The Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has refuted allegations of corruption, sexual and workplace harassments, pipelines bombings, secret cult activities, abuse of office, amongst others levelled against him by Mrs Joy Nunieh, the former Acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC).
In a statement signed by his media office, Akpabio said his initial attitude to the allegation was to allow his lawyers and the judicial system vindicate him but that he was compelled to react due to the allegation of sexual harassment. “The Honourable Minister did not at any time, place or circumstance make any form of sexual advances to Ms. Nunieh, not even to put himself in a position or posture suggestive of sexual advances towards Ms. Nunieh or any female staff of his Ministry or the NDDC.
“For the records, the Honourable Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, is happily married and contented with his wife. Together, they are blessed with children, four (4) of whom are young women. The Honourable Minister is an avid believer of the Affirmative Action and that was visible in the appointments he made as a two-term Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015. Under his watch, he appointed several women into various high-level positions as Chairpersons of Local Government Councils, Magistrates, Judges, Heads of Parastatals, Directors, Permanent Secretaries, and Commissioners.”
The statement posited further that Akpabio has always championed and still champions the cause of women and young children and that he is the first governor in Akwa Ibom State to have a female deputy governor; the first to appoint female Chief Justices of the High Court; recommended women for ministerial appointments one of whom was a Minister of Housing and Urban Development; and supported for an appointment the first female Vice-Chancellor of the only Federal University in the state among others.
As the Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, the statement went on, “Akpabio summoned the political will to stop modern-day slavery where young women and children were ferried away from the state to other states in Nigeria to be used for all sorts of menial chores as housemaids and many suffered unimaginable maltreatments and unethical trade malpractices. He ensured that anyone caught in that trade was severely punished. He signed the Child Rights Law to protect children, especially the girl-child from stigmatization and punishment by ordeal where some were executed or banished on allegation of witchcraft. The Child Rights Law also made primary and secondary education in Akwa Ibom State free and compulsory; educating the girl child was his topmost priority.”
Further, Akpabio wondered why Ms. Nunieh did not report the alleged incident to the police at the earliest opportunity if indeed it was true considering that she left office since February 2020. Thus, Akpabio stated, “Waiting till July 10th and 13th 2020 when the National Assembly appears to be probing some of her actions as the Acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee (“IMC”) exposes her motive, especially at a time when the momentum for the Forensic Audit Investigation of the NDDC is heating up and the truth is about to be unveiled for all to see. The critical question is who is afraid of the Forensic Audit at the NDDC? Who is afraid of the truth? There is no doubt that Ms. Nunieh’s attacks are both personal and sponsored. Those afraid of the truth and who wish to bury it from seeing the light of the day are strenuously behind Ms. Nunieh’s vicious campaign of calumny.”
According to the statement, Akpabio has a mandate from President Muhammadu Buhari to unearth looting and financial misappropriation that had gone on at the NDDC since inception in 2001. “He is committed to that mandate through the forensic audit of the NDDC and will not be deterred or distracted from that goal. This campaign of calumny aims to simply get Senator Akpabio out, kill the forensic audit and continue business as usual at the NDDC,” read the statement.
On the allegations of his involvement in contract racketeering, the bombing of oil pipelines, corruption/diversion of funds, Akpabio stated that he had declared several times and at various fora that since his assumption of office, he had only awarded three contracts till date; the appointment of the lead forensic auditors which was approved by the Federal Executive Council; the emergency procurement contract for COVID-19 intervention in the Niger Delta Area, which due to its urgency, had his interim and presidential approval in line with the Bureau of Public Procurement Act; and the award of vehicles purchase duly approved by the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Federal Executive Council but which is yet to be consummated.
Reacting to Nunieh’s allegation that he directed her to change the Dollars in the NDDC’s account, he said, “It should be noted that NDDC’s Account is domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Every inflow and outflow is known and traceable. The NDDC gets its revenue in Dollars which is paid directly to its Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the CBN. The Dollar is then converted to Naira by the CBN and paid into the NDDC Naira Account still domiciled with the CBN upon a written application from the NDDC. It is, therefore, impossible for any sum of money belonging to the NDDC with the CBN including the several figures bandied around as missing to be missing.”
He stated further that unlike in the past when the NDDC had over three hundred (300) bank accounts in different commercial banks, that practice had since stopped under the Buhari administration, which gave full effect to the application of the Treasury Single Account and the NDDC now has its accounts with the CBN. “The Honourable Minister does not give verbal instructions to anybody; all instructions are in writing and in response to a request from the commission,” read the statement.
Nunieh also alleged that Akpabio directed her to remove Mr. Kaltungo Moljengo from the legal unit and send him on compulsory retirement because he is a northerner. In his response, Akpabio said his track records mark him out as a totally detribalized politician and one of the best friends of Northern Nigeria, stating that he was informed by the NDDC management that over twenty-three (23) top Management Staff from various parts of Nigeria including the Niger Delta region, who have evaded leave in the last ten (10) years or had the tendency to influence negatively the ongoing forensic audit, were recommended for mandatory leave by the lead forensic auditors but they are still a staff of the commission and currently receiving their monthly salaries and benefits.
While encouraging Nigerians to continue to hold their leaders to account, Akpabio urges them to be discerning and dispassionate before making far-reaching allegations, opinions and views. He declared that he has instructed his lawyers to seek necessary redress in a court of competent jurisdiction on his behalf over the defamatory statements made by Ms. Nunieh.