By Emeka Paschal (Abuja)

Obong Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs

A coalition of civil society organizations, CSO operating in the Niger Delta region of the country led by South-South Advocacy Movement, S-SAM has expressed full confidence in the capacity and competence of the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Godswill Akpabio to bring about quality leadership his office requires to deliver in the good governance objectives of President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration. The group also condemned in strong terms the call by Niger Delta Ijaw Development and Response Assembly, NDIDRA for sack of the Honourable Minister describing it as malicious, mischievous and incongruous with common sense.

In a press statement made available to newsmen in Abuja Wednesday and signed by the duo of the National coordinator and National Secretary, of the group Comrade Owuru Johnson E and Engr Piriye Bowei Monday respectively, it absolved Akpabio of corruption and abuse of office allegations reiterating that he has not violated any law relating to over-seeing the NDDC as an agency of government under his ambit.

S-SAM further called on President Mohammadu Buhari to discountenance the call for the Minister’s removal as it callous, mischievous and in bad faith. It explained that the orderly and harmonious working relationship existing between the Honourable Minister and the IMC of NDDC should not be misconstrued to being autocratic just as being watchful on the activities of NDDC generally accepted to have been mismanaged and requiring sanitization, should not be mistaken as hijacking the commission or turning it to a one man show. Further, it enlightened that Obong Akpabio is more knowledgeable and knows where to draw the line saying that due diligence should not be sacrificed on the altar of granting autonomy.

It added that the Minister’s decision to inaugurate an interim Management Board, IMB of NDDC is apt and is to enhance the success of presidential directive for a forensic audit of the commission which overtime have been putrefying in sleaze, with the result that not much can be shown for the huge government investment in it. “Under this condition, no minister that worth his position would fold hands and watch a new management board to inherit the mess as that will amount to laying foundation for failure,” it pointed out.

It described Obong Akpabio as representing one proactive and prolific political office holder south-south zone of the country should be proud of at least based on his sterling track records. “Thus we, as an advocacy group, view the call for his removal as unreasonable, despicable and bordering on malice.  Moreover, it flies in the face of scruple to suppose that NDIDRA is out of touch with current development within the NDDC’s management, as it relates to the executive directive for a forensic audit of its management”, the statement added.

The statement also thanked President Buhari for appointing Akpabio whose past outstanding achievements as former governor of the oil-rich state still speak for him. It went further that as long as we are under no illusion he will surely turn around the fortunes of the ministry, stressing that it is unrealistic, wicked and misleading to dub him as autocratic, corrupt or clannish which he is not. It pointed that he has started well by laying a foundation that will guarantee sustainable development of the NDDC states, and should be given a chance to complete it.

The statement added “From what we have gathered, there is no specific evidence of corruption or corrupt tendency NDIDRA can point out against the Hon Minister in all that it complained about. Rather, it struggles to link the minister with former Managing Director it alleged awarded bogus contract in 2016 without specifications, which are not factual, as we know no contracts can be awarded without monetary figures tied to it. What is visible is that NDIDRA is angry that Mrs Joy Nunieh who was exposed to have putrid profile unbefitting of her office was sacked as MD of NDDC and as a result it is desperate to bring the good name of the Hon Minister and the IMC to disrepute.

The statement however urged the Hon Minister to not to be distracted by NDIDRA or similar anti-establishment in his onerous duty of repositioning the Niger Delta Ministry or agencies under it. “Every success story breeds jealousy and that explains reason behind some disgruntled elements who are bent on witch-hunting and blackmailing you to stand-still at all cost. With the support of majority of the people of Niger Delta and confidence the president placed on you and faith in God, posterity will surely vindicate you”. The statement concluded.

The full text of the press statement follows below:

 

    SOUTH-SOUTH ADVOCACY MOVEMENT (S-SAM)

Press Statement

VOTE OF CONFIDENT ON THE HONORABLE MINISTER OF NIGER DELTA AFFAIRS, OBONG GODSWILL AKPABIO AND FORMAL CONDEMNATION OF NIGER DELTA IJAW DEVELOPMENT AND RESPONSE ASSEMBLY’S CALL FOR HIS SACK  

Our Coalition of Civil Society Organizations, CSO in the Niger Delta region led by the South-South Advocacy Movement, S-SAM, is appalled and irritated on the irrational action of a clandestine group, Niger Delta Ijaw Development and Response Assembly, NDIDRA in calling for sack of Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Godswill Akpabio over fictitious allegations of corruption and abuse of office it levelled against him. As far as we are concerned, the allegations are false, malicious, mischievous and incongruous with common sense hence, hold no water.

Consequently, we hereby pass vote of confidence on the Honourable Minister and formally condemn the call in its entirety as Akpabio has not violated any law relating to over-seeing the NDDC as an agency of government under his new ambit. His decision to inaugurate an interim Management Board, IMB of NDDC is apt and is to enhance the success of presidential directive for a forensic audit of the commission which overtime have been putrefying in sleaze, with the result that not much can be shown for the huge government investment in it. Under this condition, no minister that worth his position would fold hands and watch a new management board to inherit the mess as that will amount to laying foundation for failure.

Akpabio, as a richly experienced former governor of one of Nigeria’s wealthiest state, Akwa Ibom, is very competent to hold the Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs as its minister. He represents one proactive and prolific political office holder south-south zone of the country should be proud of at least based on his sterling track records. Thus we, as an advocacy group, view the call for his removal as unreasonable, despicable and bordering on malice.  Moreover, it flies in the face of scruple to suppose that NDIDRA is out of touch with current development within the NDDC’s management, as it relates to the executive directive for a forensic audit of its management. Besides, since one cannot put a new wine in an old wine skin, it is unwise to demand for Akpabio’s sack on ground of ineptness not when his eagle eyes watch on NDDC conforms with strict compliance to Executive directive to clean up the commission in order to pave the way for a new board.

Against this backdrop, we assumed NDIDRA may have sold itself short or misguided by someone else, who perhaps has a few axe to grind otherwise the very anti-Akpabio drone orchestrated by it is uncalled for. It is improper to think of a tested, trusted and seasoned politician as Akpabio not to have a requisite adeptness to run the ministry as NDIDRA suggests. Ordinarily, we would have ignored it to dissolve into oblivion but since silence could mean admittance, we hereby counter it as follows:

  1. That the Niger Delta region is very grateful to President Buhari for appointing Akpabio of whose past outstanding achievements as former governor of the oil-rich state still speak for him. As long as we are under no illusion he will turn around the fortunes of the ministry, it is unrealistic, wicked and mischievous to however dub him as autocratic, corrupt or clannish. He has started well by laying a foundation that will guarantee sustainable development of the NDDC states, and should be given a chance to complete it.
  2. The entire region and stakeholders see Akpabio’s appointment as the best thing that has happened to the region. For if he could deliver Akwa Ibom State from a sleepy backwater into somewhat an industrial hub, using state’s resources judiciously, he will as well deliver the entire region from the critical list. His good governance delivery mechanism is not lost on him and as the gangbusters so he works. He is still a man with enormous drive who is least the type that sits on his hand and does nothing.
  3. We, with like minds, are in solidarity with the Honourable minister. A good understanding of his strategies shows that the ministry will soon take a turn for better and that all we need therefore to do is pray for him to succeed in his efforts at attracting government attention to the region that lays the golden egg. Under him the much anticipated dividend of democracy will not elude the region any longer. Granted there had been previous minsters of the Niger-Delta Affairs before him, but he will not fall in their mould of non-performing. He has already had a proven track record he would replicate.
  4. That, the Niger Delta and its people deeply appreciate and fully embrace the President Buhari’s directive to carry out a forensic Audit of the NDDC for the benefit of the states. We see such a project as going to be in the best interest of the region. Much as we admit the commission is decayed in corruption, we should however allow Akpabio to introduce some element of transparency, accountability and probity into its activities. The very condition of uncontrolled corruption impedes the accelerated development of states in the region. The audit, it is hoped, when eventually completed will strengthen the capacity of the commission to deliver on its mandate
  5. That the decision to put an IMB in place for the NDDC is complementary to the wise directive of the President for a forensic audit of the commission. What the Honourable Minister has done is not far from installing neutral and independent management to superintend frictionless audit process for accountable, transparent and graft-free NDDC. The constitution and laws of Nigeria make it clear the role of a minister on a board under his him and what constitutes interference, none agrees with what NDIDRA pointed out. In view of the presidential directive, it is hard to see how Akpabio has violated the law, abused the process or perpetrated corruption to merit sack. It is a case of calling a dog bad name in order to hang it and must be resisted by all lovers of the good governance.
  6. It must be noted that, as a matter of well-intended policy of the Hon Minister in ascertaining the true financial state of the NDDC, cleaning the augean’s stable and redefining the development agenda long expected for the Niger Delta, he has halted every payment or expenditure of the commission except instances of salaries and overhead. It is therefore worrisome where the NDIDRA derive the information of financial corruption it is referring to when no expenditure is going on.
  7. By their fruit, we shall know them. NDIDRA is a faceless body as no name of any its official has been mentioned in all it wrote. It is also obvious from the allegations and demands of NDIDRA, that they are being sponsored by those who have been holding NDDC hostage, benefiting in the rot and trading in corruption for self-enrichment to tailor a script to remove the minister ostensibly to stop him from sanitizing the operations of the NDDC. In fact it is a case of corruption fighting back observable in some sectors of the economy. But come what may, the NDDC must be cleaned up and made deservedly to serve the noble objectives of developing the Niger Delta region.
  8. From what we have gathered, there is no specific evidence of corruption or corrupt tendency NDIDRA can point out against the Hon Minister in all that it complained about. Rather, it struggles to link the minister with former Managing Director it alleged awarded bogus contract in 2016 without specification, which are not factual, as we know contracts are tied with monetary figures. What is visible is that NDIDRA is angry that Mrs Joy Nunieh who was exposed to have putrid profile unbefitting of her office was sacked as MD of NDDC and as a result is desperate to bring the good name of the Hon Minister and the IMC to disrepute.
  9. We urge president Buhari to discountenance the call for the Minister’s removal it is irrational, mischievous and malicious. The orderly and harmonious working relationship existing between the Honourable Minister and the IMC of NDDC should not be misconstrued to being autocratic just as being watchful on the activities of NDDC generally accepted to have been mismanaged and requiring sanitization, should not be mistaken as hijacking the commission or turning it to a one man show. Obong Akpabio is more knowledgeable and knows where to draw the line. Due diligence should not be sacrificed on the altar of granting autonomy.
  10. We urge the Hon Minister to remain focused and give no room for unnecessary distraction by NDIDRA or similar anti-establishment in his onerous duty of repositioning the Niger Delta Ministry or agencies under it. Every success story breeds jealousy and that explains reason behind some disgruntled elements who are bent on witch-hunting and blackmailing you to stand-still at all cost. With the support of majority of the people of Niger Delta and confidence the president placed on you and faith in God, posterity will surely vindicate you.

In conclusion, we call on NDIDRA to rather direct its energy to addressing the many ills that had plagued the region for a long time than to target Akpabio for a distasteful allegation and diatribe it cannot defend. Akpabio is acting on executive order which must be accomplished and cannot be seen as overbearing. Undertaking to sanitize the commission is for the benefits of people of the region. The commission is central to the nation’s economic growth and therefore NDIDRA should always offer useful suggestions as to how best to move the region forward for mutual benefits. The call for Akpabio’s sack borders on resentment. It also demonstrates that NDIDRA lacks knowledge of corporate governance which the minister applies extensively in running his office. Above all it shows NDIDRA is selfish in pursuit of its agenda.

Give Obong Akpabio, a chance to breathe new life into the Niger Delta Ministry and NDDC for measurable results. He is a man of impeccable leadership qualities who will hardly work to undermine his personal integrity.

Signed:

 Comrade Owuru, Johnson E                                   Engr  Piriye Bowei Monday

   National Coordinator                                                 National Secretary

 

   

 

 

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