The embattled former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Mrs Joy Nunieh, on Friday accused the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, of hijacking the forensic audit of the NDDC ordered by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Speaking when she appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC over allegations of illegal expenditure and mismanagement by the commission, Nunieh, at the investigative hearing, alleged that the minister breached various laws in a bid to hijack the forensic audit.
On Thursday, the investigation of the NDDC took a dramatic turn when the police, said to have been sent from Abuja, invaded Nunieh’s residence in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who intervened and prevented the police from taking Nunieh away, had asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to probe the invasion of the home of the former NDDC boss.
It was alleged that the invasion, during which the policemen were seen in a viral video breaking the woman’s rear door to gain entry forcibly, was to prevent Nunieh from moving from Port Harcourt to Abuja to testify before the panel.
On the same day, NDDC’s Interim Management Committee members, led by the acting Managing Director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, appeared before the House committee but later walked out of the sitting after insisting that the panel chairman, Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, must step down. The House committee then issued a warrant for the arrest of the IMC members.
But on Friday, Nunieh, who attended the hearing and made her presentation via online meeting platform, Zoom, apologised for not showing up at the hearing on Thursday, “because what would have happened would have been that nobody would have known who took me away and only God knows what would have happened.”
She added, “This has been the modus operandi for enemies of the minister and ex-governor of Akwa Ibom State. You saw what happened yesterday, it was all about documents.”More in Home
When the panel chairman asked about the forensic audit ordered by Buhari, for which the IMC was constituted, Nunieh said, “What I met was not exactly what is going on. Akpabio insisted that he would supervise the forensic audit. I reminded him and showed him the letter that the President had written, that there is no way we could spend the money that was in our budget.
“In his memo to the President, he requested that the money for the funding of the forensic audit be got from the Service Wide Vote. Mr President, in his wisdom, refused that request and in writing said it should be from NDDC’s appropriation, making NDDC the producing entity.”
Nunieh also alleged that auditors had not been appointed to conduct the audit as being claimed by Akpabio.
She said, “When I was there, I was the one who prepared all the documents for the forensic audit and sent in the applications. The first thing was for us to go through the procurement of the lead consultant. Many people have clearly misunderstood the procurement of the lead consultant. Because I did not want any illegality and the forensic audit to be discredited, I ensured – with the help of big consultants – we came up with the terms of reference for these auditors.
“The lead consultant that everyone is talking about is not the forensic auditor. He does not have a lot. The role of the lead consultant is to gather. When all the forensic auditors have got all the data and reports from the field, they will put them together and give to the lead consultant who will put them together in a report. That is just his role. He is not the one to carry out any forensic audit.
“This (Messrs Olumuyiwa) Basiru and Co, I do not know if they have ever carried out a forensic audit. So, I will be asking to tell them to give you evidence that they have ever carried out a forensic audit before, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, which requires that for any consultant or contractor, must show evidence that for the past three years or thereabouts, they have carried out that.”
The ex-NDDC boss challenged the minister and IMC to provide a proof that the fund being spent on auditors was appropriated by the National Assembly. According to her, the commission had obtained Certificate of No Objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement even when the 2020 budget of the NDDC had not been passed.
She added, “It is a criminal offence to procure any consultant without the appropriation made by the National Assembly because it will be an anticipatory budgeting. In this case, has the National Assembly appropriated funds?”
She accused Akpabio of misleading the Federal Executive Council to approve the procurement of auditors even when the audit was to be funded with the 2020 budget of the NDDC.
Nunieh also stated that she spent a total of N8bn during her stay as acting MD between October 2019 and February 2020.
The NDDC is, however, said to have spent not less than N81.5bn in 2020 alone.
Nunieh alleged that Akpabio gave her a list of NDDC officials to be redeployed or sacked, including the only northerner in the management.
She recalled that October 28, 2019, on her way to the inauguration of the IMC at the boardroom of the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta, the minister threatened to see to her exit from office if she failed to do his bidding.
Nunieh alleged that Akpabio asked her to appoint 10 of her aides, as he did with Bernard Okumagba as MD of NDDC.
She also stated that two days after the inauguration, at the Le Meridien Hotel, at Akpabio’s first meeting with the IMC, the minister told her he wanted her to send some workers away.
She stated, “He said the first thing I would do is to write a letter to him – he gave me the draft, that I should put it on my letterhead. In that letter, I was supposed to write about most of the companies; Senator (Peter) Nwaboshi owned the 98 companies.
“I never ever told the world that Senator Nwaboshi was the senator that was collecting the N1bn. The issue of the N1bn was different. I said ‘how can an individual be collecting N1bn every month?’ The case of Senator Nwaboshi is the case of the 98 files which I was supposed to write about.”
Speaking on the issue of employment, she stated that the minister had collected curricula vitae from “godfathers” and she made it known that the issue of employment was already an issue before she came as the Federal Character Commission that used to give NDDC the approval for employment stopped it because of the scandal.
She added, “I want to tell the world that I never did any employment. I never gave out a single contract from NDDC.
“I am not corrupt. No contractor can sit anywhere and say they gave me N10. And I can say before the world that I’m the most unpopular MD ever that came to NDDC. The money of the people of Niger Delta is blood money, I refused to touch it. Even when my friends were contractors, even when they claimed that they were owed monies, my instruction was that everybody should finish their jobs. Everybody saw contractors going back to site when I was the MD.
“I was privileged to see all the videos. For one job, five people would send me videos of completion – the same job, the same video – and I would just laugh.”
…blames interim management c’ttee, staff, others for rot in commission
Nunieh also blamed the IMC, NDDC workers and people of the Niger Delta for the rot in the commission.
She said, “The problems that you are investigating today have three major groups that are responsible for the things that have gone wrong in the NDDC. One group is the management, which is the IMC, and everybody is against the IMC. The second group is the staff of NDDC. And the third group, which I will start with, is the people of the Niger Delta.
“This story that we are all calling embarrassing cannot be complete without saying that the people of the Niger Delta region are responsible for what has happened – the frauds and corruption that have taken place in the NDDC.
“I’m speaking from a personal experience. As soon as the MD is appointed, people begin to rejoice and celebrate, not because they want you to do the right thing; not because they are interested in the development of the Niger Delta, they believe it is now their turn to eat out of the national cake.
“They are not interested in anything; all they wanted were like palliatives. That is why for those who did not harden their heart like me, they fell for this palliative matter and they started giving out. But because I was strong; because I always remember the case of Gani Fawehinmi; Fawehinmi fought for the masses of this country. When he said he wanted to contest an election, they were not there. I remember that I needed to stand properly.
“The second class is the staff. The staff members of NDDC are from the Niger Delta region. The contracts that have been awarded are from their communities. When I was appointed, I went from office to office; I sat in their offices and I told them, ‘You people are responsible for what has gone wrong in the zone.’ All the staff members have in their wards or local government areas projects. If every staff of NDDC takes up a project in their local government area and ensure that they are well delivered, we will not have these issues.
“Thirdly, the IMC; for the first time in the history of NDDC, no palliatives were given. I did not give out Christmas palliative. I was under pressure to bring N10bn – N1bn per state – but I refused. The youth were complaining that things were difficult and I said ‘the day I give you this money, you know I have started collecting your money.’ I never gave any Christmas bonus or palliative during my time. For the first time in the history of NDDC, NDDC worked throughout December. There was no break except on public holidays.”
Lawmakers summon Akpabio, acting MD
Meanwhile, after Nunieh’s presentation, the committee summoned Akpabio, asking him to appear before it on Monday.
The lawmakers also summoned the acting MD of NDDC to reappear before them on Monday.
Rivers CP asks gov to hand over Nunieh
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan, has asked the state governor to hand over Nunieh to him, saying Nunieh was under investigation.
Wike, who fumed that the policemen who invaded Nunieh’s house to arrest her had no warrant of arrest, took Nunieh to the Government House.
Briefing journalists in his office on Friday, the CP said the policemen from the Inspector-General of Police Monitoring Unit had the permission of the state police command before they proceeded to Nunieh’s residence. He stressed that the policemen were on a legitimate assignment.
The CP said, “It is really unfortunate because under normal circumstances, if His Excellency (Wike) is saying he went to rescue her, he is supposed to turn her over to me because I am the Commissioner of Police on the ground and I will be in a better position to take her than for him (Wike) to take her to the Government House.
“So if you rescue your citizen, we expect you to turn her over to the police who are in a better position to protect her. I still believe he is going to turn her over because the exercise was legitimate. It was within the confines of the law.”
Rivers court stops police, others from arresting Nunieh
Meanwhile, the state High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has restrained the police and other law enforcement agencies from arresting Nunieh.
Nunieh through her lawyer, Sylvester Adaka, on Friday filed for an ex parte order praying the court to bar the police from making further attempt to arrest her.
Justice E. Thompson granted the application brought to the court by her lawyer.
The court restrained the NDDC or any other body from arresting Nunieh pending the hearing and determination of the matter before it.
When contacted, Nunieh confirmed that she got an injunction from the Rivers High Court.
Akpabio threatens to sue Nunieh
Meanwhile, Akpabio has threatened to take legal action against Nunieh for allegedly defaming his character.
This threat was contained in a statement titled, “Akpabio to sue Joy Nunieh for defamation, denies ‘false allegations’,” signed by his special assistant, Anietie Ekong, in Abuja, on Friday.
Ekong said the minister had already instructed his lawyers to seek legal redress.
He described Nunieh’s allegations against his principal as tissues of lies noting that at no time did the minister make advances towards her.
The statement read in part, “The honourable minister’s initial attitude was to allow his lawyers and the judicial system vindicate him of the false allegations against him, but he is compelled to react to some of the wayward allegations levied against his person by Nunieh, especially the one bothering on sexual harassment.
“To start with, let it be known that there is no scintilla of truth in all the allegations peddled around by Nunieh. They are simply false.
“The Honourable Minister did not at any time, place or circumstance make any form of sexual advances to Ms. Nunieh, not even to put himself in a position or posture suggestive of sexual advances towards Ms. Nunieh, or any female staff of his Ministry or the NDDC.
“For the records, the Honourable Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, is happily married and contented with his wife. Together they are blessed with children, four of whom are young women.
“The honourable minister is an avid believer of the affirmative action and that was visible in the appointments he made as a two term executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015.
“Under his watch, he appointed several women into various high-level positions as chairpersons of Local Government Councils, magistrates, judges, heads of parastatals, directors, Permanent Secretaries, and commissioners.”