The Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has spoken against “people” making “demeaning” remarks against President Muhammadu Buhari.
“There is no need for people to have the paraphernalia of security – you have the police, you have SSS, you have all (that). And those are the ones that help you to sleep in the night and then you come out to say that the presidency is deceiving people,” Mr Akpabio, in what looked like a veiled attack apparently targeted at the governors of the states that make up Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.
Mr Akpabio said in his speech at the inauguration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) permanent office building in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Thursday, while he inaugurated the 13-floor storey building on behalf of Mr Buhari.
Apart from Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, no governor from the NDDC operational states participated in the ceremony.
The minister, with a shaky voice, appeared apprehensive when he was delivering his speech.
“Without even the president, you can’t sleep (at night) even if you are a governor,” he said.
“Some of them have not asked themselves what have we done with the 13 per cent derivation, but yet they will open their mouth and talk about the presidency in very demeaning terms.
“I want Mr President to ignore those things.
“It is not outsiders that have destroyed this place; trillions have been sent (in) but nothing has been seen on ground,” Mr Akpabio said.
It is unclear who Mr Akpabio was referring to among the governors in the Niger Delta region.
Apart from Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, governors in the region rarely make critical remarks against Mr Buhari.
Mr Akpabio, in his speech, said past managements of the NDDC refused to connect to the public power supply, the commission’s rented office, for over 15 years, so they could give out contracts for the supply of diesel. “That became a different racket on its own,” he said.
Mr Akpabio thanked President Buhari for “the love he has for the Niger Delta region”.
“Mr President this is a monument that will stand to remember you in history, positively,” he said of the NDDC office building.
He appealed to the Niger Delta people to cooperate with Mr Buhari’s administration “for the region to move forward”.
NDDC has not justified its creation – Governor Uzodinma
The governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, who spoke at the ceremony on behalf of the governors of the Niger Delta region, said the NDDC may not have justified its creation.
“Unfortunately, after two decades of its existence with an estimated allocation of N946.91 Billion in 18 years, NDDC may find it difficult to convince many Nigerians especially those from the South-East and South-South states that it has justified its creation.
Mr Uzodinma said “majority of the people feel that the agency has fallen short of expectations”.
“The financial scandal that rocked NDDC not too long ago blighted whatever impact it had made in the past,” he added.
The governor thanked Mr Buhari for seeing to the completion of the commission’s office after almost two decades since the commencement of the building project. He said he expected the commission to turn a new leaf, henceforth.
The governor proposed an amendment to the law establishing the NDDC to enable communities to make inputs and also monitor the commission’s budgets and projects.
“It is my well-informed view that to address the kind of contract scandal that rocked NDDC in the past, and the concomitant allegations of corruption that followed, there is need for more involvement of the people in the affairs of the commission.
“In this regard, the people should make inputs into the NDCC budget in accord with their expectations and needs, through town hall meetings.
“Thereafter, the NDDC should be mandated to adopt such inputs in its budget. The Amended Act should make it mandatory for the commission to execute all the projects coming from the people of the oil-bearing communities.
“The communities shall also be empowered by law to monitor contracts awarded for projects in their communities and to certify their satisfactory execution before final payments are made.
“I believe that this will greatly reduce sharp practices in the execution of NDDC contracts and will reduce corruption as well,” Mr Uzodinma said.
The governors of the South-south region recently canvassed for funds accruing to the NDDC to be put in an escrow account pending when the commission has a proper management and board.
“(The) monies being sent to the NDDC should be put in an escrow account until a board is constituted and then proper processes are followed in the expenditure of the money, in such a way it will be visibly accountable in the best interest of the peoples of the Niger Delta,” the Chairman of the South-South Governors Forum and Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, said a few days ago at a meeting of the forum in Port Harcourt.