NDCC: Let’s Get To the Bottom of Akpabio’s Agenda, By Preye Ebibomo

In the last few days I have read the asinine reports and comments in newspapers and online of people who have joined the Akpabio Choral Group.
I have been inundated with a not a few such comments by some of my friends who have found the entire episode laughable, indeed comic, that the Niger Delta Affairs Minister is now bedecked in the robe of an anti-corruption crusader such that the current forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by the President is being credited to Akpabio, for the simple reason that he has positioned as a clever opportunist and actor!

Anyone praising Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta, as a man who is championing the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is not only partaking in a partisan misrepresentation of facts but a jaundiced attempt at legitimizing the illegal management committee set up by the Minister. To celebrate Akpabio’s actions as that of a transformational leader determined to clean up the Commission is unfortunate.
It is not difficult to see the hands behind the letters bearing the minister’s praises, especially when the writers deodorize him in copious and effusive praises. What bothers me is the lies that they spew.

The narrative is that Akpabio it was who discovered the need for the NDDC audit; indeed, ordered it, in a brazen attempt to burnish the minister’s sagging credibility, especially following the demands of Nigerians that he follow due process and dismantle the Interim Management Committee he handpicked for the Commission at the dawn of a new Governing Board! Contrary to these claims, the truth is that Akpabio is being opposed because he is trying to turn the NDDC into his fiefdom, ignoring the law setting up the commission and carrying on like NDDC belongs to him.

To propagandise this public outcry to the minister’s actions as an opposition to the forensic audit ordered by the president is truly sad and cheap.
First, how could anyone conversant with the developments in the Niger Delta Ministry and the NDDC in the last several weeks attribute the forensic probe ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari to Akpabio?

Furthermore, how can the pieces of revelatory news that have made the rounds on fraudulent contractors be the output of Akpabio or his NDDC Interim Management Committee as the writers have stated brazenly? How could the minister be credited with the probe when it is clear that it was the President after entertaining the Niger Delta governors that gave the order for a forensic audit?

Of course it is a good thing that the rot in the commission is being unveiled but no one made this more possible than President Buhari’s strong words expressing his determination to transparency in the Commission. It is cheap that these people seek to dress Akpabio in borrowed robes. Indeed, this is uncommon sycophancy.

People of the Niger Delta region and activists have for years been calling for a thorough audit of the Commission which the President has just acceded to. Yet, like an opportunist, the audit has become Akpabio’s excuse to ignore the law and confuse the process.

Among some of the brazen ‘miracles’ of Akpabio is that he was the one who made it possible for the commission to ‘discover’ that a consultant was being paid N1 billion monthly. It is a shame that pecuniary sycophancy has taken over our communication space and blinds us to the reality even in the full glare of facts! They sure need some education here.

The Commission, since the last management was sacked and a new board was announced in August, has been unveiling sharp practices even before Akpabio had time to settle down as the minister for Niger Delta Affairs. It reminds me of the bombast that Akpabio made all over the place when he boasted that he would deliver Akwa Ibom to APC and failed woefully. If such lies and half-truths are the stuff that made the legend of Akpabio in Akwa Ibom State, the Niger Delta and indeed the Nigerian state is a much bigger space to play such games.

The question to ask is why a Commission that had an acting Managing Director, who was directed to act pending the Senate clearance of the Board nominees, will be replaced with another interim acting Managing Director just when the nominees for the Board were already been screened?

Indeed the manner in which the minister has gone about his job provides more clues to his real intent.

Anyone who follows the reports of the commission would be conversant with the swirl of reports and allegations detailing Akpabio’s interest in micromanaging the affairs of the commission such that activists in the region have accused him of having undue interest in some contracts in the commission. And his rush, post-haste, to handpick and appoint the 3-man interim committee at a time the Senate was already screening the Board nominated by the president can only be the handiwork of a sinister plot.

True stakeholders in the Niger Delta know that the reason the Commission’s Act demanded broad representation was to forestall parochial decision-making. Today, Akpabio’s committee neither represents a competent technical team that can supervise a clean audit nor does it represent all the stakeholders of the region and beyond that are represented in the Act; it is a committee responsible only to the minister and whose real agenda is known only to him.

Akpabio’s misstep must never be condoned or celebrated; it is an act of brigandage, corruption masquerading as exuberance. Let us not forget the character question dogging the minister with his cases before the EFCC and ask how such a man can be the champion of due process and transparency in a new NDDC, the kind the President and stakeholders in the Niger Delta are looking out for? I am amazed that these hack writers seek to make character an issue in their romantic appraisal of the minister’s illegality.

The NDDC Act is unambiguous on the selection of its Board and Management and this can only be for a clear reason, that the canons of due process and broad representation are accommodated. This is what the President had done by selecting credible people from across the states in accordance with the NDDC Act and transmitting same to the Senate for Confirmation. By bringing in the President’s name into Akpabio’s circumvention of the law, these PR merchants are only trying to dress the minister’s illegality in borrowed robes.

As a Niger Deltan who has watched the crass disregard for the law setting up the Commission over the years, I cannot be pleased at the barefaced illegality of Akpabio’s Interim Management contraption set up at a time the Senate was screening nominees for the Board.

For the avoidance of doubt, this Board just passed by the Senate has the broadest representation in recent times because Mr President accommodated every sectoral group as provided for in the law. It could not have been an accident as its wide acceptance across the region has shown.

The Niger Delta people are tired of leaders who take us for a ride under dubious schemes and sophistry. Akpabio can still redeem himself by doing the needful in withdrawing his handpicked management because what he has done is a travesty of the law. Coming from a lawyer, it is a disgrace.

Preye Ebibomo, a Businessman, lives in Port Harcourt

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