapsed

Sequel to the adjournment last friday, the House of Representative through its committee on Niger Delta resumed investigative hearing on the alleged financial misappropriation at the Niger Delta Development Commission. Recall that Dr. Joi Nunieh, the Former MD of the commission had appeared and testified before the committee on Friday accusing the Minister of some corrupt practices.

NDDC Probe: Dr. Nunieh Appears Before Panel; Accuses Akpabio

The session started with the Chairman of the House Committee, Hon. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo, recusing himself from presiding the panel as suggested by the Acting MD, Prof. Pondei, for fairness and transparency. The MD implied such and staged a walkout on the committee last Thursday claiming that the Chairman can’t be a judge in his own case. To that effect, the Vice-Chairman of the Committee immediately took charge.

Hon. Tunji-Ojo

Recall that Hon. Tunji-Ojo was accused in May of having benefited from the award of contracts from the commission. The lawmaker has however described the allegations as shameful and baseless. After proper introduction and opening, the presiding chairman announced that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and the Acting Managing Director of the agency, Prof. Daniel Pondei will be testifying before the panel. The MD was then placed on hold oath and made to commence his testimony.

He appeared with other management staff of the commission, Mr. Cairo. He was quized and questioned on the legality of the expenditure of the commission since he assumed office from the 2019 budget in which he claimed he is working with. Due to reasons yet unknown, as at the time of this report, Prof. Pondei crashed and fainted. He was rushed out of the room for medical attention. It forced the House to go on a ’20-minute’ recess to attend to the emergency.

The Lawmakers resumed about 1 hr later after the Speaker of the House, Rt. Gbajabiamila address. Thereafter, the Minister was put on oath and made to give his testimony and questioned afterwards. Sen. Akpabio first debunk allegations levied against him by Dr. Nunieh from Friday. He denied that he forced anyone to swear oaths and insisted that all he did was in the interest of Niger Deltans. The Minister in an interactive but relatively uncouth manner answered investigative questions thrown at him by the lawmakers. He also mentioned that honorables of the National Assembly of being the beneficiaries of most of the contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

However, he wasn’t able to exonerate himself from the fact that he interfered in the dealings and financial activities of the commission. He backed such interference with the fact that he was playing a supervisory role as a representative of the President (as a Minister). While responding to questions on why the commission made certain expenditure during this period a forensic audit is ongoing on the account, his reply stressed that the NDDC can’t close down services to avoid some security implications on the region. He pointed that those that have done jobs for the commission should be paid on time. According to Akpabio, ‘The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region and 90% or more of the resources of the country come from there.’

‘If you close it down in totality all you will have is chaos. You will have a lot of, not just militancy, you will have a lot of insurrection.’

Akpabio also informed the members of the committee on reasons why the immediate past acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Dr. Joi Nunieh, was sacked. According to him, he received a letter from the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, disclosing that she did not have a valid NYSC certificate or exemption letter. He also pointed out that she was sacked for insubordination.

In the meantime, we expect the report, recommendations and further feedbacks from the House Committee. We stay tuned.

Ola-lawal M.D.
For Muzzammilwrites

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