OrderPaperToday – Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has described the N40billion fraud probe launched by the Senate as a fight back by those who are hard pressed by the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Akpabio said his hands are clean and nothing untoward would be found by the probe.

Recall that in a motion raised by Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers) on Tuesday, he lamented that the Niger Delta region has not recorded any improvement despite the establishment of a development Commission, 20 years ago.

The senator accused the current Interim Management Committee of the NDDC of being involved in N40 billion fraud.

But in a statement by Anietie Ekong, his Chief Press Secretary, Akpabio said the senate has joined a “campaign of calumny” launched by detractors of the Commission who have something to hide.

The statement released on Friday said while Akpabio welcomes the probe, he called for a public hearing that can be beamed live for the proceedings as he has no skeleton in his cupboard.

The statement reads: “Senator Akpabio is upbeat about the plan to probe the NDDC as he has no skeleton in his cupboard. In fact, he will welcome a public hearing beamed live for all Nigerians to see. The probe of the Commission along with the ongoing forensic audit will expose those who have used their exalted positions over the years to fleece the NDDC through fully paid contracts which were never executed and other forms of contact racketeering.

“While we await the probe if carried through, we find it extremely insulting for Senator Akpabio’s name to be dragged into what is obviously a smear campaign.

“The general public should not be misled by spurious claims. The NDDC under the supervision of Senator Akpabio will not be distracted, neither will the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission be derailed through blackmail and intimidation. The Minister will remain focused on the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari to reposition the Commission for sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.”

The statement distanced Akpabio from the allegation and explained that the IMC has only approved the total payment of N18 billion for contractual claims.

“The payments to contractors are all payments for contracts awarded by previous administrations, especially the payment for contracts below N50 million. The present management has not awarded any single contract. So where is the bogey N40 billion coming from?

“It is instructive that the Commission under the supervision of Senator Akpabio has devised a strategy by which only duly verified and inspected contracts with photo and video evidences are recommended and approved for payments. The Interim Management Committee has been very prudent in managing the affairs of the interventionist agency”, the statement said.

It further informed that the interest of Senator Akpabio has been to ensure that the “NDDC completes its headquarters building started since the days of the defunct Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), the contract of which was awarded with the approval of the Federal Executive Council many years before Senator Akpabio became the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

“Following the recent Presidential approval, the NDDC is also providing intervention support to complement efforts of the Federal and State governments against further spread of COVID-19 in the nine states of the Niger Delta.”

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