Three former governors alleged to be among beneficiaries of contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), yesterday put up stout defences, exonerating themselves from the scandal rocking the development agency.
The ex-governors, namely Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia State); Chief James Ibori (Delta State) and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta State) spoke separately denying any wrongdoing. Kalu, Ibori and Uduaghan denied allegations by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, that they executed road contracts with NDDC.
Kalu, who is the Chief Whip of the Senate and currently represents Abia North Senatorial District at the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly, said that NDDC had not paid a dime to the contractors who built the roads he facilitated.
In a statement by his Legislative Aide, Emeka Nwala, Kalu said that he believed that the issues at stake in NDDC had to do with missing funds and not works done.
He pointed out that he was becoming worried over his name being used indiscriminately to sell newspapers without verifications. According to the Senate Chief Whip, the road projects mentioned by Akpabio were the interventions he facilitated for the communities as a private citizen before he became a senator. Kalu revealed that his name was mentioned because he used his letterheaded paper to write a sympathetic letter to NDDC in 2016 requesting and pleading with the body to rescue roads in Abia.
He also noted that his relationship with Akpabio dated back long before he (Kalu) became a governor, adding that he would still request for more road interventions from the minister. Kalu said: “I was Governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007 and never held any public office until June 11, 2019 when I was sworn in as senator.
“Between 2016 and 2018 during my tour to several communities, leaders and welfare unions of most communities pleaded for urgent intervention on some dilapidated roads. I wrote to the NDDC, informing the body of the conditions of these roads and the need for their attention since Abia is an NDDC state.
“The NDDC, in their consideration, which I am very grateful to, awarded the roads to companies that duly tendered for the projects and not myself.
Whatever link I have with the projects is because it was considered due to my intervention.” The Senate Chief Whip also noted that NDDC that awarded these projects was not any of the interim management in controversy, but the fully constituted body of the agency with its board.
Clarifying further, Kalu said: “The roads I requested for intervention as mentioned by the Hon. Minister were repairs of Ezere- Acha-Ndiokoukwu Road; Amaubiri-Eluama-Uru Ring Road, Lokpaukwu, Umuchieze; Ndi Oji Abam- Atan Road; the Okafia- Ozuitem-Bende road and Ozu-Amuru-Abam Road.
“The contractors have completed and delivered these roads long time ago, except Abam-Atani road, which I learnt from the contractors, was slowed down due to rain, but still on-going. “Meanwhile, it would interest Nigerians to know that the contractors who built these roads have not been paid any dime. It has not been easy with the contractors, but because it’s a community project, they have only but kept hope alive on the NDDC.
“I am so much concerned about roads because I understand the economic importance of good roads, that’s why I built several roads when I was governor. Even as a senator, it would interest you to know that my major constituency projects are road construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation. We have put in plans to finish 19 roads in Abia North before the end of 2021.
“As a community leader, I do not intend to stop my interventions on roads in NDDC states because all the states need good roads. Good roads help to drive the economy.
Therefore, I believe the NDDC forensic audit should focus on the missing funds and not works done. “They should focus on paying contractors that delivered their jobs and not using my name indiscriminately to sell newspapers.
The Hon. Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio is my good old friend. We have been friends even before I became a governor. “I hope he doesn’t expect me to stop seeking for road interventions in our communities. It is his civic responsibility to support the communities and I am very confident he will oblige our future requests, especially in areas of good roads.”
Also, a former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Uduaghan, said the allegation linking him with NDDC road contract in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was false. Uduaghan, in a statement in Warri by his media assistant, Monoyo Edon, urged the public to disregard the allegation.
According to him, he had reached out to the minister to immediately correct the falsehood. The former governor, who served for two terms under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), said that he had never approached the Commission for any contract.
“The publication states that the former governor was linked to the contract for the emergency repair of Close B, Alhaji Estate & Environs, Rumuodomaya, Port Harcourt, at a cost of N429 million. “I want to state clearly that the said accusation is false. Uduaghan has never approached NDDC for any contract whatsoever. “It is even more ridiculous that the said contract is a road inside Port Harcourt town.
“The attention of the Minister of the Niger Delta, Senator Akpabio, has been
drawn to the publication and I hope he makes a correction,” he said. Similarly, another former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, has denied the allegation that NDDC awarded him some contracts. Ibori said he would not want to join in the “dancing in the market square” going on at NDDC right now.
The former governor, who spoke through his Media Assistant, Tony Eluemunor, said he decided to make the clarification for the records because friends and associates have inundated him with phone calls on the issue.
Ibori stated categorically that he never solicited for, or was he awarded, or indeed executed any contract with NDDC or any government agency, at any time, for that matter. He said that in all the years he has been through in and out of public office, he has never been accused of been a government contractor, let alone a failed one. Hence he did not want to dignify the allegation with a response because it is ridiculous.
“So, Ibori is advising Akpabio, his brother, friend and member of the former Governors’ Forum, to please calm down and focus on the task at hand.
“Ibori said that the NDDC we have today is a product of his personal sacrifice as well as those of his Niger Delta colleagues (1999 -2007) who rose to the occasion to override the veto of President Olusegun Obasanjo who refused to accent to the NDDC Bill at the time.
“If not for the exemplary courage some of us exhibited, there would have not been an NDDC to bicker about today. “Watching the level NDDC has degenerated to, is a tragedy.
We owe it a duty to the people of the Niger Delta to make NDDC work to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the region and to realise the dream for which we fought for it to be set up. So, let everybody involved in NDDC do their duties to the good people of the region,” Ibori said.