Judex Okoro, Calabar
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Senator Godswill Akpabio, has stated that President Muhammadu Buhari is totally committed to the development of the Niger Delta region.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the Cross River State governor, Professor Ben Ayade at the executive council chambers of the Governor’s Office in Calabar on Friday, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State said the forensic audit ordered by the president was a sign of courage on his part to right the wrongs in the region.
He said the essence of the ministry’s visit to the state was to look at ongoing projects and see where the ministry could intervene alongside the NDDC so as to touch the lives of the people besides fast-tracking development in the region.
According to him, “President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to total development of the Niger Delta. He is not playing politics with the region and this is why projects are taken to the grassroots through intervention in areas that touch the people’s lives.”
On the forensic audit, he said the NDDC has been a cesspool of corruption over the years and everyone knows it including the workers, contractors, leading the agency to deviate from its original mandate of ameliorating the sufferings of the people over the years.
Giving some details of corruption in the agency, he said between 2017-2019, N468 billion was expended on emergency jobs particularly road projects that did not have gutters, N4.3 billion cash grants given to NGOs and 90% of which were not registered and wondered how they opened accounts with banks.
He assured the people of the state that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs will collaborate with the state particularly in the area of agriculture to ensure that the Niger Delta becomes the hub for the production of rice in the West African region.
In his response, Professor Ben Ayade commended the Ministry of Niger Delta for its intervention projects in the state and called for more partnerships between the NDDC and governors in the region.
He said the NDDC spends billions of naira on amnesty but not a single Cross Riverian is part of it despite the fact that militants surrendered their arms and urged the minister to reverse the fortune of the state in the agency.
He said: “I am shocked when I hear you reel out all the programmes, activities and projects ongoing in Cross River State and as governor I am not aware of these projects. It’s to tell you how isolated the NDDC is from the state governments.
“These projects are not known to us. In other words, I, as governor under the provisions of the constitution, and my ministry can deny you access to my state. But because you understand the sociology of power, you must create a new lacuna that will block off every single thing that isolates the ministry from the states,” Ayade said.
He called on the ministry to partner the state to drive the rice revolution which is ongoing in the state so as to improve the lot of youths in the region.