Warri — Former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori, his successor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, and Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, yesterday took issue with Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who named them among beneficiaries of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) contract awards.
The trio, in separate statements, said at no point did they take any contract from the commission, which is being probed by the National Assembly for malfeasance.
Akpabio, according to a report by a national newspaper (not THISDAY), in a July 23 letter to House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, had linked Ibori, Uduaghan, and Kalu, among others, to the alleged contract scandal rocking the NDDC.
The minister's letter addressed to the Clerk to the House, Mr. Patrick Giwa, with Reference Number MNDA/HM/04/IV/158, was also copied to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
The letter was in response to an earlier one from the House, challenging the minister to name lawmakers that had benefited from NDDC contracts as he had alleged when he appeared before the House Committee on NDDC.
However, Ibori, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Tony Eluemunor, said he had never solicited for any contract from the commission or been awarded one.
He said the clarification was prompted by enquiries from friends and associates who had inundated him with phone calls on the matter.
The statement said: "Chief Ibori hereby states categorically that he never solicited for, or was awarded, or indeed executed any contract with NDDC or any government agency, at any time, for that matter.
"And in all, he has been through in and out of public office, he has never been accused of being a government contractor, let alone a failed one hence he did not want to dignify the allegation with a response because it is ridiculous."
Ibori urged Akpabio to verify his facts and focus on the task at hand.
He also described the NDDC as "a product of his personal sacrifice as well as those of his Niger Delta colleagues (1999 -2007) who rose to the occasion to veto override the veto of President Olusegun Obasanjo who refused to assent to the NDDC bill at the time.
"If not for the exemplary courage some of us exhibited, there would have not been an NDDC to bicker about today."
Ibori also described as tragic, the NDDC's degeneracy, adding that "we owe it a duty to the people of the Niger Delta to make NDDC work to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the region and to realise the dream for which we fought for it to be set up. So, let everybody involved in the NDDC do their duties to the good people of the region."
Uduaghan also denied being an NDDC contractor, saying he could not have collected N429 million road contract from the commission as alleged by the minister.
The former governor said he "had never approached the NDDC for any contract whatsoever."
Uduaghan, in a statement issued yesterday by his Media Assistant, Monoyo Edon, copies of which were made available to journalists in Warri, said he had already reached out to Akpabio "to immediately correct the report" as he had never been awarded contracts by the interventionist agency.
Uduaghan, therefore, advised the public to disregard the "mischievous publication."
The statement read in part: "We want to state very clearly that the said accusation is false. Dr. Uduaghan has never approached the NDDC for any contract whatsoever. It is even more ridiculous that the said contract is a road inside Port Harcourt town.
"Dr. Uduaghan has drawn the attention of the Hon. Minister of the Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to the publication and hopes he makes a correction."
Kalu, in a statement by Mr. Emeka Nwala of office of the Senate Chief Whip, said he believed that the issues at stake in the NDDC had to do with missing funds and not work done.
He added that he was becoming worried over his name being used indiscriminately to sell newspapers without verifications.
He said the road projects mentioned by the minister as being awarded to him were the interventions he facilitated for the communities as a private citizen before he became a senator.
Kalu added that his name was mentioned because he used his letterhead paper to write a sympathetic letter to the NDDC in 2016 pleading with it to repair roads in Abia.
He noted that his relationship with Akpabio dated years back and long before he (Kalu) became a governor.
He added that he would still request for more road interventions from Akpabio.
He said: "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 a senator.
"Between 2016- 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, award 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."
Kalu also noted that the NDDC members that awarded the projects were not part of the interim management in controversy but the fully constituted body of NDDC with its board.
"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; the Okafia-Ozuitem-Bende road and Ozu-Amuru-Abam Road.
"The contractors have completed and delivered these roads a 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," he added.