OrderPaperToday – The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has dismissed a claim that he collected and executed projects worth N500million in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, had accused Akpabio of executing the projects with evidence showing that Akpabio nominated the project when he was in the Senate.

The Minister however denied it while speaking with reporters on Friday at the end of an investigative hearing with the Senate ad-hoc committee investigation the alleged misappropriation of N40 billion in the NDDC by the current Interim Management Committee (IMC) between October last year and May this year.

While he admitted that he nominated the project, he maintained that they were not awarded.

Akpabio said: “When you are in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, you can make suggestions and it is left to that agency to accept it or not. So maybe when I was in the senate – that thing is dated 2017, I must have made a recommendation that they should consider these (projects) but they were not considered.

“Those jobs were not paid, not one naira was paid and when you make recommendation it is not that you are being given a contract; it is that if there is a job in your constituency when they are going through ‘due process’ they will advertise that job and that will awarded to the one that wins the bid. It is not that when a senator makes a suggestion to an agency – whether it is NEMA, NDDC – that the senator will automatically become the contractor.

“For the fact that the paper was written on the minority leader letter-headed paper shows that it was not an award of contract. Award of contract would have been on a NDDC paper so when I saw it, I didn’t think it was worth responding to and as minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I owe the nation but good service.

“It was not worth responding to, it was total falsehood. I have been a contractor at NDDC. Even if the suggested projects were N300 million or N500 million were accepted, there is no guarantee that I or my nominee would have been a contractor.”

Regarding the alleged misapplication or misappropriation of N40 billion in the NDDC, he said: “On the issue of missing N40 billion, I came to honour my colleagues, I would be a senator forever, they have the right to look into issues when they are raised. Whenever their investigative report comes out it will help to supervise and monitor the NDDC better.

“It is not that money was missing, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) harbours the accounts of the NDDC, so we can’t take out N40 billion without it being known. Technology has gone far.

“The contractors that were paid, according to the management, were contractors owed debts going back to nine years, some 11 years. When you inherit a commission, you inherit the liabilities and the assets.

“They had no option because of garnishee orders, people have gone to court, some have even died. It couldn’t have come to minister because the threshold of the management is below N250 million. My job was to come here and also listen because it will help me to know what they are expending.”

At the hearing, he said he has approved only one contract since his assumption as Minister.

“The reason why you hear so much hue and cry about the NDDC is because of President Buhari’s approval for a forensic audit. The solution to problem of NDDC is the forensic audit as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Since I became Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, I have approved only one contract for the NDDC and that is in respect of COVID-19 intervention.

“I didn’t know about any expenditure nor gave any approval during the last IMC tenure. I have approved only one contract for the NDDC since I came in.”

For him, the region can get maximum benefits when “we must rejig the way we do budgets for the NDDC. Also there has to be governance structure to regulate the way things are done at the Commission. We need this Committee to help the Niger Delta beyond this probe.”

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