A suppressed cold war or what may be described as a battle of supremacy is brewing among some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), New Telegraph is reporting. With cleavages formed around them, the bickering involves the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Babachir Lawal and the Transportation Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
The bone of contention, according to an impeccable Presidency source, is the duo’s subtle scheming to have control of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Though put under the Presidency by the Act establishing it, the supervision of the multibillion- naira intervention agency has been supervised by the Office of the SGF since the time of Ambassador Babagana Kingibe’s tenure under the late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
It was under the Ministry of Special Duties in the time of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as president. But it was gathered that the recent sack of the Bassey Dan Abia-led management of the NDDC has triggered ‘friction and mutual suspicion’ between the SGF and the former Rivers State governor.
Abia, whose appointment as the chief executive officer of the NDDC was facilitated by Senator Godswill Akpabio, then governor of Akwa Ibom State, was sacked on December 22, 2015 and in his place, an ally of Amaechi, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, was appointed in acting capacity as the CEO. Semenitari was Amaechi’s Information Commissioner for six years in Rivers State. Dr. Henry Ogiri and Engr. Omatsuli Tuoyo, executive directors of finance and administration, as well as projects, respectively, were also sacked two weeks ago, precisely on January 9. But President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly ordered the probe of the sacked directors following ‘strong suspicions’ that the agency was not transparently managed under them.
It was learnt that while the SGF, with the backing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, as well as three other ministers from the north wanted the continued stay of the former top shots at the commission to serve out their tenure, Amaechi, supported by two ministers from the South-West, had insisted on the dissolution of the management team of the NDDC shortly after the inauguration of the FEC in November last year.
“You should know that there are interests here and there, if not, some of us see no reason why the managing director and his executive directors were asked to stay put when there are glaring reports that at least two of them were the financiers of the governorship election in their respective states.
”This is not whether or not one minister has taken control of the NDDC or he is undermining the SGF, it is not. The truth has to be told that the SGF needlessly allowed the people to overstay their usefulness and if someone was ready to play a fast one, I don’t blame him.
”Right from the beginning, the thinking was to ease the guys out, but somehow, the party chairman was always begging on their behalf and the SGF seemed to listen to him. So, no one raised the matter with the president, that was how they stayed this long in the first place.
”What happened was that someone raised this matter with the president without the knowledge of the SGF and action was taken and, you know, naturally, friction and mutual suspicion will set in because the agency in the first place is under the supervision of the SGF’s office.
”It is a little friction that will be sorted out, except that one person felt sidelined in the course of the action to be taken, he was just handed down a directive to issue sack letters; he was not part of the pre-sack process at all,” he said.
But a media aide of Amaechi, David Iyofor, told New Telegraph that there is no supremacy battle between the SGF and his principal. “What you just told me is news to us. We are hearing it for the first time. Amaechi is not aware of it and so cannot be involved in any supremacy battle. “It’s all rumour. And we won’t respond to rumours. The minister is focused on doing his job as the minister of transportation. They should please leave him out of their rumour-mongering,” Iyofor said.
It was gathered that the sack of Dan Abia, Ogiri and Tuoyo was not discussed with the SGF as he was just invited to the Presidential Villa to be asked to issue the sack letters. It could not be independently confirmed if the development was as a result of the closeness of the sacked directors with the SGF.
When contacted to shed more light on the manner of their sack, whether or not it was the SGF that signed the letters relieving them, Tuoyo said angrily: “You people should leave us alone, have they not done their worst? Why all these questions? People wanted us sacked and we were sacked, please leave us alone.”
Meanwhile, the presidential directive to probe the sacked directors, it was gathered, comes on the heels of two reports. One, to ascertain if actually the commission’s resources were used to fund the election of any of the governorship candidates and to scrutinise the level of complicity of any official in alleged contract splitting and breach of extant procurement laws.
“It is unlikely that a new management and even board will be appointed soon because there are issues of financial concern and strong suspicions that the com-mission was not transparently managed under the last management. The president is believed to have ordered a probe and, until that is commenced, I don’t see a new team coming on board soon,” he added.
It will recalled that two weeks after it was inaugurated, the commission awarded a contract for what it called “intelligence gathering, management and mitigation” in all the senatorial districts in the nine states within the region. To circumvent the Public Procurement Act 2007, the commission was said to have split the job into 30 lots and awarded to political gladiators and cronies of board members and top management staff. A total of N2.7 billion was doled out to 30 companies for the contracts. In each of the ninecatchment states, a total of N299.2 million was spent on the contract with each contractor in a senatorial district getting N99.7 million.
In the execution of the jobs, contractors served as both consultants and executors of the contract, it was alleged. The jobs emanated from the office of the head of the security department through the former Executive Director (Projects), Tuoyo, to his Finance and Administration counterpart, Ogiri.
Approval for the payment of the contractors was conveyed via an internal memo, dated December 15, 2013. Some of the companies that benefited included Osmoserve Global Limited, Merryl Finch Limited, Viva Guarantees Limited, Actinum Limited, Virgin Logistics Limited, Wright Integrated Services Limited, among others. Again, on February 25, 2014, Dan Abia allegedly awarded a N882 million contract, said to be above his statutory approval limit of N2.5 million, for the purchase of 40 luxury vehicles.
The contract was awarded to Automatt Global Services, located at 167 Aba Road, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with a Local Purchase Order (LPO) no: 15301. The order included 18 Toyota Hilux 4×4 pickup vans, two armoured LX570 Lexus jeeps, two regular LX570 Lexus SUVs, two armoured Toyota V8 Land Cruiser SUVs and 16 regular Toyota V8 Land Cruiser SUVs.
The Toyota Hilux vans, which was bought by the commission at N156.5 million, with each costing N8.7 million is sold for N6.5 million at Carmudi, an online car shop. Equally, a regular Toyota V8 Land Cruiser SUV, which was supplied to the commission at N27.9 million each, sells for N18.5 million at Carmudi while a regular Lexus LX570 SUV which it got for N32.4 million is sold for N22.5 million at Carmudi. The commission also awarded contracts for the purchase of vehicles for the police commands in the catchment area at N12.5 billion. Police commands in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo and Delta states benefited from the security vehicle contracts.