Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, has been in the eye of the storm in recent times. On Monday, July 14, during the continuation of the Investigative Hearing in the allegations of corruption in the NDDC, the minister made a scandalous statement when he alleged that many of the NDDC contracts under investigation were actually awarded to members of the National Assembly. It was an open indictment that drew the ire of members of the 9th Assembly who felt humiliated.
Like the proverbial drowning man that clutches at the straw, Akpabio erred in law, notwithstanding if what he said made some sense. He failed to address the critical issue of corruption on ground, as it affected him personally as well as the failure of his ministry to supervise and scrutinize NDDC’s expenditure. It was a ‘smart’ way of shifting the blame to NASS members as being instrumental to NDDC woes.
Consequently, the House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila threatened to sue him for defamation of character and perjury, should he fail to publish the names and details of NASS members who have benefited from NDDC contracts.
The minister’s response exonerated members of the current 9th Assembly because NDDC has been unable to fully implement any budget since the commencement of the 9th Assembly. The report which was not made public rather indicted those in the previous assemblies, whom he said got contracts through the Chairmen of both committees.
We can see another ploy by Akpabio intended to calm the fury of the present assembly, even though it is well known that many members of the 8th and previous assemblies also constitute the 9th assembly.
Having served in the NASS since 2003, it would be disingenuous of the Speaker to pretend not to know that many members of NASS are also government contractors by proxy. The processing names and companies they use are fictitious, not directly linked to them. This is strictly against the law, but many government ministries and agencies, such as the NDDC connive with them.
In his response, Akpabio even said he would not divulge to the public names and documents concerning indicted NAS members which he obtained in confidence from the forensic auditors of NDDC. This may be a typical example of how almost all other ministries and agencies in Nigeria operate. They sabotage economic development and connive in other forms of financial crime.
Akpabio should resign while NDDC should be restructured and made answerable to the presidency. A similar probe should be extended to other agencies and parastatals.