By Ogochukwu Isioma
A former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, on Sunday demanded that anti-graft agencies should investigate the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a $15 billion Trans-Niger Delta Railway Project signed by the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Samuel Ogbuku, with Atlantic Global Resources Inc, describing it as “Yahoo Yahoo Abracadabra.”
While.describing the action of the NDDC’s MD as illegal and a Yahoo Yahoo abracadabra, that is fraudulently laced with deceitful intentions aimed at siphoning the resources of the commission, he called on any of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, to urgently intervene, arrest, investigate and prosecute Ogbuku and his co-conspirators for attempted fraud and misappropriation.
According to Frank in a statement in Abuja, only the Chairman of the Governing Board of the NDDC was vested with powers to enter into contracts with other firms by the Act establishing the agency.
He said, “It is worthy to note, that as part of the responsibility of the Governing Board of the NDDC, as empowered by its establishment Act No 6, 2000, only the Chairman is vested with the sole power to sign contracts or MoUs with any firm or organization.
“It is curious therefore, as to how only the Managing Director and a selected few in connivance with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs would proceed to sign an MoU without the prior knowledge of the Chairman, but rather justifying an ultra vires action.
“The position of the NDDC management in its reaction affirming that the $15billion Railway MoU was signed for the preliminary process for a railway network and not an award of contract, suggests that ongoing talks with this company is another calculated attempt to defraud the Niger Delta people in the guise of ‘Preliminary Studies’ for a Trans-Niger Delta Railway.
“This shady MoU without due consultation with the board, carried out by the MD of NDDC, Samuel Ogbuku, with Atlantic Global Resources Inc, to build a railway network connecting the nine Niger Delta states can only be described as crass carelessness and outrightly insensitive at this time.
“Mr. Ogbuku must be reminded that the struggle for the attainment of a better Niger Delta was a battle fought by many and thus as stakeholders in this struggle, we’re mandated to serve the people relentlessly rather than engaging in the same setbacks of the past.
“In the light of the above therefore, it is clear that the MD and his partners are clearly toeing the same path as the pre-forensic audit of the commission.
“Besides, in pursuit of a better Niger Delta, we’re poised to applaud laudable projects and disapprove of white elephant projects in this regard.
“It is sad that whilst we continue to hope for overall growth and development of the region, we’re still confronted with weighty and dubious setbacks detrimental to the positive advancement of the zone.
“It will be foolhardy to jump on a Trans-Niger Delta Railway network’s feasibility, when the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had only recently in 2021 awarded a $11.7 Railway contract that would connect states in the entire region from Lagos.
“It is therefore shocking that an agency of government will seek to override the prior approval of FEC and initiate another MoU on behalf of the NDDC and the Federal Government for the same project in 2023 without due process nor approval by FEC in the twilight of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
“The FEC must make its position clear as regards this recent MoU duplicating the project even as the completion of the East/West Road has since become a mirage with little or nothing done all these years.”
He called on the National Assembly, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the nine Niger Delta States’ Governors (Advisory Board of NDDC), and all other stakeholders to outrightly reject the flawed MoU as it is of no immediate significance save for personal aggrandizement.
“Any form of support in aiding the commission to secure loans for the purpose of this purported ‘Preliminary Studies’ for the railway construction must be rejected and resisted.
“The Niger Delta people are desirous of more sustainable programmes that positively
affect daily living rather than any phantom project.
“The NDDC must focus on the implementation of its original masterplan, which no board has achieved since inception and concentrate more on Human Resource Development programmes, including training of youths, provision of better healthcare, education, etc., and cease from being used as a conduit in impoverishing the people”, Frank emphasized.