Port Harcourt by Boat: Akpabio’s bad signal for a bad start


Top politician, Godswill Akpabio, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, seems to start on wrong foot. He began by writing off the feats of the NDDC as frittered funds and also kept the Commission and VIPs waiting for two days when he paid a visit last week.

Last weekend, he praised the N24Bn Ogbia-Nembe Road project executed by NDDC and Shell, and said the Commission has done well in some instances. Many whistled over this. Did he judge unheard, as an adage said? Did he pass a verdict too hurriedly?

When he became minister, his first salvo was to write castigate the entire effort of the 18 years of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), accusing the CEOs of frittering away the funds of the Commission. In doing so, he shot at his former deputy and last substantive CEO of the NDDC, Nsima Ekere, as the worst in this offence. This seemed to raise eyebrows especially as many felt Akpabio should remember the glass house he left behind in Akwa Ibom.

This seemed to bring back calls Few years back by some editors who called for a rethink in choice of NDDC CEOs. They had argued that appointing politicians appointing the CEOs only on political consideration was faulty. This could be true. Many have admitted that when certain persons not eaten up by politics take over, the Commission seems to run in fast pace and in right focus; but that when pure politicians take over, they think nothing more than the next election. Some are already pointing at what the current Ag CEO, Akwagaga L.Enyia (PhD) is doing on her very interim mandate. They think this is as example of what the NDDC may witness should pure technocrats take over on a permanent basis. Now, imagine if both minister and NDDC boss are to be pure politicians.

Now, Akpabio is Minister of Niger Delta Minister and the ministry has been firmly placed on the head of the NDDC by PMB. Journalists covering the Commission have witnessed a huge difference now that the Commission is to be a parastatal of the Ministry instead of reporting directly to the Presidency. It would mean that if any director in the Ministry coughs, the NDDC CEO would catch cold. This is because no parastatall reports directly to a Minister, but through a director. This would mean that an NDDC CEO would no longer be a real CEO because he/she would have to report to a director in a ministry. This never happened before as far as the NDDC was concerned. How would water and oil play in this new marriage? Ministers are known to want the head of the cow in the pot, always.

The first bad signal not withstanding, Akpabio followed up when he paid his first official visit to this vassal entity, the NDDC. He kept the Commission on hold for two consecutive days. He was scheduled to arrive PH on Wednesday last week to inspect key projects. As the new boss, all paraphernalia was laid out; vehicles, security, protocol, press, personnel, etc. Everyone waited idly from 12 noon to 4pm and dispersed because minister did not make it from Abuja. Youths from various states who said they came to welcome him drummed till night. The next day, the waiting resumed; staff sat at the hall waiting for him, till it was late again and everyone dispersed. He was said to have eventually come.

This gave tongues room to wag. Does a minister not know the sensitivity of a state visit when all protocol would be rolled out to the detriment of all else? Is NDDC in new bureaucratic trouble? What did Akpabio actually come to PH to accomplish? Since he made it to PH on Wednesday, what task was he performing that took all day again before stepping to the NDDC headquarters? Could be the task of bringing the senator in APC back to the fold?

In his remarks, “Mr. President has placed the supervision of the NDDC under the palms of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.”  Indeed! The looming danger is that bureaucracy could stretch further, and more broth could spoil the soup. It is not clear if the NDDC would still have to submit through the office of the SFG, a situation that would make the CEO (or is it now General Manager) of the Commission to be at the beck-and-call of too many masters.

Whatever the case, the two days waiting to which the NDDC was sentenced just to receive a minister seems to send dangerous signals for a bad time; but Akpabio can say it will not be so.