Tension as Union, Militants Protest Akpabio’s Own Interim Team!
Ag Mgt Squeals: “ Akpabio Wants N30bn Illicit Contracts to himself…”
By Ifeanyi Hamilton Nwosa (Head, The New Diplomat’s Business Desk)
Escalating tension is boiling in the Niger Delta region following growing allegations of impropriety against Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to the effect thathe has allegedly launched a hellish plot to scuttle President Muhammadu Buhari’s patriotic directive on forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Minister was said to have suffered a major blow yesterday (October 29) following roaring protest across the constituent states of the Niger Delta region against what activists and militants call an “illegal appointment of an Interim Management team at a time the Senate President has just announced the composition of the NDDC Board which was sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation in compliance with extant rules guiding the NDDC.
Militants and broad spectrum of stakeholders who spoke with The New Diplomat yesterday accused the Minister of illicitly plotting to rubbish the grand vision of president Buhari for the Niger Delta region as well as scheming to cover up his alleged fleece of the NDDC to the tune of a whopping N1.9bn under an inappropriate water hyacinth payment racket. (See full report on how the Minister allegedly fleeced the NDDC via Water Hyacinth…)
To allegedly perfect this plot as well as shield the immediate past Acting Management team of the NDDC led by Prof Nelson Brambaifa, who has been a subject of intense Senate investigations for allegedly ripping-off the NDDC to the tune of N65bn under fraudulent water hyacinth projects, Akpabio was set to have masterminded the setting up of an interim Management team headed by one Joy Gbene Nunieh.
This development which is coming against the backdrop of the Minister’s previous illegal plot to recruit over 300 staff into the NDDC (see report of alleged 300 staff recruitment racket…) but swiftly reversed himself following serious censure from top Presidency Officials and National Chairman of the ruling APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has further reinforced revelations by the Interim Management of the NDDC led by Dr Enyia Akwagaga to the effect that the Minister “ has been mounting restless, unbearable pressures on her to award fresh N30bn illicit Water Hyacinth contracts to phony, bogus companies purportedly with links to the Minister….”
Sources revealed that a highly-peeved Comrade Oshomhiole had reportedly castigated the Minister after drawing the latter’s attention to the detailed expose by The New Diplomat newspaper.
Investigations further reveal that this latest move has angered militants in the constituent States of the Niger Delta as well as the entire NDDC organized Union.
Checks show that both organized groups are thundering to shut down the operations of the Commission as from tomorrow (October 31), to draw the attention of the international community to the alleged inappropriate actions of the Minister unless he reverses his indecent appointment of an interim management team.
Said an insider in NDDC from Akwa Ibom who wishes to remain anonymous: “ Godswill wants to run for 2023 Presidential race. He is talking with a former President from the SouthWest already…And the implication is that he may likely return to PDP in the permutations because APC won’t allow him. So he wants to use the NDDC as launching pad…”
The New Diplomat team in New York also gathered that concerns are already heightening among critical players in the international community who loudly applaud President Buhari for the prevailing peace in the Niger Delta region but lamented that the escalating tension arising from wrong, inappropriate policy decisions as the case with this (announcement of an Interim Management by a Minister a day the National Assembly reads the President’s nominees for the NDDC Board) could trigger a chain of tension and uproar with consequential effects across the whole Gulf of Guinea Region of Africa.
A top US policy expert on Oil and the Gulf of Guinea Energy Commission, who wishes to remain anonymous told The New Diplomat: “Nigeria is the most effective and powerful country in the Oil triangle of the Gulf of Guinea region of Africa. And President Buhari has done very, very well in maintaining stability and peace in the Niger Delta region which has kept things stable. He has to sustain that momentum.
But it’s unfortunate that this sort of policy slip from a minister if not quickly corrected could have negative impact on the government at the international and domestic levels…”In another reaction, Comrade Douyiri Brisbe , a militant leader from Bayelsa State who recently led over 3000 militants from the constituent States of the Niger Delta region in protest against the Minister’s alleged illicit authorization of N1.9bn to mysterious companies purportedly linked to the later has vowed to lead a protest to NDDC headquarters as from tomorrow in protest against “Akpabio unless he back-pedals and reverses himself as he did with the dubious recruitment racket of over 300 staff”. He said : ‘’We love President Buhari. Mr President means well for the Niger Delta region. He is a great patriot, a nationalist who has worked hard to put Nigeria and the Niger Delta back on the international map .
He just came back from Russia, and then off again to Saudi… And Mr President’s efforts are paying off because the international community is now respecting us. But this Minister (Senator Akpabio) we are told has a plan to allegedly rubbish Mr President’s noble deeds and great legacy. And we hear from great authorities that he is allegedly plotting to contest 2023 presidential elections. We don’t want people to use the commission to launch their diabolical Presidential agenda in 2023. Mr President is doing an excellent job. Why don’t we wait until he completes his tenure before planning 2023 permutations?…”
Repeated calls to Akpabio’s spokesman, Mr Aniete Ekong were unanswered. Several calls also placed to the Minister by our reporter were also unanswered. But in a recent interview, Akpabio affirmed that he actually approved the payment of a controversial N1.9bn but he went further to justify it on grounds that the said payment of N1.9bn Water hyacinth was meant for militants who were protesting in the NDDC and had threatened to shut down the operations of the Commission.
His spokesman, Mr Ekong had said : “ These are jobs that have been awarded before Akpabio got into Office.” According to Ekong, these Water Hyacinth jobs were awarded to many companies and there was no way one person could have cornered them to himself.
Ekong had also insisted that Akpabio authorized payment of the controversial N1.9bn because militants shut down NDDC operations and were protesting about water hyacinth contracts payments. But one of the militants who allegedly led the protests disagreed with Mr Ekong.
According to him, they were protesting against Akpabio’s alleged N1.9bn payment approval which they felt was against extant financial protocols.
He added: Let EFCC probe those companies your paper published. All the companies and their account numbers are listed there where they paid the N1.9bn illicit funds to. Who own those firms? Who are those companies linked to? We won’tallow them to tarnish Buhari’s positive legacy in the Niger Delta region. We love Buhari. That is why we are insisting that NDDC be moved to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President or the Secretary to Government of the Federation immediately. We don’t trust the Minister anymore with all these controversies. He has been fingered by the acting interim management of plotting to award N30bn illicit Water Hyacinth contracts after the Presidency has even expressed serious umbrage over such dubious projects.”
The New Diplomat gathered that the NDDC Union has vowed to resist any attempt by the Minister to trigger policy pronouncements that could plunge the Commission and the entire Niger Delta region into a theatre of war. A key member of the NDDC union confided in The New Diplomat: “
The Union is already mobilizing staff and union members to lock up the gates of the Commission as from tomorrow with a directive to all workers to stay at home in protest against this “Ministerial rascality”. We don’t understand the desperation behind this clandestine move by the Minister. The Senate read the list of Board members sent to it by Mr President today, just today. And the President of the Senate gave the Committee one week to confirm the Board members. Why can’t you wait for one week? It shows somebody who is so desperate to either cover up his tracks or wants to deep his hands into the public till…”
Sources within the NDDC interim Management team revealed that Akpabio has been allegedly piling unrelenting pressures on the acting MD, Dr Enyia Akwagaga to effect payment of alleged water hyacinth contracts amounting to N30bn. It would be recalled that President the reading of the names of President Buhari’s nominees into the Board of the NDDC had elicited widespread jubilation in the Niger Delta as most stakeholders applauded the President for what they called “his visionary leadership”.
The Board which has Dr Pius Odubu and Olorogun Bernard Okumagba as Chairman and Managing Director, respectively has seasoned technocrats and people of from various background and representations. Another dimension to the reported schemes by Akpabio to have an interim Management team in pace stems from a wider plot to allegedly protect “Brambaifa (immediate past acting MD of NDDC)“ because he has entered into a deal with him”.
According to insiders in the NDDC who are very familiar with the plots the whole idea is with the intention of distorting Buhari’s forensic audit order.
The New Diplomat Investigations show that in trying to carry out the Buhari’s directive on forensic audit, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs may have reportedly erred in the preliminaries.
According to experts, there was an obvious lapse in a recent advertorial placed by the MNA calling for expression of Interest as “the President’s noble vision of having top internationally reputed forensic auditing firms engaged with the full compliments of top Nigerian legal firms in place as well that could begin prosecution processes in line with forensic audit reports findings may have been.”
Markson Williams of Denton, one of the top 10 legal firms World-Wide with locations in over 50 countries and 125 locations globally told The New Diplomat Incorporated team in the US (An Affiliate Company of The New Diplomat Multi-Media Ltd based in North America) that the advertisement put out by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs which called for expression of interest from potential consultants for a forensic audit was procedurally faulty going by global standards. He told our New York Correspondent: “
In most jurisdictions across, where the intention is to undertake an excellent professional brief or task, the procuring party , even in an expression of interest, must designated clear metrics, the background , objectives , purpose of the Consultancy tasks and define its ToR. That is the standard practice globally. In some jurisdictions, you may say the ToR is not extremely compulsory but when I read the Language used by the President in the case of Nigeria in directing for a forensic audit, he was very emphatic and unambiguous. He wants any of the TOP 10 BEST FORENSIC AUDITING FIRMS AND THE TOP TEN NIGERIAN LEGAL FIRMS TO BE ENGAGED because the issues are also of major international dimensions. You have Multinational Oil companies like Chevron, Mobil, Total, many International Foundations like Ford Foundations headquartered offshore making payments to NDDC and its all these payments in addition to the Nigerian government monthly federally released allocations as well as operations that will be audited.
With any of the the Top 10 auditing firms and any of the top 10 Nigerian legal firms in place to compliment, the President’s vision should be accomplished because these are global firms that can’t be compromised. But I’m afraid that the great vision of the President may have been misinterpreted. I didn’t seen that vision well captured in the advertorial.” (See top 10 international Auditing firms represented in Nigeria and Top 10 Nigerian Legal Firms according to global rankings Trackers) According to him, forensic auditing combines the auditing skill-set of a Certified Public Forensic Accountant with the investigative expertise of a detective and the brilliance of a legal mind. It’s easily one of the fastest-growing professions globally. This is as a result of increase in fraudulent operations, money laundering, fraud related crimes, and other white-collar crimes, alongside a complementary increase in compliance regulations needs. Typically, the large accountancy firms all have forensic auditing departments.
Best 10 Top Accounting Firms forensic Auditing (All represented in Nigeria). (1). PwC (Price water house Coopers) LLP (Nigeria) (2). Deloitte (Deloitte &Touche, former Akintola Williams) (3). Ernest and Young LLP (Nigeria), (4). KPMG (Nigeria) (5).Grant Thorton (Nigeria) (6) BDOUSA LLP (Nigeria) (7).RSM US LLP (Nigeria) (8). Crowe LLP (Nigeria, Crowe Dafinone), (9).BakerTilly Virchow Krause LLP (Nigeria )(10). BKDLLP (Nigeria). Court Proceedings after forensic findings According to experts, the forensic reports are then turned to the services of legal firms for prosecution. According to Chambers, a global ranking firm which tracks ranking of legal firms in Nigeria and in other jurisdictions, the top ten legal firms in Nigeria are very well known, and they have experts with clear understanding of the dynamics of the whole process. This is because the forensic auditors need to be present during court proceedings to explain the evidence collected from the forensic audit and how the team identified the suspect(s) and so on.
The top 10 Legal firms in Nigeria are: (1). Aluko & Oyebode, (2). Banwo & Ighodalo., (3).Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie., (4).Wole Olanipekun & Co.,(5).Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe &Belgore, (6).F.O. Akinrele & Co., (7).Olaniwun Ajayi LP, (8).Jackson, Etti & Edu, (9).ACAS-Law@(Adepetun, Caxton-Martins, Agbor & Segun) and (10). ALEX. But some reports tracked with Advanced Analytics list AJUMOGBIA &OKEKE as occupying the 10th position in Nigeria .
Experts and stakeholders in the Niger Delta believe that the NDDC should be urgently relocated back to the Presidency either to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President or the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation. In their view, this would guarantee peace,strengthen institutional workings, ensure compliance with Presidential vision and help protect the nation from Ministerial slips that could potentially inflict grave reputational damage to the country’s rising positive profile under President Buhari’s administration .