There are signals that a letter from The Presidency querying the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, may have led to the hurried disclosure of the readiness of the NDDC forensic audit report.
About two months ago, Akpabio had promised at various fora, that the audit report was going to be ready and presented to President Muhammadu Buhari before the end of last month. It was on the basis of that assurance that former militants from the region declared ceasefire over their demand for the inauguration of a substantive board for the commission.
By first week of August when Akpabio said nothing about the audit report, the office of the chief of staff to the president was said to have reached Akpabio, requesting him to explain the delay in the submission of the forensic audit report as promised.
And in a dramatic twist, Akpabio showed the world how a security committee of the audit consulting team presented a report to him. That was the first time Akpabio would inform Nigerians about the readiness of the audit report.
He never at any point in time before then say anything about the report, neither did he mention the involvement of the lead consultants appointed by the federal government for the exercise.
Throughout his speech when he received the report from the security committee, Akpabio was economical with facts surrounding the audit report.
When the lead consultants were hired, Akpabio had made so much noise about it. When eight other auditing firms were engaged to work with the lead consultants, it was also talked about by the minister.
But when the report was submitted, Akpabio never mentioned any of the auditors, neither were Nigerians given the privilege to see those who undertook the assignment. Akpabio’s statements were even confusing.
Whereas the lead consultants were Messrs Olumuyiwa Bashiru and co, it was not clear why the firm was not involved in the submission of the report. If they were, it was not clear why the event was shrouded in secrecy, only for Akpabio to showcase the visit of the security committee.
Recall that it was during the visit of that committee that Akpabio announced that the final audit report was ready for presentation to the president. So, how come Akpabio never made that announcement when the report was submitted? Why did the minister choose to do so after he was told by the office of the president to say why the report was not ready in July ending as promised?
A statement from the office of the minister worsened and complicated the circumstances surrounding the purported submission of the audit report. The statement did not say why Akpabio failed to disclose when the audit report was submitted to him.
But was the security report submitted by Admiral Bamidele Oluwagbamila more important and critical to the Niger Delta people than the final and comprehensive report of the forensic audit?
This is what Akpabio said on that day: “I am delighted to receive your(security committee?) report on this exercise which started in 2020 and ended in July 2021. Though I have not looked at the nitty gritty of the report, but from my observation in your speech, I want to thank you for taking this national assignment seriously.”
“From what you have said, it is very clear that you were not only committed to your work, but you also carried out your assignment with professionalism. As you said earlier, there was no incidence concerning the field nor lead auditors at their residences, as well as the communities, either group or individuals. You were able to endear yourselves to the host communities and they, in return, gave you all the support in your assignment.”
“To the Glory of God, the Forensic Audit Report is ready for submission to Mr President. It was also important that we also hear from the Security Team, thank them for their comportment, candour and discipline throughout the exercise.”
“The Forensic Audit couldn’t have been successful without the involvement of the security agencies. We equally thank you for deeming it necessary to also give your independent report on what you saw, how you saw it and what the situation is in the Niger Delta Region, apart from providing security.
“If there are areas I need to take extracts for the Commander- in-Chief, to take further actions, I will do so. I know that history will remember you for good and what you have done. This exercise definitely is a turning point for the NDDC and the development of the Niger Delta Region.”
Reading Akpabio’s lips, the indication is that the lead auditing firm or other forensic auditors had visited him earlier to submit the final report. Which was why he said that the visit of the security committee was “also” important, to enable him understand what the committee did.
Recent actions of the minister have however shown that the man may be hiding a lot of things from the people of Niger Delta on the NDDC saga. He has also been accused by some stakeholders of deliberately refusing to allow for the inauguration of the board of the NDDC for personal reasons.
Only recently, the sole administrator of NDDC, an ally of the minister, accused those angling for the inauguration of the NDDC board of being enemies of the region.
Akpabio has even been accused of enjoying his control of the NDDC and its finances, being that he is the only one who controls and directs the sole administrator, Mr Effiong Akwa on what to do with the NDDC funds, which contractor to pay and who not to pay.
This allegation was brought before his aide, Mr Jackson Udom. His response: I am not aware of that. All those to me are here say.”
When he was also told that his boss was enjoying his romance with Akwa and controlling him as his surrogate, he said “Akwa is over 50 years. How would you say a man of such experience and exposure would be someone’s surrogate? All those are lies that hold no waters.”