•Youth council accuses Gbajabiamila of protecting colleagues
• Knocks, kudos for minister over corruption in NDDC
The letter from Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio which conveyed the list of National Assembly members who allegedly got bloated and unexecuted contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been released to the public.
The National Youth Council of Nigeria which presented the document to the media in Abuja yesterday expressed disappointment that Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, allegedly refused to disclose the names of federal lawmakers who benefitted from the contracts awarded by the NDDC.
President of the youth council, Solomon Adodo, said: “Mr. Speaker did not do us justice when he did not disclose to the National Assembly that the list of the beneficiaries he demanded had been attached to the letter sent to him.”
According to the council, Gbajabiamila’s decision to cover up his colleagues is unfair to the fight against corruption, quest for transparency, and to the commonwealth of our nation.
“We, therefore, urge Gbajabiamila to resign for covering up for a set of people who had erred and breached the rules of contract.” The youths said: “All the National Assembly members who benefitted from the contracts without executing them should be prosecuted to serve as deterrent to those who may want to follow a similar path.
“It is a clear case of organised crime to have individuals who benefitted from illegality now rising to probe the fact that their illegality is being exposed.
“We call on all the anti-graft agencies and security agencies to, in line with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari, immediately investigate the matter.”
The youths said they were firmly in support of the forensic audit instituted by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs because it had exposed those who had benefitted in the corruption that had festered in the NDDC
In the document displayed by the youths council, Akpabio was quoted as saying that his letter became necessary because “the investigating committee on NDDC refused and/or neglected to give me the opportunity to explain that reference to most commission contracts yearly being allegedly awarded since 2001 from the records to members of the National Assembly in both chambers were done without the knowledge of the alleged beneficiaries”
“However, the two chairmen of the committees in both chambers had adequate knowledge,” Akpabio reportedly stated. The minister’s letter, as released by the youth council, further reads: “To show you some typical examples, herewith attached are documents showing nature of contracts, amount of such contracts (in some cases), date of awards and beneficiaries. Some were awarded to the two chairmen of both committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, serving at the period of the awards (Annexures ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’).”
The council, which declared it got the document from the National Assembly, however, said Akpabio failed to make the document public because he obtained it from the forensic auditors in confidence.
The contracts were mainly for road construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation within the nine Niger Delta states. Names of a few serving senators and members of the House of Representatives were among those contained in the document, while others were names of persons who had served in the two chambers of the National Assembly in the past.
Meanwhile, a former president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Eric Omare, and an ex-militants group at the weekend expressed divergent views on the role played by Akpabio, in the corruption allegations rocking the NDDC.
While the former IYC boss wants President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the minister, dissolve the Interim Management Committee (IMC) and inaugurate the substantive board of the NDDC already cleared by the senate, the ex-militants, under the name 21st Century Youths of the Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC), said Akpabio should stay and ensure the conclusion of the forensic audit of the agency.
In a statement, Omare said: “To some of us in the Niger Delta, the revelations did not really come as a surprise because it was obvious from the beginning that the inauguration of the duly nominated and cleared board of the NDDC under the leadership of Odubu/Okumagba was truncated because of the inordinate ambition of some people to use the IMC as a conduit pipe to loot the NDDC.
“However, I am shocked that President Buhari, despite the shocking revelations from the ongoing probe, has not deemed it fit to act swiftly to bring the show of shame to a stop.
“It would be recalled that when the illegal IMC was put in place, instead of Buhari to be on the side of law establishing the NDDC which requires that there should be a substantive board at every point in time, he decided to endorse the illegality called IMC which was set up by Akpabio because it enjoyed the support of his inner caucus.
“President Buhari’s endorsement of the illegal IMC gave the leeway for the ongoing massive looting of the NDDC at the expense of the already impoverished people and communities of the Niger Delta.
“Already, the sordid revelations and the attempt to illegally arrest the former managing director of the IMC, Dr. Joy Nuineh, protest from different groups and more protests that are being planned by groups in the region have heightened tension in the Niger Delta. If urgent steps are not taken to douse the tension, the fragile peace in the area may be breached.”
Omare also called for reversal of the supervision of the NDDC to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to avoid the alleged distractions from the Niger Delta Ministry. He said the forensic audit should be directly supervised by the presidency.”
But the ex-militant group, in a statement, said Akpabio should be applauded for his boldness in exposing the endemic corruption and vested interests that had been inimical to the development of the region.
‘General’ Izon Ebi, who signed the statement, urged President Buhari to allow Akpabio to see to the timely conclusion of the forensic audit.
“We the 21st century youths of the Niger Delta and agitators urge the minister not to be deterred by the drama that was acted in the National Assembly. He should be focused to use the same zeal that was used to transform Akwa Ibom State when he was governor to see that NDDC as an interventionist agency is reformed to perform its functions with transparency and accountability in order to serve the purpose for which it was established.
“It takes a man that means well, a man with courage to confront and expose the rot that has been endemic for 20 years. Anything short of the timely conclusion of the forensic audit will not be accepted by us and the Niger Delta people”.