Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, yesterday, rescued Ms. Joi Nunieh, former acting Managing Director (Interim Management Committee) of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, when he stormed her Port Harcourt residence and freed her from a siege mounted by Policemen.
Wike’s moves in Port Harcourt kicked off series of events in NDDC in Abuja, with reactions from some women groups and the Forum of South-South Governors.
Wike arrived at her residence in the GRA section of the oil city yesterday morning and ordered armed policemen around out of his way. He then entered the house and was seen driving her off in his convoy.
Wike has meanwhile, asked the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr Mohammed Adamu to investigate, yesterday’s invasion, by over 50 armed policemen, of the Port Harcourt residence of Joi Nunieh.
Nunieh, also, yesterday, vowed that Nigerians would hear more from the can of worms she’s been opening over her face-off with Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio on the National Assembly probe of NDDC.
This came as the IGP, Mohammed Adamu, and Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan, said they knew nothing about the deployment of a team of policemen that laid siege to the residence of Joi Nunieh, yesterday.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, yesterday, issued an order for the arrest of acting Managing Director of NDDC, Interim Management Committee, IMC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei for contempt of the parliament.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, directed security and investigating agencies to have better coordination with the National Assembly to ensure that the administration’s effort to bring sanity, transparency, and accountability to the management of the large number of resources dedicated to the development of the Niger Delta sub-region through the NDDC was not derailed.
Wike demands probe of siege
Governor Wike, who rescued Nunieh, has urged the IGP to investigate yesterday’s invasion by over 50 armed policemen of her Port Harcourt residence.
Wike had rushed to Nunieh’s home on getting wind of her ordeal, frustrating intentions of the armed policemen and berating them, before moving Nunieh to the Government House, Port Harcourt. The armed policemen claimed to be of the IGP Monitoring Unit.
The governor said: “What happened today is a disgrace. Who knows what would have happened to her if they had gained access to her main room. I went personally to see things for myself and rescued her.
“She is supposed to testify before the House of Representatives Committee and here we are having armed men wanting to abduct her. We came out to protect our daughter and we will do so to every Rivers citizen. That is the oath of office I swore to. It doesn’t matter the political affiliation. We will not allow anybody to destroy Rivers State.
“It is so unfortunate and I cry for this country concerning the ways things are going. They didn’t have a warrant of arrest but stormed somebody’s house. The state Commissioner of Police is not aware.
“Tell me, how will something (like that) happen in a state and the Commissioner of Police is not aware? They said it’s the Inspector-General’s Monitoring Unit. So, we have such a Unit taking over the responsibility of crime-fighting in a state and the Commissioner of Police is not aware. I can also assume too that the Inspector-General of Police is not aware. He should investigate it.”
The governor also called on governors of NDDC mandate states to ensure that their citizens do not have a hand in the planned abduction of the former Managing Director of NDDC.
He said: “If there is any allegation of crime against her, I will not back her, but you can’t kill her for no established crime. I don’t know who’s responsible, or behind it, but they should not take Rivers State for granted because we will fight back.
“From what has happened now, I want to say that Rivers State is fully out. Anybody who is responsible for this attempted abduction of our daughter should know that enough is enough.
“They can’t treat her like a common criminal. I am sure that President Buhari is not aware of this. All the Niger Delta states should find out if any of their citizens has a hand in the unfortunate incident and call on such people to leave our daughter alone. She is no longer the Managing Director of NDDC.
“The way things are going now, it seems people want to destroy Rivers State and it is unacceptable.”
IGP, Rivers CP deny team that laid siege to Nunieh’s residence
Meanwhile, both the IGP and Rivers CP, have said they knew nothing about the deployment of a team of policemen that laid siege to the residence of Nunieh.
Mobile policemen reportedly drafted from MOPOL 19, invaded her home as early as 4 a.m.
While the drama lasted, Police Public Relations Officer, Rivers State Command, Mr Nnamdi Omoni, indicated that the MOPOL presence at Nunieh’s residence wasn’t the directive of the Police Command in Rivers State, urging media inquiries to be directed to higher authorities.
It was gathered that the said MOPOL 19 squad reportedly arrived Nunieh’s 3 Owuru Creek View, off Herbert Macaulay Street, Old GRA, Port Harcourt, residence about 4 a.m, barring her from leaving for Port Harcourt International Airport to connect the early flight to Abuja.
Governor Wike, expressing his disgust with the police action said: “I called the Commissioner of Police, he said he was not aware. They said it’s the IGP Monitoring Team, but I have spoken to the authorities, they said the IG is not even aware.
“For me, if there is any crime against Dr. Joi Nunieh, I will not back her. Some say she is not in my party, so I shouldn’t intervene, but she’s a Rivers daughter.”
Nigerians’ll hear more from me, Nunieh vows
Nunieh, has, meanwhile, vowed that Nigerians would hear more from the can of worms she’s been opening over her face-off with Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio on National Assembly probe on NDDC.
Nunieh spoke at Government House, Port Harcourt, under the protection of Governor Wike after he rescued her from Police siege at her GRA residence. She said: “I was going to Abuja to make my submissions before the House Committee. Meanwhile, the man that harassed me is at home. The man who stole the money, who stole government files, who asked me to take an oath is at home.
“I feel very safe in the Government House. Akpabio can’t kill me. I think he wanted to stop me from giving my submission to the NASS. He succeeded but I think definitely, the House of Reps will give me another day and Nigerians will hear more.
“I had stopped talking but I just wanted to make my submissions to the House, but with this, Nigerians will hear more. They say wise men who refuse to do anything suffer the rule of idiots.
“This is the handiwork of those who don’t want me to tell the truth about what is going on at the NDDC. My Governor, Wike, says they have tried to pressure him to retract his warning that I should not be harmed but he has refused.
“The minister thinks he can intimidate me with police but I will not be intimidated. He is afraid that I have exposed the fact that there is no forensic audit going on at the NDDC.
“Yesterday, the BPP appeared before the committee and said they were deceived into issuing a certificate of ‘no objection’ by Akpabio, who told them that the 2020 budget had been passed. No matter how long they take, I will give my testimony.”
Nwauju, Falana, Akiode react
Meanwhile, spokesman, Niger Delta Rights Advocates, Darlington Nwauju, who is participating in the NASS probe of NDDC’s IMC, said Nunieh’s ordeal “is anti-democratic and runs contrary to the spirit and letters of the United Nations and African Charters on Human and Peoples Rights, which is also encapsulated in Section 35(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“We call on the Police High Command to immediately investigate the circumstances surrounding today’s incidence and punish all erring police officers.”
Dr. Abiola Akiode, the lawyer and civil rights activist, said “it is a violation of her right. It is a behavior that is lawless and irresponsible. It is a behavior that cannot portray Nigeria as a responsible country. We want the woman to remain strong. She should stand by her position.
“She has talked about sexual harassment which is very important to her. And any sensible person needs to prosecute such a fellow. Allegations have been made.”
On her part, Mrs. Funmi Falana, a lawyer said, “It is rather unfortunate in our society. The legal implication is that such an act is an outright violation of the fundamental human rights of Nunieh and she can seek redress in court. It is also a case of misuse of the government’s platform to intimidate a fellow citizen.
“They are not empowered by law to intimidate their subordinates. It is unconstitutional.”
“Using the police to intimidate or harass your subordinate is very unconstitutional and offends all the laws applicable in Nigeria. It is an outright violation of the fundamental human right of Nunieh.”
Reps issue warrant of arrest on NDDC boss
In another development, the House of Representatives, in reaction to Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei’s refusal to submit at an investigative hearing, yesterday, issued a warrant for his arrest, for contempt of the parliament.
It will be recalled that Pondei and his staff, staged a walk-out on the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC earlier in the day.
The drama occurred at a resumed investigative hearing organized by the House Committee on NDDC on financial malfeasance and other activities in the NDDC, which has hindered progress in the region 20 years after its establishment.
Pondei walks out
The MD got miffed and left as soon as the chairman of the Committee on NDDC, Mr. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo (APC, Ondo) had finished reading his speech, where reasons for the probe, were outlined.
After yielding the floor to the NDDC boss to respond to queries, he, instead, asked the chairman to recuse himself.
Pondei stuck to his guns, insisting that the head of the Committee must step aside because according to him (Pondei), he lacked the moral grounds to preside over a meeting which he (Tunji-Ojo) happens to be an interested party. Pondei and his team walked out on the lawmakers afterward.
Earlier, a member of the Committee, Shehu Koko raised a point of order that the MD should not personalize the issues of corruption he raised, saying he should not decide how the House should conduct its affairs.
Koko said: “If you have anything against the chairman (of the House Committee) you can go to Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC or any of the security outfits to lay your complaints but as far as the rule of this House is concerned, you cannot come here and decide how we should conduct our affairs. The rules of the parliament stand, nobody can dictate to us here because this is not the matter in question.”
Moving the motion to issue a warrant for the arrest of NDDC’s IMC, House spokesman, Benjamin Kalu commended the committee members for the maturity exhibited in the face of provocations by the NDDC Managing Director.
Kalu said: “I want to refer this committee as well as the guests to Section 60 which says that, the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have powers to regulate its procedure.
“It is within the parameters of the law that the House regulates its activities, this is a committee affair and not a personalized affair.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who was to appear before the committee was absent at the hearing and was neither represented nor sent an excuse.
Akpabio had cited his attendance in the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting as a reason for his absence, at the start of the hearing on Wednesday.
Also, the former acting Managing Director of NDDC, Nunieh, who was to testify before the committee was absent.
S-South govs back audit of NDDC deplores crisis
Also, South-South Governors Forum, yesterday, backed the forensic audit of NDDC ordered by President Buhari, expressing optimism that the audit will help put the commission on a sound corporate governance footing and reposition it to better deliver on its mandate.
The governors in a statement by the forum chairman and Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa said: “We believe the Senate is operating within its oversight functions through the ad-hoc committee set up for that purpose. It behooves us to respect the Senate oversight function and allow it to discharge this responsibility in a fair, transparent, and equitable manner.
“The South-South Governors are desirous to see an NDDC that is fully alive and responsive to its mandate of accelerating infrastructural development of the Niger Delta region and enhancing the general living conditions of our people. Hence, we will not hesitate to give our unqualified support to any policy initiative that will make this a reality.
“The forum wishes to advise the combatants in the current crisis in the NDDC to refrain from utterances and actions that will breach the peace and security of the region.”
While condemning the attempted abduction of Nunieh, the governors said the attempted abduction was unwarranted, unnecessary and uncalled for.
The forum called on relevant security authorities to investigate the unfortunate development, but said, “Let it be on record that we are neither in support of nor against Ms Nunieh in the current cloud of controversy surrounding the NDDC.
“However, as responsible public servants and leaders in the Niger Delta, we are mindful of the implications her attempted abduction could have on the peace and security of the region, which the current administration has labored to sustain in the last five years.
“We do not want that to be truncated as it can have adverse consequences on the national economy. We urge the feuding parties in the NDDC to conduct themselves in a civil, orderly, and lawful manner for the good of the region and the progress of the country.
“Democracy is about the rule of law; we have the courts and the various democratic institutions to deal with any grievances people may have without resorting to underhanded tactics and methods to intimidate and hound others.
“Finally, we wish to reiterate our stand that both the forensic audit and the Senate investigation should continue and be concluded with dispatch so that the NDDC can quickly return to its role of advancing and protecting the developmental aspirations of our people.”
Buhari orders speedy investigation
Meanwhile, on the heels of the crisis bedeviling the NDDC, and the open confrontation between Akpabio and Nunieh, President Buhari has issued a directive to security agencies and audit firms.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja, said that President Buhari was reacting “to the unfolding drama, which includes attacks and counter-attacks between and around persons, institutions, and NDDC.
Shehu in the statement said that the President expressed his strong determination to get to the root of the problem undermining the development of the Niger Delta and its peoples despite enormous national resources voted year after year for this singular purpose.
He said: “According to the directive, auditing firms and investigative agencies working in collaboration with National Assembly Committees to resolve the challenges in the NDDC must initiate actions in a time-bound manner and duly inform the Presidency of the actions being taken.
“The President also directed timely sharing of information and knowledge in a way to speedily assist the administration to diagnose what had gone wrong in the past and what needs to be done to make corrections to return the NDDC to its original mandate of making life better for people in Niger Delta.
“President Buhari said the administration wants to bring about “rapid, even and sustainable development to the region. President Buhari gave a firm assurance that his administration would put in place a transparent and accountable governance framework, not only in the NDDC but in all other institutions of government.”