The choice of a lead consultant for the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been identified as a factor for the sack of the commission’s former acting Managing Director, Dr Joi Nunieh.
Sources in the NDDC disclosed that though the relationship between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio and Nunieh had been frosty, her poor disposition to the choice of Messrs Olumuyiwa Bashiru and Co. as the lead consultant was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
The spokesperson to Nunieh, Ibanga Isine, told The Guardian that Nunieh, to ensure a thorough forensic audit of the over N2 trillion alleged indebtedness of the NDDC, had preferred the Financial Intelligent Unit and the World Bank to supervise the audit of the NDDC to avoid manipulation of the exercise.
A top NDDC management staff revealed to The Guardian that after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved Messrs Olumuyiwa Bashiru and Co. as the lead consultant, Akpabio had called for a tripartite meeting between the ministry, the NDDC and the lead consultant, but the former acting managing director failed to attend.
Infuriated by what he purportedly interpreted as gross insubordination, the minister was said to have reported the matter to the president, who replaced Nunieh with Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei.
Prior to Nunieh’s sack, it was gathered, the relationship between the former acting managing director and the acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Bassey Etang, and the acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, was strained, and attempts by the minister to resolve their differences failed.
A source in NDDC who worked with the former managing director said the refusal to listen to the minister was seen as disregard to the president.
“She contended with many forces and she collapsed. The forces comprise senators, ministers and people in the Presidency. NDDC is their farm and anybody who will stop them from harvesting in that farm will go down.
“She was almost getting it right. We know that she was putting things right, but her perceived stubbornness was seen as unbecoming,” he said.
The Guardian gathered that some powerful political forces had been mounting pressure on the former managing director to pay for projects executed, but she had declined to pay. This stance was said to have infuriated those forces, who resorted to mounting pressure on the president to remove her.
Following the abrupt sack of Nunieh, the president had extended the membership of the interim management committee to include Pondei, Etang, Ojougboh, Mrs Caroline Nagbo and Cecilia Bukola Akintomide.
To avoid the friction that existed between Nunieh, Etang and Ojougboh, the new acting managing director said that members of the new NDDC Interim Management had resolved to work together as a team.
“The NDDC has existed for about 20 years, rising from the ashes of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC. A 20-year-old child that still needs to take breast milk is in trouble. By extension, the NDDC is in trouble.
“Luckily, President Buhari feels for the Niger Delta. This feeling is also shared by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Their concerns led to the decision to try to adopt new methods in tackling the problems of the Niger Delta. They decided that since we have done the same thing, using the same method over and over again and getting the same result, it was time to try something different,” he said.