Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Niger Delta Justice Forum
No. 86 Nwaniba Road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.



Incontrovertible fact:           People lie.

Incontestable fact:                Magic fails.

Irrefutable fact:                     Liars and magicians employ distraction in their art.

Undeniable fact:                    People get wiser.

People lie to deceive friends, family and the public and lie for attention, deflection, power and profit. Sometimes, people can come together as a village of accusers and liars acting ruthlessly in bad faith. It is hard to look inside somebody’s brain. It is even harder with the sane ones than the crazy ones. Sadly, people can think rationally and still choose to concoct stories, events and circumstances and out of anxiety, desperation and paranoia believe their falsity and expect discerning members of the public to do the same. Robert Ludlum in ‘’The Tristan Betrayal” posited that any fool can tell the truth: it takes talent to lie well.

Talent is certainly missing in the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). That is why they have been engaging in all manner of embarrassing tales. The NDDC story of the sudden prevalence of Covid19 in their head office reminds us of a certain tale: there was once 5 men. The one had no eye, the second had no legs, the third was dumb, the fourth had no arm and the fifth one was naked.  The blind man exclaimed “Eh lads, I see a bird” The dumb one said ‘’I ‘ll shoot it” The one without legs said ‘’I’ll run after it’’ The man without arms said ‘’I’ll pick it up’’ and the naked man said “I’ll put it in my pocket’’ The children listening to the story chorused ‘’Eh, that is a lie’’

The public reaction to the information coming out of NDDC that 6 members of staff in the Office of the Ag Executive Director Project (EDP) Dr. Cairo Ojougboh have tested positive to Covid19 is “Eh, that is a lie” This story is funny and exposes the foolishness of those propagating it. First of all, the EDP does not have up to 33 members of staff in his office. Secondly, during the lockdown, less than 6 level 14 officers were going to work in the entire directorate as directed by the federal government. The EDP and the late Executive Director of Finance and Administration (EDFA) who purportedly died of Covid19 worked, ate and stayed together most times throughout the lock down. There is no single person who worked closely with the EDP and the late EDFA Elder Ibanga Bassey Etang that has tested positive for Covid19 as at today.

The problem of the IMC is that its “owner” and supervisor Senator Godswill Akpabio, a peculiar politician, a game master with pitch perfect gift of blarney and a legendary reputation for high illusion blazed into office as a magician promising to turn water into wine. It has however become evident that he is only a malevolent stage actor. He understands magic as a sleight of hand. The best magicians can perform amazing and perplexing feats of magic. Mediocre magicians can make coins disappear or perform card tricks. But only a special group to which Akpabio certainly belongs can harm themselves in the process.

Scott Wolf, a magician, started his act with a very impressive display of fire breathing. He would strut the arena like one of the biggest names on the Vegas circuit and seemed to have the audience in the palm of his hands. Sadly, his future career as a magician was cut short when an over-enthusiastic jet of flames burnt his handkerchief, his clothes and his face. His magic failed and he was on fire.

The IMC has endeavoured to deploy a blitzkrieg strategy of lies and distraction to confuse and conflate the public from scrutinizing its deplorable records. The “big lie” strategy is to exploit journalistic convention by providing rapid fire “news” events for reporters to chase. The commission spews falsehoods on a regular basis but it is only part of its strategy to divert attention from the big truth. The IMC’s technique is to use internal and external distractions to provide excuses not to talk about the subject of its mismanagement or otherwise try to distract the interrogator away from its evidence of lying but this their “magic strategy’’ has failed and their game is up in flames.

The late EDFA was the person slated as the prime witness in the probe of NDDC by the National Assembly. That was to be expected because he was in-charge of all payments. He suddenly died as the probe was about to commence since the dead doesn’t speak. Without any valid medical evidence, without the certainty of a test result and without any pronouncement by the NCDC, the IMC hurriedly issued a press release stating that he died of complications from Covid19. When that statement was challenged as foul play was suspected in his death, it fell again on the same Director of Corporate Communication, an officer who crosses back and forth like a guy on a bridge who couldn’t make up his mind about where he lived to contradict his earlier statement pending post mortem testing. Information from close friends of the late Director and family members indicated that the test result came back negative which necessitated the protest by Akwa Ibom youths at the NDDC office in Uyo that the commission should explain to them what killed their brother. Immediately after the protest, heavy pressure was brought to bear on certain persons and the result was strangely announced as positive. No one has seen the details of the test to verify the authenticity of the reversal. WE CALL ON THE GOVERNOR, THE TRADITIONAL RULERS AND LEADERS OF AKWA IBOM STATE TO GET TO THE ROOT OF THE DEATH OF THE EDFA. THIS SYSTEM OF SUDDEN DEATH OF OUR PEOPLE WHICH WE THOUGHT STOPPED ABOUT FOUR YEARS AGO CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE.

The worrying thing about this tragic drama is that the late EDFA lived with more than 25 persons in his house in Port Harcourt and more than 30 persons in Uyo. None of them including his close friends and associates who were with him until he passed on has tested positive. There is no practical evidence that the Acting MD and the Ag EDP and other members of staff that worked with him ever went on self- isolation.
When it became clear that the National Assembly was not impressed with this cheap Covid19 death tactics and proceeded with preliminary hearings, the IMC deployed its fox’s instinct for opportunity and changed narratives by declaring that 6 persons in the office of the Ag. EDP charged with provision of relevant documents for the probe have tested positive to Covid19 but that the EDP, their boss returned negative. The Internal Memo advising members of staff to register for testing was issued only last Friday June 5, 2020 with the registration to commence today being June 9, 2020. When then were those declared positive tested?

It is interesting to note that the IMC is doing everything possible to avoid answering questions on its stewardship being supervised by Akpabio. Staff of the commission are being induced with monetary compensation and intimidation to accept that they have tested positive to Covid19 so as to create an impression of the prevalence of the virus in the commission to avoid appearance before the NASS probe committee. It’s however gratifying to realize that the National Assembly is determined to carry out its constitutional oversight function. We call on the National Assembly to ignore the antics of the IMC and its collaborators and order them to appear before it on the nearest possible date to explain how it frittered away nearly N85bn (Eighty-five Billion Naira) belonging to the people of Niger Delta in six months.

It is clear to everyone now that we are in the region of the unprecedented and unreferenced. The nation is dealing with people who don’t recognize the concept of limits. To the IMC, reasoning is secondary to motives and profit. It strongly believes that there is no rule which says that its action has to make sense. It is shocking that while the public is outraged by the allegation of the misappropriation of N40bn, it went further to spend another N45bn during the period under review bringing the total amount of money recklessly spent, misapplied and or misappropriated to N85bn as of today.

It is most unconscionable that while the country remained broke and under lockdown the Ag MD of the commission was receiving N51.6m every month for project inspection that never happened. The IMC paid N641m during lockdown for Media and Communication support for Forensic Audit and N39.4m for Consultancy on Rebuttal of Media Attacks against it and the supervising Minister. These and many other expenses running into several billions of Naira were unbudgeted for.

The IMC has deployed resources meant to develop the region to sponsor fake news items that have infiltrated the online ecosystem controlled by nefarious actors. The media must pay attention to the IMC’s weaponized lies, distraction and distortion even when the shoes of the National Assembly have not dropped on their criminal enterprise. It is high time the media started using the “truth sandwich” method to treat the commission and its drivers. It is time to take their circus of lies off the front page and put them in their own special section of the news, perhaps with comics and horoscope. Their lies and propaganda should never again overshadow real news.

The protracted crisis in NDDC has been greatly exacerbated by political expediency and this has given fillip to the actors now in charge to treat the people with disdain. Their unhidden boast that officials of the Presidency and security agencies are in their pockets gives room for concern. There is as at today no reason why members of the IMC should still remain in office and be walking free. Next time we may be compelled to name those who the members of the  IMC have been boasting to have compromised and therefore feel protected from questioning. There is now in the minds of the Niger Delta people a glaring and widening gap between the enormity of the challenges at the commission and the capacity of the political institutions to address them. We demand that the NASS being the representatives of the people rise fiercely and stand with us. The IMC has become a political catastrophe, like a tornado tearing through the region.

The commission has spent enough time in the shadow of its past and needs to look forward, regaining the core element it has lost and embrace a new agenda for the future instead of being left in the hands of liars and fake magicians bent on distorting facts and controlling the perception of the audience. We are wiser now.

Thank you.

Bassey Ime Idongesit

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