Another round of smear campaign against NDDC
Sir: Every now and then, a smear campaign against the NDDC, possibly sponsored by self-serving politicians and contractors, would make its way through a section of the media. The kernel of these publications is usually threefold: attack the forensic audit which President Muhammadu Buhari ordered into the affairs of the commission and ask the President to immediately recompose the commission’s board.
Senator Godswill Akpabio, the supervising minister of NDDC, is often the target of most of the attacks. He is seen as the one stopping Buhari from forming a new board for the agency.
In the editorial opinion of THISDAY newspaper of Wednesday, February 23, 2022, titled: “NDDC and the anti-graft hoax,” the same argument is made. It is difficult to conjecture that a minister would have the power to stop the President from carrying out his duties. I do not know why so many powers and invincibility is ascribed to Akpabio. Even when he was our governor in Akwa Ibom, many people had thought that he had the ability to put out the sun!
In addition, the editorial comments asked that “full details of the findings by the forensic audit should be made public quickly,” adding that “the Presidency, which ordered the audit, needs to act on the findings by referring cases of indictment to the EFCC or the judiciary.” I agree and I believe the Federal Government is working on these. Just last week, a dubious allegation came from the leadership of Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC). It stated that the management of the commission had made payments of N20 billion to ghost contractors. It is notable that the commission had promptly countered such spurious claims with facts and figures.
Although NDDC was beset with several cases of malpractices and mismanagement in the past, it is important to note that the current management, led by Mr. Efiong Akwa, has worked hard to clean up the commission and institute new corporate governance guided by transparency, honesty and professionalism. Since Akwa was appointed chief executive in December 2020, the commission has completed over 20 projects that were abandoned for many years, three of which were personally commissioned by Buhari between March and December 2021. The three are the commission’s head office building in Port Harcourt, which was under construction for over 25 years; the ultra-modern police barracks in Omagwa, also in Port Harcourt, which was under construction for 12 years and the beautiful student hostel at the University of Uyo with capacity for 1,006 students, which was under construction for over 15 years. I understand that a major electricity project in Ondo State built by the commission with the capacity to electrify homes, offices and businesses in 12 local councils would soon be completed. Many stakeholders in the region, including governors, have applauded Akwa and his team for the energy and focus in the commission.
Clearly, it is a new era in the NDDC devoid of the stench of the past. Senator Akpabio has shown convincing commitment to drive the President’s agenda at the delta region and reposition the commission on the path of probity, good governance and decency. A new NDDC has emerged. I acknowledge that as the election season approaches, politicians who are gearing up to run for offices would be wishing for the commission to become the major source of their finance as was the case in the past. Unfortunately, for them, Buhari is not willing to open the treasury for this class of bandits. Rather, he has directed the Attorney General to look into the recommendations of the forensic audit and make a proposal to the government on how best to reposition the organisation before a new board is constituted. I ask for our people and the media to give the President a little more time.
Etim Etim, a journalist and author, lives in Abuja.