By Emeka Okafor
The Young Professionals for Peace, Transparency and Development (YPPTD) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to urgently launch a thorough investigation into the over N700 billion allegedly Embezzled from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
(YPPTD is also seeking the arrest and prosecution of the immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Interim Administrator of the NDDC, Mr. Effiong Okon Akwa over the said funds.
The group also called on the President Buhari to sack Mr. Akwa as the Interim Administrator of the NDDC as the three months of his appointment has since expired.
It also further demanded the inauguration of a substantive board for the interventionist agency in line with the act setting up the commission.
In a petition to Buhari and the EFCC boss, Abdurasheed Bawa, signed by its Director-General, High Chief Selekumo Ndiaye, the group alleged that the N700billion fraud was perpetuated under various systems illegal payment of N20billion to ghost contractors for the fictitious contract of distilling purportedly awarded by the commission.
The group noted that though the IYC provided alleged evidence of the sleazy process where the signatures of a former Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Prof Nelson Pondie and former Executive Director (Projects), Samuel Ajugbe, were forged in order to pay the ghost contractors between N300 million and N400 million in the last three months, the EFCC failed to investigate not arrest the culprits.
The group called on President Muhammadu Buhari to act as a matter of urgency to suspend Mr. Effiong Okon Akwa who is illegally signing payments and documents at the NDDC because the last extension of his appointment as Interim Administrator of the NDDC expired about a year ago.
“Mr. Effiong Okon Akwa has no constitutional authority to remain at the NDDC, where he continues to sign and make fraudulent payments to their cronies. He should be removed immediately.
“We have it on good authority that most of the fraud perpetuated at the NDDC by Minister Godswill Akpabio and Effiong Okon Akwa were done through a corrupt process of fictitious payments to ghost contractors and the monies end up in the accounts of Burea De Change operators in Lagos and Abuja. This was corroborated by the Ijaw Youths Council where they described the allege pattern of fraud.
“”It was discovered that out of the over N20billion paid out illegally by the NDDC, 60 per cent is going back to Abuja through the bureau de change in other to service the pockets of none Niger Delta political leaders that will facilitate his presidential ambition.
“While he has failed to pay genuine indigenous contractors that has finished their projects awarded by the Commission, he is rather hiring thugs to chase away protesting contractors who are demanding for their payments”, it stated.
The group also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take a second review of the Forensic audit ordered to review the account of the NDDC, alleging that the forensic audit has been tampered with and used as a negotiating wand to exonerate some members of the All Progressive Congress (APC), National Assembly members and others to delay and sabotage the appointment of substantive NDDC board.
“There is high level of suffering among the people of the Niger Delta due to lack of development despite the trillions of naira that has been deplored into the NDDC. Hundreds of petitions has been submitted to the EFCC against Akpabio and Akwa therefore in the interest of Justice and Equity, the EFCC should arrest and prosecute Akpabio and Akwa over the alleged N700 billion fraud in line with the anti-corruption laws”.
“We call on the commission to identify corrupt officials and punish them. We also expect the probe to engender radical restructuring of the country’s civil service with a view to freeing it from the fetters of graft and ineptitude that diminish administrative efficiency. The NDDC under the supervision of former Niger Delta Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio has become very predictable in its corrupt ways”.
“The imposition of Mr Effiong Okon Akwa as Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission is not only illegal but an affront to the Niger Delta people. We want to state categorically that we and all progressive organizations are opposed to this thoughtless imposition in yet a further flagrant disobedience of the NDDC Act, which spells out the manner of appointing the Commission’s executive management.”
””We call on Mr. President and his advisers not to take the patience of the Niger Delta people for granted with the continued flagrant disregard for the NDDC Act. They should reverse this illegal appointment and follow the guidelines on appointment of the executive management of the NDDC as spelt out in the law setting up the Commission”, the statement.
Several attempts to get to the Interim administrator, Mr. Effiong Okon Akwa on telephone failed as the rang out severally unanswered.
However, a senior official at the Commission said the allegations leveled against Akpabio and Akwa were no longer strange to the commission, adding “we have received several petitions. Most of them are not genuine but they are mere distractions.”
“This commission under Mr. Effiong Okon Akwa is trying its best and within the limited resources to perform it’s duties. We welcome such investigations like many others done in the past.”