The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, on Friday denied requesting and executing the Niger Delta Development Commission’s projects worth N500m.
He described as false, allegations that the commission’s Interim Management Committee mismanaged N40bn between October 2019 and May 2020.
Akpabio stated this when he appeared before the Senate ad hoc committee probing the alleged misappropriated N40bn by the intervention agency.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, had at a news conference recently accused Akpabio of securing the projects without executing them.
But Akpabio said the forensic audit he initiated at the NDDC was the cause of the attacks against him.
He said he was not aware of the various expenditure in the NDDC because most of their expenses were below the threshold of what a minister was required to approve.
“I have only signed a single contract between October and now and it passed through due process. I am not aware of the contracts and expenses by the NDDC because they were done under their threshold,” he said.
He condemned contracts splitting in the NDDC, describing it as a way of inflating contracts sums.
He also said the budgeting process in the agency should be improved by ensuring that details of the proposed expenditure were supplied for the lawmakers’ scrutiny.
The minister admitted that there was a lot of rot in the NDDC with completed projects being re-awarded at huge costs.
He cited the case of an electrification project in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, which he initiated and completed while in office as the governor.
“The electrification projects in Uyo which I executed and completed as governor had been re-awarded for N3.7bn but we have stopped it,” he said.
Speaking on the N500m controversial projects, Akpabio admitted that he requested for the said projects but that the Senate panel did not approve them for him.
He said, “I was in the Senate then, because that letter is dated 2017, I must have made recommendation that they should consider to include it but they were not included in the budget.
“They were not considered. So those jobs were not done. Not one naira was paid. When you make recommendations, it is not that you are going to be the contractor.
“When I saw it, I did not think it was worth responding to because I am a seasoned administrator and a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Even if those suggested projects worth N500m were accepted, there is no guarantee that Godswill Akpabio or my nominee would have been the contractor.
“On the issue of N40bn, it is not as if the money was missing because the Central Bank of Nigeria harbours the account of the NDDC, so you cannot go and take out N40bn from the CBN and spend it without trace. Technology has gone too far.
“The contractors that were paid according to the management were contractors that were owed historical debts.”
He said he could not have detected the huge rot in the NDDC if he had not instigated the forensic audit.
The minister added, “ Most of the expenditure don’t even come to the minister because the threshold of the management is below N250m.
“So, if the contracts are split into 185 local governments of Niger Delta or 27 senatorial districts of Niger Delta, it means that it is all below N1bn.
“I didn’t even know they (IMC) expended even up to N20bn. So, the record will also help me make sure we supervise better.”
Akpabio said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has set up a Presidential Monitoring Committee to sanitise the agency.
The Chairman of the Senate ad hoc panel, Olubunmi Adetunmbi, said all the facts being used to probe the NDDC were from official sources.