Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, and former Managing Director, MD, of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Joy Nunieh, were yesterday, embroiled in a war of words over what transpired between them when Nunieh was the MD of the commission.
Nunieh, yesterday, alleged that she slapped Akpabio for sexually harassing her.
Speaking, yesterday, during an interview on Arise TV, Nunieh said the incident happened at the minister’s guest house in Abuja.
But the minister in a swift reaction described the allegation as balderdash, saying Nunieh was aggrieved because of her removal from office for offenses ranging from insubordination to her inability to produce her National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, certificate.
I’m the only woman that slapped Akpabio, says ex-NDDC MD
She said her reaction to the alleged harassment proved her intolerance for “nonsense” as a woman from Rivers State.
“Why did he not tell Nigerians that I slapped him in his guest house at Apo? I am the only woman that slapped Akpabio. He thought he could come upon me. He tried to harass me sexually.
“I slapped him. He tried to come to me. I am an Ogoni woman, a Port Harcourt girl, and nobody jokes with us. I showed Akpabio that Rivers women do not tolerate nonsense.”
The former NDDC MD also accused Akpabio of trying to inflate the NDDC budget.
She said the minister directed her to include some projects from the refugee commission in the budget of NDDC.
“Akpabio wrote to me to put a list of projects from the refugee commission in the budget of NDDC. Refugee commission is another Federal Government commission for IDPs.
“How do you tell me to put some of their projects in the NDDC budget when we have so many things to do in Niger Delta? How do you explain that?”
Nunieh and Akpabio have traded allegations following the activities of the Senate ad-hoc panel investigating the alleged mismanagement of N40 billion by the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of NDDC.
Akpabio had told the panel that he knew nothing about the expenditure of NDDC under Nunieh because she refused to give him briefings.
But Nunieh alleged that the minister engineered her removal for failing to follow his illegal orders.
“When we first came to the NDDC, on the day of going for the inauguration, he told me in the car ‘Madam MD, if you don’t do what I say, the same pen which I used to sign your letter, it will be the same pen I will use to remove you’,” she said.
Nunieh also alleged that Akpabio asked her to change the dollars in the NDDC account; sack the head of the legal team who is from the North; remove all directors, who refused to follow his instructions and also to implicate Peter Nwaoboshi, Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC.
Invite her 4 former husbands to speak about her character —Akpabio
Responding to the allegation on the same program, Akpabio, said: “Initially, I didn’t want to talk but I now have to respond to the ranting of the former NDDC Managing Director, who does not know that no office is permanent.
‘’She is a very temperamental person. Invite her four former husbands to testify about her character. The NDDC was set up in 2,000 to complement the efforts of governors in the region, who have been doing their best but instead of doing that, the NDDC would rather duplicate projects in order to siphon money.
“The cause of the brouhaha in NDDC is a forensic audit. As soon as the president, in his wisdom, gave the order for a forensic audit of the commission, hell was let loose. That forensic audit will go on and it will be taken to the states and completed before the end of this year.
‘’I don’t care about any allegation she is making against me. She was not relieved of her appointment because of corruption. She was removed because of insubordination and because she had no NYSC certificate.
‘’She was written seven times to explain why she had no NYSC certificate but she never replied.’’
No N40bn is missing
On the N40 billion spent by the commission between January and March this year, as alleged by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Nwaoboshi, Akpabio said no such money was spent.
He said the only answer to this was a forensic audit, which is currently ongoing, stressing that no N40 billion is missing in the commission.
He queried: ‘’Before now, NDDC had 300 accounts but now, it has just one account, which is with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. How possible is it for one to now remove N40 billion from the CBN?’’
On the allegation by Nunieh that the legal adviser of the commission was removed by Akpabio because he is a northerner, the minister explained that he had never been a tribalist, adding that he served the interests of northern elements while he served as governor of Akwa Ibom State for eight years.
He said: “The northerner she is talking about, Kaltungo, and about 23 others were indicted by auditors in the past. This time around, they were asked to proceed on leave to allow for a forensic audit of the commission.
“Among those asked to go on leave were people from my state, Akwa Ibom. So, how could I have removed the legal adviser because he is a northerner, who should not be in NDDC?
“These are some of the lies they are throwing about just to frustrate the forensic audit, but it will not work. We will get to the end of the audit.’
He said his dream for NDDC was to ensure it worked for Niger Delta people and not a few people, who have been using it for their selfish interest.