Akpabio told Political Economist that despite the allegations which he dismissed as baseless, he will ensure that the IMC gets all the support to conduct the forensic audit, adding “no amount of blackmail from any quarters will stop the forensic audit.”
“All the allegations of contracts and corruption are unintelligent and cheap blackmail; those who accuse me should prove their allegations because in law the person who alleges must prove. But they cannot prove any because they have no shred of evidence. What does not exist does not exist.
“I have nothing to hide. They can probe the IMC anytime they want but for now, the IMC should be allowed to carry out the forensic audit. That is their mandate and they must stick to it.
“I am not involved in any contract in NDDC. As minister, it’s only contract of N1 billion and above that are brought to my notice. The Niger Delta states have 187 local governments and 27 senatorial districts. So, if contracts are awarded across these LGs and senatorial districts and the amount aggregate to over one billion naira, such contracts need not come to me for approval because the individual sums are in millions.
He said the NDDC needs to change its budget procedure, adding that instances where the NDDC budget arrive at the National Assembly almost towards the end of a budget cycle is unacceptable.
“This is the budget cycle I met on ground and we must change it. The 2020 budget was submitted to the National Assembly in April this year, that is almost the end of a budget cycle (May). This is not good for efficiency and probity.
“NDDC budget should get to the National Assembly with full details. But what has been happening is that when the NDDC budget comes to National Assembly, two people, the two chairmen of NDDC committee in the Senate and House, will take the budget to Hilton Hotel and dismember a budget duly prepared by the NDDC. These two people will not only split projects, they will insert their own projects into the budget just because they were privileged to head NDDC committees.
There has been a fierce contest for the soul of NDDC. Barely three weeks after I became minister, the NDDC was removed from under my supervision because some people were already worried they will no longer continue to steal from the commission. I had to formerly write Mr. President who graciously returned the commission under my supervision.
“I met a disorganised NDDC. One past regime awarded contracts of over N1 trillion when the annual budget is about N400 billion or below that. The contracts did not pass through the Public Procurement office neither did they get Federal Executive Council, FEC, approval.”
Akpabio said all he wanted to achieve as minister was first to ensure a thorough forensic audit and then engender development in the Niger Delta. He said he has confidence in the NDDC IMC to deliver on its mandate.