*Sen. Akpabio (left)*
Minister, Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio, on Tuesday, appeared before the Senate Committee On Ethics, Privileges And Public Petitions to shed light on alleged refusal by the Ministry to fulfil contractual obligations to some contractors to the Ministry, declaring that, ” Mr Chairman and Distinguished members of this panel, the particular complainant before you is not known to the Ministry.”
The Minister, who led other principal officers of the Ministry before the Committee, made the clarification while appearing before the Senator Patrick Akinyilure-led Committee, based on a petition by Mr Akankpo Dien Aniyom and one other, on behalf of the Nine Land Consultants and registered Surveyor Firms, against the ministry for alleged non payment of fees for survey of New Town Development Projects in Nine(9) states of the Niger Delta Region.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Jackson Udom, quoted the Minister as saying, ” Mr Chairman, the particular complainant before you is not known to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. The name of the complainant was submitted as one of the surveyors engaged by the main consultant; Blantine Nig Ltd. They submitted the names of the surveyors engaged by them to the Ministry as those who will do the job. I will think probably, they subleted the jobs to them and this has gone very far.”
According to Akpabio, ” the idea then was to go through the Nine(9) states of the Niger Delta Region in 2010 for land acquisition and survey for the use of the Ministry. Most of them undertook the jobs and the Ministry also settled its obligation. Blantine Nig Ltd was engaged in September 2010 and from the list of the Surveying firms, we are not aware there was anytime the Ministry engaged the complainant; Alcon Survey Services.”
Speaking further, Akpabio disclosed that,” Blantine Nig Ltd, was supposed to survey a suitable site for the Ministry in Cross River State. I understand they surveyed two sites. One was not suitable, while one was. The Ministry considered a letter written by the complainant from Paul Irokoro and Co, and the case went on and on and the Ministry kept concluding that you are not known to us and how do we start? There is no nexus between you and us.
“I think out of frustration, the complainant reported the matter to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in 2016. Directors of the Ministry were invited, they made both oral and written submissions and after over a year investigation, the ICPC absolved the Ministry and said there were no nexus between the complainant and the issues at hand and at best, they were sub-contractors to Blantine Nig Ltd, whose responsibility ought to be for them to settle their sub-contractors and not the Ministry settling the sub- contractors on behalf of the engaged consultant.”
“Mr Chairman, as you have said, we must look at it from the human perspective because we are talking about human beings, who probably, offered services. I would have been very glad if the Blantine Nig Ltd, were here because they can’t just engage family members like this to do jobs for them and at the end leave them hanging since 2010. I am here today out of respect and love for this distinguished Senate and your Committee and I am very proud of what you are doing. At anytime you call on me, I will always be here. That is the summary of my submissions. Thank you Mr Chairman,” he concluded.
In his response, Senator Akinyilure thanked the Minister for honoring the invitation, to state the side of his ministry as regards the allegations. He blamed the breakdown in communication for the non appearance of the Minister when he was initially invited, saying,
” I know the Minister to be a man who honours and respects this institution and will, therefore, not do anything to disrespect it because he was and still part and parcel of this Distinguished Senate. His absence from our first invitation to the Minister was due to breakdown in communication and because of his respect for the Senate, he is here physically and not by proxy. Once again, thank you for coming to shed more light on the issue at hand.”