By Paul Osuyi, The Sun
Three former governors, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan have denied any link with contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
While Dr. Orji, Senate Chief Whip, said he only facilitated road projects as his intervention efforts for some communities in the Abia State after they requested him to do so, the others denied ever taking contracts from the Commission.
Kalu was reacting to a statement by Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, where he also reportedly mentioned Uduaghan, Ibori, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and others relating to contracts awarded by the NDDC.
Five projects were reportedly linked to Kalu, all valued at above N500 million in Abia, while 12 others were linked to Araraume in Imo and Rivers states in a letter by Akpabio to the House of Representatives.
But reacting via a statement by Emeka Nwala, yesterday, Kalu said, “whatever link I have with the projects is because it was considered due to my intervention.”
He said he believed the issues at stake in the NDDC had to do with missing funds and not projects executed, adding that he was worried that his name was being used indiscriminately to sell newspapers without verifications.
According to the Chief Whip, the road projects mentioned by the minister were interventions he facilitated for some communities as a private citizen before he became a senator.
Kalu said his name was mentioned because he used his letter headed paper to write a sympathetic letter to the NDDC in 2016 requesting and pleading with the body to rescue roads in Abia.
He also noted that his relationship with Senator Akpabio dates years back and long before he (Kalu) became governor, adding that he would still request for more road interventions for Abia State from Akpabio.
“I was governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007 and never held any public office until June 11, 2019 when I was sworn-in as senator. Between 2016 and 2018, during my tour to several communities, leaders and welfare unions of most communities pleaded for urgent intervention on some dilapidated roads. I wrote to the NDDC informing the body of the conditions of these roads and the need for their attention since Abia is an NDDC state. The NDDC in their consideration, which I am very grateful to, awarded the roads to companies that duly tendered for the projects and not myself. Whatever link I have with the projects is because it was considered due to my intervention,”said Kalu.
He also noted that the management of NDDC that awarded the projects was not the interim management in controversy, but the fully constituted body of NDDC with its board.
Said Kalu: “The roads I requested for intervention as mentioned by the Honourable minister were repairs of Ezere-Acha-Ndiokoukwu Road;Amaubiri-Eluama-Uru Ring Road, Lokpaukwu, Umuchieze; Ndi Oji Abam-Atan Road; Okafia-Ozuitem-Bende road and Ozu-Amuru-Abam Road. The contractors have completed and delivered these roads long time ago, except Abam-Atani road, which I learnt from the contractors was slowed down due to rain, but still ongoing.
“Meanwhile, it would interest Nigerians to know that the contractors who built these roads have not been paid any dime. It has not been easy with the contractors, but because it’s a community project they have only but kept hope alive on the NDDC. I am so much concerned about roads because I understand the economic importance of good roads, that’s why I built several roads when I was governor. Even as a senator, it would interest you to know that my major constituency projects are road constructions, reconstructions and rehabilitations. We have put in plans to finish 19 roads in Abia North before end of 2021.
“As a community leader, I do not intend to stop my interventions on roads in NDDC states because all the states need good roads. Good roads help to drive the economy. Therefore, I believe the NDDC forensic audit should focus on the missing funds and not works done. They should focus on paying contractors that delivered their jobs and not using my name indiscriminately to sell newspapers. The minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, is my good old friend. We have been friends even before I became a governor. I hope he doesn’t expect me to stop seeking for road interventions in our communities. It is his civic responsibility to support the communities and I am very confident he will oblige our future requests especially in areas of good roads.”
NDDC contracts denied by former Governor
Reacting, Uduaghan said denied approaching the NDDC for any contract.
Uduaghan was specifically linked to the emergency repairs of Close B, Alhaji Estate & Environs, Rumuodomaya, Port Harcourt in Rivers State at a cost of N429 million.
But the former governor, in a statement, described the accusation as false, insisting he “never approached the NDDC for any contract whatsoever.”
“It is even more ridiculous that the said NDDC contracts is a road inside Port Harcourt town,” Uduaghan said in the statement by his Media Assistant, Monoyo Edon.
He said he had drawn the attention of the Akpabio to the publication for correction, describing the publication as mischievous.
Ex-governor Ibori in a statement by his media aide, Tony Eluemunor, said he “never solicited for, or was awarded, or indeed executed, any NDDC contracts or any government agency, at any time, for that matter.”