Ms. Joi Nunieh, the erstwhile acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC last Monday appeared on Arise Television to respond to issues about her certificate and other alleged misdemeanor earlier raised against her by the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
In her response, she raised other serious issues against the honourable minister and immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State.
QUESTION: You listened to the Minister’s interview. You were accused of one, insubordination, and secondly of not having an NYSC Certificate or any evidence that you served in the NYSC scheme.
ANSWER: Five issues were raised by Akpabio. The first thing that he said was that I have been married to four husbands. Unlike Akpabio I have already asked my lawyers to sue him, a Senior Advocate, he will be hearing from us sometime from today.
I expect that Akpabio should also follow suit and sue me for the comments that I had made during my press conference. They were issues based on his integrity. I expected that in Africa we say that good name is better than gold and silver, but he chose to come to that interview not to explain the allegations that I have personally made against him but the world saw that as my supervising Minister the only relationship that we should have had would have been a relationship of work to supervise me, relationship of a supervisory minister over the CEO of the NDDC.
He chose to come to tell the world that his main interests has always been my love life and the issue is did he want to be my fifth husband?
If no why is my love life very important to him? Secondly why is it that six months after, he is still interested in my love life. Why is he interested?
I have challenged Akpabio, he will come to court to give a list of my four husbands. I know that I have not married four husbands so the onus is on Akpabio to come. I am not going to give the name of my husband so that he doesn’t use it in his testimony. He should come and give the names. The law is that he who alleges must prove.
The second thing that Akpabio alleged was that I do not have an NYSC certificate. He came with some documents showing the world that it was handwritten.
I am here to tell the world that I wrote that application. That letter that Akpabio showed you was my letter. It was handwritten. There’s no law that says you cannot write, and for a minister to say ‘can you imagine, it was written by hand?’
Handwritten letters are more authentic than the typewritten letters. The typewritten letters can only be authenticated by my signature. I wrote that application to the Nigerian Law School. I was requesting for three things from the Nigerian Law School.
The question Akpabio should be asked, is when she wrote that letter did the Law School reply?
Did they give her what she requested? Yes.
Is the Law School NYSC? The Law School is not NYSC so coming with a letter to Law School is just very silly. I requested for a certified true copy of my call to bar certificate, my enrolment certificate, and the third thing I asked for was a list of those people who were in my set that went for NYSC that Law school sent, they have a list of all those. Did the Law school give it to me? Were they certified, yes they were certified. Now the issue is you can see that Akpabio didn’t have any issues when he said look at the date she graduated three months
It was on television that I learnt why I was removed. He said he sent her seven letters and she didn’t respond and that was insubordination.
As a former Governor, he should know that rules apply, the public service rules are what I would have been bound by as MD of the NDDC and that requires that at least I get a query about insubordination.
I want to tell all Nigerians and even Mr. President that I did not receive one query from Mr. Akpabio to explain myself. I have a constitutional right of fair hearing and I think I know the reason why Akpabio would never have given me that query.
He knew that if he wrote me to give me the query I would have responded. Why didn’t he use a more substantial case of NYSC certificate to remove me? Why? That would have been a more genuine case if he truly believed that that was a case against me.
He should have used the NYSC but he could not substantiate his case. All he had was a letter that I wrote long hand so he couldn’t use anything about NYSC against me so he chose to use the one about the letters. The law is that he must have written me, but he didn’t write me because he couldn’t prove insubordination to me why because Akpabio wrote me more than 20 letters, he wrote me letters for “appeal for your intervention towards amicable settlement judgment”. He wanted for us to pay for legal fees.
NDDC is not to pay legal fees to help people. He doesn’t just understand that NDDC’s money is not to be used to assist people. This is it (shows the letter). The one that he wrote me is “Request for assistance”. Am I supposed to respond to request to get assistance for some people?
Now this letter is from the Chief of Staff to the Honourable Minister. Can you imagine, “Request for assistance” from NDDC money. How do I respond to this kind of letter? (Brings out another request for assistance letter) for us to pay for contracts. This one is written by the Director of special duties (shows the letter). This is the reason why Joi Nunieh was removed.
Now there is another one by the same director , “Reminder for long overdue payments”. I have never seen where a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would write. He could have phoned and not written, it’s documented here for me to make payments to his cronies.
Another one to a different person. Now I have this one for payments of water hyacinth. Look at it.
QUESTION: I want to focus on the issue of NDDC and general perception. I am sure you will agree it has underperformed. How do we ensure service delivery for the people of the Niger Delta in the next 20 years so that is not flushed under the table as the last 20 years has been. In all of this back and forth, what happens to the people of the Niger Delta?
ANSWER: I think it is very important that I answer this issue of insubordination because that was the reason why I was removed as MD, so it cannot be irrelevant.
He accused me and made a case and made a memo to Mr. President that I was removed because I did not respond. Now when I told Mr. Akpabio that Sir, please let your directors not write me letters, it can implicate you, its very embarrassing, and I saw that Mrs Walton Jack who was the Permanent Secretary refused to write those letters that was why the director and the chief of staff wrote those letters.
And upon that Akpabio now did me a letter based on my advice that she should never write these letters again.
He now wrote me this letter, “restriction of correspondences with the ministry.”
He now said that I should never again acknowledge letters from all these people again. (shows the letter). So, now he forgot that he wrote me this letter and then he used it against me.
When Akpabio saw that he could not make me bring out the money, he now tried plan B of insubordination.
Why did he not tell Mr. President what happened that I slapped him. Why did he not tell Nigerians that I slapped his face? In his guest house at Apo.
Why did he not tell Nigerians what insubordination was about? Why did I stop going to meet him? He told the Senate committee that I refused to come to meet him to have meetings.
Why didn’t we hold our meetings at the office? I told Mr. Akpabio that I will not go to any meeting outside his office or my office. The last time before that week before I left, he came to Port Harcourt, I did not go to the Meriden Hotel to meet with him.
QUESTION: You literally slapped his face. Why did you slap him?
ANSWER: I slapped him because of his Plan B. Since he couldn’t get me to allow him to take that money, he thought that with Plan B, if he could come up on me he, didn’t know that I am a Port Harcourt girl, Port Harcourt girls are not moved by money. By telling me that you will make me that you will make me the substantive MD.
QUESTION: Can we clarify this because we cant gloss over a slap. What is the Plan B? He came upon you? What exactly does that mean?
ANSWER: We were having a meeting. Akpabio’s meeting with me is either in Apo or at Meriden or whatever. Those are his meetings. I slapped him well.
QUESTION: Well, Joi, are you accusing him, Senator Akpabio of attempted rape. Is that the point you are making? Or sexual harassment?
ANSWER: Harassment sounds better not rape
QUESTION: So you are accusing him expressly of sexual harassment?
ANSWER: Yes. I’m accusing him. Most Nigerian women face lots of these pressures and that’s why you see that Akpabio is more interested in my love life. It’s because of that incident that he said I am temperamental.
Two, Akpabio’s girlfriend supplies the diesel at NDDC. I looked at that diesel situation and I said why don’t we give the young Niger Delta boys, divide it into the nine states for them. And this is most important, NDDC in the past had paid for us to get light directly from Afam power station connected straight to the NDDC head quarter building. That was disconnected at the gate of NDDC. Millions of Naira was paid to get that light source to NDDC.
It now stopped at the gate. To connect it from the gate, it was sabotaged not to go inside the building. So when I came, I said all this money on diesel, how do we cut it down? I am not here to spend money, I am here to cut down, how do I tell Mr. President that I came to do forensic audit and I come in here to commit the same offence, I will not do it.
So we went down and looked at the system, I said how much will it cost instead of spending money on diesel. To cut a long story short, I approved, we got the engineer to repair that thing. Now I have a view only of the remitta platform, I am not the one to pay. The ED, FA (Executive Director, Finance and Admin) is the one that presses for payment. Do you know that they refused to pay the money to connect that light into the office so that we can keep buying that diesel?
He also wanted me to bring money for his presidential ambition. He got upset that I saw Mrs Amaechi and Mrs Sylva at the airport and I spoke to them because they are his political enemies.
Now that same lady had the audacity to go to the National Assembly to put projects. She went to the Clerk of the Committee. I don’t say things that I cannot back-up. She is not a staff of NDDC but went to the National Assembly and told the Clerk that the Minister had authorised her to put projects into our budget after I submitted the budget. She didn’t come to me, Akpabio did not come to me.
QUESTION: what lady is this, Ma?
ANSWER: The same lady that supplies the diesel. I don’t want to mention her name.
The Clerk now called me and said that there is this lady that wants to put something in your budget, so I took her number from the Clerk and called her. I said, Madam, my name is Gbene Joi Nunieh, the MD of NDDC.
I told her that if you don’t leave that place I will get the Police to arrest you. She said, but the Minister sent me to put it and I told her that the Minister should have called me, and in any case I have submitted it and so I can’t go to the National Assembly to say I am putting anything in. Within two to three minutes, Akpabio called me, screaming and shouting, asking why did I talk to the lady like that, because the President gave him all the powers of control.
I said the President cannot give you the powers that he doesn’t have. The President only gave you the powers that he has in the Act. He can only delegate the powers that he has in the Act. The President in his wisdom, all the sections of the NDDC Act that Akpabio requested in his memo that the President delegate to him, Mr. President rejected all except one, which was his powers of general supervision over policy. The President never gave him any powers for the day to day running. You heard him very proudly saying that those directors, I could have just removed them.
He doesn’t know he has no powers to remove directors that are over Level 14. Even I as MD I didn’t have. Those are the powers of the Board.
QUESTION: The point about you being asked to take a fetish oath by Senator Akpabio. Now, why didn’t you complain then, being a Lawyer, knowing that it’s illegal under the Criminal Code. Why are you bringing it up now? And what do you want? Do you want Akpabio removed as Minister? Do you want to be reinstated as Acting Managing Director of NDDC?
ANSWER: It was very difficult for me to tell anyone during the first to three times because our relationship had gotten really bad. Akpabio would come and say I want One million Dollars. How do I bring one million dollars?
Akpabio would come during Christmas that we have to bring one billion Naira cash for everybody in the states. I said, Sir, how do I write it? I don’t know how to write that.
Everyone in the Niger Delta will bear me witness we didn’t pay any kobo to give to any youth during the Christmas. And you can see what has happened now, you see palliatives flying up and down.
Secondly this relationship got so bad that he said the only way he could trust me again when I said, Sir why are we having all these conversation, he said its juju oh.
When we went for that reconciliation meeting in Abuja, I did not tell the people at the Villa. Akpabio himself raised the issue, that gentlemen, all I have said is that she must take this oath. I thank God for Mr. Sariki Abba.
That’s why I have the boldness to call their names. If it were other people they would have held press conference that there was nothing like that but you can see he (Akpabio) is afraid to discuss this issue because the people who were present are credible and respected in this nation. Mr. Sariki Abba got up and said, listen Minister, Joi is my sister, we’ve been in this politics for years. She is a member of our political family. Minister, she will not take that oath. I salute Sariki Abba. I told him I wasn’t going to take that oath.
There were five issues that were raised at that meeting. I raised the issue of missing files. I reported to them that Akpabio had sent his two EDs to collect files at my back and he collected files of companies that he had interest in, his contracts which he collected from NDDC while he was governor, his contracts when he was Senator, and that the week he was made Minister, Akpabio ensured that he got 30 contracts for water hyacinths and desilting and he wanted those things to be paid for immediately.
I said I need those files. He admitted before these gentlemen that yes he told them to bring the two other Executive Directors to bring those files to him in Abuja and that those files are verily preserved in a safe in Abuja.
I now told him that stealing government files under the Nigeria Criminal Code is a criminal offence and that I would write about that. This is the letter that I wrote to the directors (shows the letter) to bring back those files immediately. The second issue I raised was the issue of Forensic Audit that the President brought IMC so that we could superintend over the audit and that the issue he raised against me was that on national Television I said that NFIU, EFCC, the DSS and the World Bank consultants must be part of that.
I believe the President’s legacy for anti-corruption and I know Mr. President, I have worked with him, I Know that he is interested and he loves the people of the Niger Delta so I went there to make sure that the President is impressed. I said that this is the letter that the President wrote to the Senate for setting the IMC, just one line, he said that “I have directed that the forensic audit of the Commission be carried out which is being overseen by the constituted Interim Management team”. (shows the letter) Akpabio insists that it’s not the Interim Management Committee, that it’s him, that I should send the money for the audit to him.
I said it’s like the Ministry of Health implementing a Federal Medical Centre project, and that it is criminal, I will not do it.
QUESTION: The revelations of how funds are now being mismanaged at NDDC. There was a young man on TV that was giving specific times and dates and amounts being transferred and how much that was spent on COVID-19 relief, well into the billions. How do you feel based on the work you have put in, and all of that happening? Secondly, was Plan B to bribe you or sexual harassment. And thirdly, why didn’t you raise an alarm when you saw a great deal of nepotism in the system? For instance, you claimed that his girlfriend was supplying diesel to the NDDC, which is a clear case of nepotism
ANSWER: I blame Akpabio and I will back it up with documents that there is no forensic audit going on now at NDDC, no forensic audit. I pity Professor Pondei. He looks to me like a gentleman but he couldn’t hold his ground.
Akpabio told me, as he did to my predecessor Mrs. Akwagaga, to change all the Dollars – $120,000,000 in the account of the NDDC at the time to pay for his contracts, the desilting contracts that he got, the water hyacinth and all. Mrs. Akwagaga got afraid and ran to the Chairmen of the National Assembly Committees on NDDC, and they now gave her cover.
Akpabio offered to give the NDDC Committee Chairmen N400 million Naira cash, if they can tell this woman (Mrs Akwagaga) that they should change $120 million in the NDDC account and let him have access so that he would be able to use the funds to take care of certain people in Nigeria.
They now promised to get back to him. To cover the woman, they now wrote to her that she is not allowed to change one dollar in the account. That letter from the Committee chairmen protected the woman and Akpabio bitter with her and similarly started attacking the Committee Chairmen in the National Assembly.
Why do I say there is no forensic audit? I raised the issue of certificate of no objection, I am sure the Presidency is taking that very, very seriously. Part of the insubordination was that I did not go to the FEC (Federal Executive Council) meeting, and I did not go because I did not want to contravene any provision of the Procurement Act.
They keep saying that people are afraid of forensic audit. I am saying that there is no forensic audit going on at NDDC. The only documents that was presented and in Akpabios memo to Mr. President he said that I refused to carry out the verification exercise.
All contractors and Nigerians will bear me witness that there was a verification exercise in all the states.
Secondly, the paper that they presented to the lead consultant was the document and the DSS report from the verification exercise that I did, that is the last thing that happened about forensic. There was an application to the BPP (Bureau of Public Procurement) and it is so embarrassing asking for a due process certificate of no objection for the award of the contract of the procurement of the lead consultant. Now the source of funding for that was from the 2020 Budget.
Now that I am speaking to you today (July 13) the NDDC has no budget. I presented the 2019 budget which was passed and has lapsed. The 2020 budget has not even been discussed, has not even been passed. So the BPP gave a certificate of no objection for the procurement of the lead consultant who Akpabio brought and who he said would enable him (Akpabio) take control of the Audit process and its outcomes. Akpabio said that why he wanted that person and he didn’t want any NFIU, he didn’t want the World Bank consultants to come in. He said this at the meeting and he was rebuked by Mr. Sariki Abba.
QUESTION: Why do you say that there is no audit going on?
ANSWER: The certificate of no objection is the most important part of a forensic audit. The lead consultant has not been officially procured because the fact that there is an approval from FEC which was wrong, it should never have happened, and it’s stated clearly on that certificate of no objection that the source of funding would be from the 2020 budget.
That means that there is no source of funding. It is a criminal act under the Public Procurement Act that you will not approve any procurement. This is called anticipatory budgeting, when the National Assembly has not appropriated funds for it. So I am correct to say that there cannot be any procurement. And I am worried that Cairo said on national television that the lead consultant has already been paid. How did the lead consultant get paid when the budget has not been passed?
Two, the second certificate of no objection for the procurement of project vehicles, instead of stating under what budget BPP gave a certificate of no objection saying the source of funding is the IGR. NDDC is not an internally generating revenue commission, even if they sell their things it must be based on a budget.
The nine forensic auditors they have applied for have not been procured. Those nine companies are not international. Those nine companies, the President would need to check them out. None of them has carried out a forensic audit before. So, what should happen is that, quickly they have lied to Nigerians.
The President must investigate this. Is there a forensic audit going on? Where are they carrying out the forensic audit? They need to show us where. Where is the funding from? The due process certificate that has been given, no approval has been made for the forensic audit
QUESTION: What are actionable points going forward now
ANSWER: The President should inaugurate the Board that has been screened and approved and cleared. They should come as intended to oversee the audit and if Akpabio is there, they should send it (NDDC) back to SGF’s (Secretary to Government of the Federation) office.
Can you imagine, Akpabio wrote me to put some projects for the Refugee Commission in the budget of NDDC? Refugee Commission is another Federal Government Commission for IDPs. So why should we put them in NDDC budget when we have so many things to do in the Niger Delta. How do you explain that?
They need people who care about the people. I am hoping that the new Board will be able to oversee this.