By Iniobong John
Ever since the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the transfer of supervision of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs under the Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio and reaffirmed this in his Independence Day broadcast, certain vested interests who do not mean well for the Niger Delta region have run amok through a coordinated campaign of calumny against the Minister.
Hardly a day passes without these enemies of the Niger Delta people fabricating phantom scandals and attempting to smear Senator Akpabio all in a bid to resist the innovation that President Muhammadu Buhari has brought to the Niger Delta region. People who have profited from the old order which have brought the region to its present sorry state have remained vehement that the status quo which have deepened the impoverishment of the masses of Niger Delta region must continue. With all the arsenals at their disposal, they have fought like wounded lions to damage the reputation of Senator Akpabio through fabricated, baseless and unfounded allegations against the Minister.
The recent letter from a group which calls itself: “Accountable Leadership for Better Nigeria Initiative” to the Honourable Attorney General and Minister for Justice and published in some national newspapers on Monday, October 14, 2019 seeking the reversal of the transfer of NDDC from the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs which they alleged Senator Akpabio carried out illegally and threatening fire and brimstone is the latest in the onslaught by these profiteers of the misery of the Niger Delta region. Senator Akpabio will not join issues with them but will work strictly on the directives of the President and Commander-in-Chief for the betterment of the Niger Delta region.
Another malicious blackmail against Senator Akpabio has been the issue of the payment for water hyacinth contract by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the youths of the region which they have attempted to link Senator Akpabio with. Water hyacinth is one of the most prominent aquatic weed plant found in the Niger Delta region. They constitute serious nuisance in the waterways as the dense canopy of leaves shades the water surface and prevents growth and sometimes disrupt transportation along the waterways and indeed kill aquatic life. It is in the mandate of the NDDC to engage youths to clear the waterways of water hyacinth.
On September 21, 2016, Senator Akpabio in company of the then Honourable Minister of State, Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN embarked on a working visit to the NDDC headquarters in Port-Harcourt. While holding a meeting at the hotel which they lodged with the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Dr Akwagaga Enyia thousands of youths besieged the hotel to protest non-payment for water hyacinth contract which they claimed they had executed since 2018. All efforts to placate the restive youths proved abortive as they insisted on definite commitment to the payment for the jobs which they had executed. Before television cameras, they threatened to disrupt peace in the Niger Delta region through sabotage of oil installations. It was at that point that the Honorable Minister and the Honorable Minister of State conferred with the Acting Managing Director on the feasibility of the payment to the protesting youths. Upon the assurance of the Acting MD, the Honourable Minister directed the Commission to begin verification and commence payment to the youths based on availability of funds. It is noteworthy that Senator Akpabio was in no way involved in the compilation of names of benefiting companies for the water hyacinth contracts which in any case, had been executed long before his nomination as a Minister. The only interest of Senator Akpabio was to placate the restive youths to continue to maintain peace in the region. Attempting to drag Senator Akpabio’s name into the water hyacinth contract is smear campaign taken too far.
Another failed attempt to soil the integrity of Senator Akpabio was the wild allegation that he had recruited over 300 people into the NDDC. However the accusers beat a quick retreat and ate their words when it was revealed that it was the insistence of due process by Senator Akpabio and his clear directive to the Acting Managing Director of the Commission to suspend the recruitment exercise until a due process evaluation of the purported exercise is carried out by the Ministry in consultation with the two NDDC Committees of the National Assembly.
After these failed attempts to smear Senator Akpabio through wild allegations, the peddlers of these falsehood and their sponsors may yet manufacture more lies with the faint hope that one may stick as they have vowed to resist the changes recently introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari. However, Senator will not be distracted by unfounded allegations. At some fora, he had promised that with the clear directive of the President to work to bring succor to the people of the Niger Delta region, it will not be business as usual. Neither campaign of calumny nor malicious propaganda will detract the Minister from executing the mandate handed down to him by President Muhammadu Buhari.
John is Chairman, Akwa Ibom State
APC National Youth Caucus