- Ex-Militants Threaten Show-down, Disrupt NDDC…
- Tension in N-Delta Ministry over Minister’s Alleged Breach of Rule
- Buhari’s Ally, Ex-Army Gen to Meet President, DSP Omo-Agege, Oshiomhole, Others.
- Akpabio: “I only Approved contract Payments…”
By Dotun Akintomide
Fresh tension is heightening in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as ex-militants and youths in the volatile Niger Delta have threatened a total show-down with Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio over alleged inappropriate and unethical payment approval of about N1.9bn water hyacinth contract slots. The ex-militants have vowed to shut down the operations of the NDDC unless the reported payment of about N1.9bn water hyacinth contracts to companies allegedly fronting for the Minister is reversed
Leader and spokesperson of over 2000 ex-militants and youths who stormed the NDDC office in Port Harcourt today in protest of the alleged unscrupulous allocation of 400 contracts slots amounting to about N1.9bn to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs(Senator Akpabio), Comrade Izon Ebi, accused the Minister of “cancelling the old list of slots meant for the youths and ex-militants in the Niger Delta and replaced it with a new list that saw 400 water hyacinth contract slots allocated to himself for payment while 300 slots were allocated to the current acting managing director of NDDC just as one or two directors got 10 slots each, while an Akpabio’s aide received 10 slots and the whole youths and ex-militants in the entire Niger Delta were left with only 100 contract slots for payment.” The protesting youths and ex-militants disrupted NDDC operations today while protesting against the alleged inappropriate payments and reported infractions which are allegedly being carried without “documentation, without payment vouchers raised in clear breach of extant financial rules.”
Comrade Izon Ebi who hails from Bayelsa State appealed to President Mohammed Buhari “as a very credible and honest leader who means well for the Niger Delta to urgently relocate the NDDC back to the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation(SGF) or better still, move the NDDC to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President (CoS), to prevent Akpabio from triggering actions capable of erupting fresh violence, hostilities and militancy in the Niger Delta”.
The ex-militant and his protesting youths who cautioned the Minister to quickly “quash the 400 water hyacinth contract slots reportedly allocated to himself and his fronts and leave the contract slots for the youths and ex-militants for whom they are meant for’’, warning that no Minister of Niger Delta Affairs has ever sunk so low as to be “fighting with youths over water hyacinth contracts slots.”
To find a way around the brewing crisis in the N-Delta, a US-based Nigerian Professor of Development Studies who wishes to remain anonymous advised President Buhari to relocate the NDDC as a Commission back to the Presidency as practiced in the US. He said : “In the US which we model our presidential system after, it’s the Chief of Staff’s Office that handles all matters such Commissions as this one(NDDC) and allied institutional subject matters relating to the Presidency. Because the Law setting up the Commission says it should report to the Presidency. The Chief of Staff’s Office coordinates all matters such as Commissions, Agencies that are by extant law, meant to report to the President. The Office of the SGF on the hand, is a British Parliamentary model which our fathers adopted at independence but under a modern presidency as we have in the US, there is no office of SGF…”
Presidency officials who spoke with The New Diplomat are displeased that Akpabio may have wrongly interpreted his role as a minister, thereby reportedly putting the administration in bad light. Said an insider: ”As Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, his mandate is to initiate and implement policies, set policy direction and not to get himself involved in contract payment approvals squabbles with youths and ex-militants.”
This development is coming on the heels of tension at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Abuja following concerns expressed by civil servants and top bureaucrats in the Ministry, accusing the Minister of allegedly breaching public service rules and protocols. The bureaucrats who are irked about these alleged infractions cited the example of a letter dated October 3rd, 2019, which reportedly emanated from the Office of the Honorable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, addressed to the Acting Managing Director of NDDC, reversing the reported NDDC 300 recruitment racket. The bureaucrats warned that such a letter, written on the Minister’s letter headed paper, amounts to a breach of extant public service rules, stressing that procedurally and in accordance with public service rules and protocols, it (letter) ought to emanate from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs(Not the Office of the Honorable Minister as the letter headed paper indicated).”
A retired old Federal Head of Service of the Federation who doesn’t want his name in print confided in The New Diplomat that there is great distinction between the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Office of the Honorable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, stressing “ that some of these Ministers who don’t have serious public or private sector pedigree need proper training to avoid running foul of public service laws, rules and protocols as this tend to suggest”. He said: “ The Minister by that letter erred seriously. Yes, you might say, the letter was signed by the Permanent Secretary, but when the time comes in future, for accountability, that is when you will realize that she is very, very clever and she has acted in accordance with a minister’s directive. The Permanent Secretary is the Accounting Officer of the Ministry responsible for day-to-day accounting while the Minister is responsible for setting policy guidelines, direction and implementation in collaboration with the bureaucrats including all the directors… That letter to NDDC should be written on the letter headed paper of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs not on the letter headed paper of the Office of the Honorable Minister. The implication is that the Ministry as an institution took the action and is accountable for any action. But when it emanates from the letter headed paper of the Honorable Minister, not withstanding that it was signed by the Permanent Secretary, it has become the Minister’s decision and he is solely liable for the infractions. Another implication is that since it wasn’t a decision of the Ministry as an institution , that action is lapses immediately the Minister leaves Office. The Civil Servants are very smart, they know the action is now personal to the Minister… Again, there is a Minister of State in that Ministry also who is also a former Senator. ”(SEE THE LETTER ATTACHED. SPOT THE DIFFERENCE AND POINTS BEING MADE)
But while reacting to the allegations of about 400 contract slots payments allocated to himself under an alleged water hyacinth racket, Senator Akapbio denied any unethical conduct, insisting that contrary to the allegations , he only approved payments for contracts already awarded before he assumed office as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. His media aide, Aniete Ekong insisted that the Minister only intervened in the NDDC contracts payments for water hyacinth because ex- militants were protesting and had threatened to disrupt the whole NDDC. He Said: “ These are jobs that have been awarded before Akpabio got to that Office”. Ekong said the water hyacinth jobs were awarded to many companies and that no individual got as much as N1.9bn. But Comrade Izon Ebi countered that it is the total slots of 400 which Akpabio purportedly allocated to companies linked to him that sum up to N1.9bn. He opened up: ‘’ The way it work is clear. The slots are meant for the youths and ex-militants in the Niger Delta. We as youths bring our various companies and names for the Water hyacinth contracts. But Senator Akpabio on coming in cancelled the old list already compiled and approved for payment and proceeded to allocated 400 fresh contract slots to himself using different companies. We want EFCC and ICPC to come and probe this dubious fraud… My President means well but our own son, Akpabio is the one causing tension in the region right now.”
A highly respected retired Army General and close ally of President Buhari, who once served as a GOC, Minister, etc has promised to meet Mr President, Deputy Senate President as the highest political Office holder from the South South geo-political zone, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on the matter in a bid to douse tension in the Niger Delta, The New Diplomat learnt. It would be recalled that the Minister was also recently fingered in an alleged illegal recruitment racket of about 300 staff into NDDC but quickly reversed himself following The New Diplomat’s expose of the alleged recruitment scam.