Born Joi Yimebe Nunieh to the family of the first senator in Ogoniland, late Senator Cyrus Nunieh in Beeri Town, Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State, Joi had most of her education in Rivers State, South South Nigeria. Blessed with beauty and brains, Joi Nunieh cuts the quintessential picture of a truly independent African lady. Loved and hated by many for her brutal frankness, this former boss of the NDDC remains unshaken and undaunted in confronting her traducers wherever they may be.
Coming to national limelight in October 2019 through her appointment as the acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Nigeria’s federal government intervention agency in the oil-producing Niger-Delta region, Joi Nunieh was mandated to re-organize and re-invent the agency which had been bogged down by series of corruption cases. Through acts of mindless looting and diversion of government resources, the NDDC has become a cesspool of unmitigated corruption where people become overnight millionaires. This was the onerous task placed on the shoulders of Joi Nunieh and her management board. Her experience as a former national coordinator of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) placed in a good stead to perform creditably.
Incidentally, the inauguration of Joi Nunieh’s interim management committee also coincided with President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of a substantive board for the agency which had Albert Okumagba as the MD while Pius Odubu was to be the Chairman. Unfortunately, this substantive board was never inaugurated because of the forensic audit believed to be going on in the agency as at the time. The Niger Delta Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio ensured that the IMC led by Joi Nunieh had the last laugh in the matter.
Like a tragicomedy, the cordial relationship that existed between the then acting MD, Joi Nunieh and the Niger Delta Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio, took a nosedive within a space of three months. At first, it was told in whispers but it soon became an open secret; the once close working relationship had deteriorated to a point where summons by the minister on the NDDC boss were flagrantly ignored. Added to the drama was the petition written by a civil society organization called Anti-Corruption and Accountability Coalition Against Corruption in January, 2020. The civil society body alleged that Joi Nunieh was parading forged certificates and unverifiable affidavits. The agency called for the immediate sack and prosecution of the NDDC boss.
In February, 2020, The government of President Muhammadu Buhari relieved Joi Nunieh and her team of their job while allowing the forensic audit to proceed. As at the time of her sack, the chief reason given was insubordination to constituted authorities. However, five months down the line, the story has changed and the sacked NDDC boss is ready to spill the bean, not minding who gets hurt in the process.
Defending her stewardship at the NDDC within the four months she held sway before the House of Representatives through virtual media, Joi Nunieh argued that her management team spent only about eight billion naira (N8 billion) and that all monies were judiciously disbursed. Earlier, on a television interview, Joi Nunieh accused Chief Godswill Akpabio of corruption and attempts at harassing her sexually. She complained that Akpabio was in the habit of calling for meetings at odd hours and in odd places such as his hotel rooms. This, she claimed to have vehemently resisted which earned her dismissal from the agency.
On his part, the Minister of Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio has come out to debunk the allegations, describing them as the ranting of a frustrated woman. He questioned the mental stability of a woman who had been “married to four different men at various times”. The minister alleged that the main reason she was dismissed was due to insubordination to higher authorities and discrepancies in her official documents. He wondered why the Nigerian Law School should be the body authenticating that Joi Nunieh observed national youth service whereas, NYSC, the statutory body empowered to do so could not verify that she actually participated in the scheme.
While the battle of wits rages on, Joi Nunieh has vowed to deploy all weapons in her arsenal to destroy the monstrous behemoths entrenching corruption in the NDDC and stymieing the infrastructural development of the Niger Delta. Whether she succeeds in this self-imposed task or not is known to time alone. Escaping the onslaught of a police siege on her private residence in Port Harcourt on last week through the timely intervention of her state governor, Nyesom Wike, is a pointer to a long tortuous battle with those she has chosen to square up with.
By Uzogara McDonald Tobechukwu.