By Bukola Olasanmi
Niger Delta Affairs Minister Godswill Akpabio failed to execute a contract he got from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) worth N500million, according to Senate Committee on Niger Delta Chairman Senator Peter Nwaoboshi.
He alleged that Akpabio used his position and influence as Senate Minority Leader to secure the contracts.
But, the minister denied the allegation, saying it was a smear campaign against him and that Nwaoboshi was jittery over the forensic audit of the NDDC.
There have been allegations and counter-allegations between the Senate and NDDC, which Akpabio’s ministry supervises.
The Senate and the House of Representatives launched a joint probe of “reckless” spending of N40billion by the NDDC.
NDDC Executive Director of Projects (EDP), Dr Cairo Ojougboh, claimed that Senator Nwaoboshi and his House of Representatives counterpart, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, “raised and vandalised” the commission’s 2019 budget by unduly jerking it up to the tune of N85billion for selfish purposes.
Nwaoboshi said Akpabio wrote to him to include certain projects meant for his constituency in the NDDC annual budget during the Eight Senate.
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But Akpabio said the letters were addressed to the National Assembly leadership to make recommendations for zonal intervention projects as requested by the leadership.
Yesterday, Nwaoboshi said Akpabio got NDDC contracts, which he failed to execute in 2017.
In documents he made available to reporters in Abuja, the Senator alleged that in 2017 alone, Akpabio was awarded contracts worth N500million by the NDDC after he asked for them.
He said: “In a letter dated August 7, 2017, addressed to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Akpabio requested that five projects worth N500million be added for him in the NDDC’s budget.
“Akpabio as Minority Leader of the Senate then used his office to include projects not budgeted for in the Appropriation Bill.”
The projects, he said, include fencing of the Federal Polytechnic Ukana, Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District at N200 million.
Others are fencing of Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene (old site) at N100 million and entrepreneurship training on the use of modern farming implements for youths at N75 million in Akwa Ibom.
The rest are entrepreneurship training on the use of modern farming implement for women in Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial District at the cost of N75 million, and the renovation of one hostel facility at the University of Nsukka, Nsukka Campus, at the cost of N50 million.
“Findings show that while there was no physical evidence of implementation of these projects, the contracts were awarded and fully paid for.
“Such practices have turned the region to sites of abandoned projects,” Nwaoboshi said.
Akpabio’s spokesman Anietie Ekong denied the allegations, saying they were part of a smear campaign against the minister.
He challenged Nwaoboshi to name the companies that the purported contracts were awarded to, if any, to show if Senator Akpabio had a link with any of them.
Ekong said: “We want to categorically deny the allegation that he wrote to the Committee to include the purported projects and was awarded the contract to execute them by the NDDC.
“The jobs were never given, and this is where your ingenuity as an investigative journalist would come in. Did you ask him to furnish you with the names of the company that those jobs were awarded to and if Senator Akpabio has anything to do with them?
“So, we categorically deny it. This shows you the level of desperation that the forensic audit is attracting because people have raped the NDDC over the years and they are getting hysterical because the forensic audit is going to expose what is going on.
“That is why you see this level of desperation, that a Distinguished Senator can go to the level of concocting things just to smear my boss.
“Senator Akpabio has nothing to do with those projects. So, it is one in a series of a smear campaign by the man because he is afraid that the forensic audit will catch up with him.
“Since he has so much information about the NDDC, we challenge him to name the companies that those jobs were awarded to and if they ever had anything to do with Senator Akpabio, if they were awarded at all.”