2023: Akpabio, Wike jovial sparks reveal underlining currents and re-alignments
The security facility near the Port Harcourt international Airport zone actually looks grandiose especially with total of 68 flats, armory and underground cell, but many still wondered how the housing project attracted the highest citizen in the land, President Muhammadu Buhari, for its commissioning.
He was actually represented by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, but many still wondered how a 12-storey tower headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) could only attract the president’s virtual presence but this one attracted his physical attention, though in physical representation, going by what it takes to move the presidency to a location and back.
So, on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, the Airport Road, right from the Rumuokoro Roundabout to Elele town, was cordoned off from commercial traffic. In the sky was a military jet hovering around the area till event was over; full presidential sortie.
Thou peaceful Ikwerre people
A top government official commended the Ikwerre people for maintaining exemplary peace during construction stages and that even, some of their women cooked food for the workers at the site. There was huge applause, but he did not know that most of workmen were their kinsmen. But, when the dignitaries began to starve as noon dragged, they learnt that the ‘peaceful’ youths waylaid the food convoy at the entrance and scattered and ate it. The armed securities controlled the inside, the unknown youths controlled the outside; and peace reigned.
A house built in 10 years
How long does it take, or should it take to build a house or a cluster of houses? This one is 68 flats. The six blocks took over 10 years for an agency that saw N6trillion pass through its fingers. The N6trn itself is under hot contention because many say the Minister of Justice added instead of subtracting actual releases to the NDDC from total budgeted sum. Be that as it may, would it be right to say lack of funds stalled the project from 2011/2012 to 2021?
This question brought out another conflict. The audience was mixed: PDP and APC lords, and many who were former and later lords of both parties. So, if the contract was awarded in 2011/12, and GovernorNyesom Wike said it should have been completed in about a year or two, so, it means PDP should have completed it far before APC’s Buhari would show up. For a son of the soil to be president and such a project suffered such fate, which party needed to face trashing at the market square? Yet, most politicians spoke as if others were bad and they alone were good. This prompted those sitting where we were to hiss thus: “Until accountability, naming and shaming returns to public service and governance, villains will continue to pose as heroes”.
Instead, the interim Managing Director of the NDDC, EfiongAkwa, told the President that he visited the site in March 2021 and what he saw pained his heart. He said he summoned his ‘council’ (40 directors) and asked; what do we do, what can we do? The answer is what the world saw. Funds had to be scratched from everywhere to get the task done. Why? His Excellency had given a marching order that the critical projects must be completed.
IOCs trapped funds?
The NDDC MD/CEO mentioned two critical factors that militated against the zeal to resurrect the SPU Housing Project: (By the way, SPU means Special Protection Unit of the police. It is obvious they are the most privileged section of the police and most politically exposed because of the sensitivity and topness of the VIPs they protect).
The MD used the auspicious occasion with presence of the second topmost personality in the presidency to report the hushed word of the oil corporation’s funds not getting to the Commission to execute the mandate of the president. Or, how would Mr. President mandate that critical projects be executed while waiting for forensic audit and board inauguration, only to not react to the loud secret of the IOCs funds not getting to the Commission?
It has been said severally that when the National Assembly failed to force a board on the Commission, failed to sack the previous interim MD (Daniel Pondei), they now allegedly got a security agency to block the Accounts of the Commission or got the security agency to open what they call EFCC/NDDC account with the CBN wherein are lodged all further remittances of the Commission. The idea is to warehouse the funds away from the supervising minister and the Interim MD. Some praise this, some condemn it. So, saying it to the hearing of the VP on behalf of the President means it’s no more a secret, and the President can no longer say he has not heard it. Is the action right? Is it wrong? Say so now. Those sitting around us wondered how the president would give such mandate and look away as the funds remain trapped. Could this be the real reason for making Mr. President attend physically at commissioning, so he can hear it in public and probably scream, you mean it? Coupled with this is what the MD called paucity of funds from the federal allocation.
The second factor that actually held down work was Covid-19 pandemic. His words: “The presidency mandated us to complete abandoned projects that we consider very critical and of importance to the people of the region. This project required huge management skills to execute in the face of funding constraints.”
More from NDDC CEO
Despite the funding constraints, the interim boss who has been commended for steadying the ship of the Commission so far, said: We are also striving to complete a huge power project in Ondo State as well as a 1000-bed hostel in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State which is 98 percent completed. In two weeks from now, it will be ready for commissioning.
He also put the project in perspective: Nigeria has 17m housing deficit; we have reduced that a bit with 68 flats here.
Basket of commendations for Akwa
Despite the heaps of opprobrium on the NDDC and the interim admin system, EfiongAkwa, a lawyer, a doctorate degree holder, and fellow of two distinguished professions (Administration and Accounting), won commendations from all speakers. Since he took over from Pondei, he has managed to calm even impossible quarters such as the governors, especially the host, the National Assembly, among others. Governor Wike even said he had never attended NDDC event, but he did this time. Akwa was said to have offset some of the partnership debts that would have gone to court. The minister always commends him, the security agencies, etc. Maybe, the Commission would look back and remember him. Wike said Akwa would have peace after leaving the hot seat because he has many important projects to point to.
Wike is another public personality that won all round commendation from all quarters for what he is doing and saying in Nigeria. The applause was huge and passionate each time he moved a finger. Many began to wonder if Nigeria should look any further for a future leader (2023).
IG of Police: Alkali Baba Usman
“I am highly elated at this landmark project being handed over to me today. It is significant to the police. This is the first massive project to the Special Protection Unit (SPU) of the Nigerian Police since its creation in 2009,” Usman said.
The NDDC contributes to achieving internal security mandate in the country; thus, the Commission is not ready to watch from the side. We implore other agencies to join in fighting insecurity.
According to him, “The police are just emerging from #EndSARS crisis which destroyed a lot of police assets, and this donation is quite heartening. This model is now to be adopted. Let the NDDC help in doing this in the other NDDC states, at least in phases.
“I insist on maintenance of this edifice and on the right behaviour in use of this place. I must thank the Vice President who has been helping to push police reform matters in government.”
OlojimiOjo: Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on NDDC
We just commissioned the NDDC Towers (headquarters) few weeks ago, and now this. It’s like the mandate of the Commission is now being realised. It means we as Nigerians can achieve anything if we agree and set our minds on it.
Our duty at the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC is to demand and ensure accountable use of resources. With this pace, we may see the East West Road completed and commissioned.
Thank you GovernorNyesom Wike! You are about the only governor steadily executing projects. You have given us reason to know that the Niger Delta can work and that prosperity may return.
Senator Peter Nwaboshi
We must thank the Management of the NDDC. Today is not a day for me to make speeches because I just lost a kinsman, a judge.
Uncommon banters: Akpabio vs Wike
Akpabio: I will not join in urging Governor Wike to join our party. We already have our problems, let him not add his own.
But, the same person later in his remarks, though still joking, urged Governor Wike to cross over. He even said he would not join to call him performing governor unless he joined. “Come over to where you will be appreciated”.
Wike: Malaria is better than cancer: The crowd was rocking as Wike was marching toward the podium. They knew he would bomb Akpabio back. A video has emerged after the visit that showed both men enjoying in an evening; throwing more banters at each other.
Wike began slowly, saying he thought it was commissioning but that the Minister has turned it into a political rally. Many felt that Wike who went around the state in 60 days few months ago commissioning projects was also accused of turning the events to campaign rallies. So, the turf seemed familiar.
On joining Akpabio’s party, Wike said it was better to remain where there is malaria than to where there is cancer. Malaria can be treated but cancer at developed stage is nothing but death. I don’t want to die.
He reminded Akpabio that it was in PDP that he (minister) achieved uncommon results that made him uncommon governor. Now, has been an uncommon minister. So, retrace your steps to the PDP.
The crowd rocked more and more.
Normal Akpabio: Yes, 13,777 projects were abandoned
He said: President Buhari gave us marching order to complete the NDDC headquarters and we did. This is a new NDDC where every kobo will count. Eg: Diesel supply contract: The rented NDDC building never had public power supply for all the years it was used (2000 to 2021) even when it could have taken not more than N20m to do it. Instead, they preferred the diesel supply contract sustained the 8-story building for the years the Commission was there. Now, the NDDC is on course. It will not be same story.
We will be knocking on Mr. President’s door to help us commission the Power project in Ondo before end of November 2021. The Niger Delta is now the most peaceful zone in Nigeria. We commend the Ikwerre ethnic group where this project is located for their peaceful disposition during construction period. They even cooked for the contract workers and related well. Let them keep this spirit up.
The East West Road will be completed. President Buhari has pledged this, from Warri (Delta State) to Oron in Akwa Ibom State (from Calabar axis).
He said the much-awaited forensic audit has been submitted and Mr. President has handed it to the Minister of Justice; now, recovery follows. Some 13,777 projects were abandoned. We pick some we can complete. NDDC cannot be same again. It is no more a cash cow and election-funding centre.
Wike: I will shut down NDDC Road if they do not give us N2.5bn counterpart fund
You say 13,777 projects have been abandoned by the NDDC. Why would it not be so, considering the hot race to be Managing Director, Executive Director (Finance) and Executive Director (Projects). The MD will run to Abuja every now and then to take directives.
In his speech, the Rivers State Governor NyesomEzenwo Wike berated the NDDC for taking about eleven years to complete the SPU Base 6 housing projects.
According to Governor Wike, it is however, not surprising because NDDC projects, often, are abandoned due to poor conceptualisation, their political nature, and absence of commensurate provision of fund.
Mr. Vice President, this is my first time of attending what NDDC is doing. In fact, I don’t know who gave out the information. About seven months ago, I had decided to take over this property for security reasons.
I’m sure somebody must have told the interim head, that look, better go and complete the project, as the governor is about taking them over.
You see, this is the problem with Nigeria. Look at a project like this that was awarded in 2011/2012. Ten years after is when we are commissioning it. This project shouldn’t have lasted this long.
Well, the minister has told us here that over 13,777 projects of NDDC were abandoned. Why will they not be abandoned when they’re projects without conceptualisation, projects being done politically, projects with no funding?”
Wike said the problem of nonperformance of NDDC should not be blamed on the commission alone, but also on Abuja portfolio contractors and other political interests who are seeking compensation from those they have assisted to positions within NDDC.
According to him, these people have all ensured that the Commission remained as a cash cow to serve as avenue to siphon money for their election purposes.
“Let nobody say that the problem of NDDC is only of the Niger Delta, no. The problem of NDDC is from the entire Nigeria. You have the Abuja problem, and you have the Niger Delta problem here. If you helped somebody to be made the Managing Director, why not allow the person to do the work? Why do you go to collect all the money?
“As Akwa has done these things, when he leaves, will he not be happy and have peace of mind? He will point at these things and say, go and see the things I did.”
Speaking further, Wike urged the leadership of the NDDC to fulfil its promise to pay N2. 5 billion as counterpart funding for the reconstruction and expansion of the Eastern Bye-Pass Road that leads to their corporate headquarters office in Port Harcourt.
The governor also told NDDC to adopt the culture of synergising with governors of states in Niger Delta to understand their needs in order to achieve a uniform and purposeful development. “Why do you jump into a state road and start construction?”
While commending the current interim committee for their dogged determination to right the wrongs of the past and completing projects it inherited, Governor Wike also lauded the Inspector General of Police for removing politics from the posting of police commissioners to the state.
“This is the only IG, I have seen, since 2015, I have had over 15 Commissioners of Police. They change them by the minute and that had affected the security architecture. Look at the peace we are having in Rivers State today, it’s because the security agencies in this state are now apolitical.”
Wike also used the occasion to reaffirm that he was not leaving the People’s Democratic Party, which he described as the hope of Nigeria.
Who is innocent?
Many in the crowd raised eyebrows over Wike’s berating of what is happening in the NDDC. He accused the people running the Commission of pestering the CEO for funds, of using the place as election centre, and of abandoning projects. These however, were the same accusations leveled against Wike when he was minister and his party was running the NDDC. Besides, most of the contracts that were abandoned were under the PDP. The 1000-bed hostels in various universities in the Niger Delta were awarded and abandoned in the PDP days. Many of the new MDs have been pressing the contractors (who were very close to power) to go back to site and deliver the hostels for students, but nothing has improved. Some had pointed at the Minister of Transportation of being the one Wike was referring to, yet, others had been pointing fingers at Akpabio. Thus, it has been a game of pointing hands to make the masses not understand who ruined the NDDC, despite the availability of a forensic audit that is there to call a spade a spade. Soon, truth would be on the streets.
Enter the dove: Osinbajo
By the time the man of law, VP Osinbajo, took the stage, the banters were calming down. The slim unassuming VP scratched at the trending banters. He said he was going to settle the two friends (Akpabio and Wike), in a matter of minutes. Many waited till he left to see the comedy of settling those men, until the VP delivered and left.
Apparently, the VP was not in any mood to be distracted by the duo in delivering his message for a president that was not part of political jokes and banters. He said, I am here for the President. I will proceed to read his address. Anywhere you hear ‘I’, know that it is Mr. President.
Buhari: Police transformation has begun
President Muhammadu Buhari explained that the provision of comfortable housing for officers of the Nigeria Police is a crucial part of the ongoing reformation of the nation’s security architecture to enable them perform optimally.
He maintained that directives had already been issued that the building of barracks for men and women of the Police Force should be done in collaboration with the Social Housing efforts of the Family Home Fund.
According to him, this will ensure speedy execution of all of the projects in all of the barracks that need to be provided.
President Buhari stated that the reform of the police force also included a yearly recruitment target that has been set to increase the number of police personnel. He said, already, the process is on to equip the personnel with personal gears and hardware. (Nigeria strives to increase from 370,000 in 2015 to 650,000 policemen).
“It is my understanding that the contract for this building was originally awarded in 2012 but was stalled by a series of delays. I am gratified that it has finally been delivered.
“This project is important because it is a means by which we can alleviate the accommodation challenges of senior security personnel posted to Rivers State and ultimately enhance the security footprint in the region. The cumulative impact of this and other similar projects will be the improvement of security in the state and the consolidation of the economic and social life of the people of the area.”
President Buhari said his administration was looking at other sources of funding of the nation’s security agencies to ensure that the pursuit for peace, prosperity, and development across the country is achieved.
As 2023 beckons, and as the pendulum seems to swing to the South and maybe South-East, a silent realignment seems to be on the way. Many have asked what Wike wants. He was gravitating to the north, making heavy donations. Many felt he was angling for VP slot. Soon, he began to spearhead an aggressive Southern activism that has now set him out as someone to beat. His fight with Uche Secondus who was seen to block a Southern slot confused observers more. Now, it looks clear that Wike is not angling for a VP slot. Whatever it is, many top persons in the South have noticed him. An APC chieftain has consistently accused Wike of using some APC members to stage a passage for him to come in and take over. Wike has consistently said he did not have the intention of leaving malaria for cancer. The truth must lie somewhere, but more of this kind of gatherings in the South would reveal more.