The Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has ordered the immediate closure of the headquarters of the interventionist Commission for the region of the Niger Delta of Nigeria, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, located in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, following the demise of the Acting Director of Finance and Administration, Dr Ibanga Bassey Etang due to COVID-19 infection, and an impending outbreak of the corona virus within the premises of the Commission’s headquarters and among staff. Etang died at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH), Port Harcourt.
According to the Commission’s Director of Press, Patricia Deworitshe, Minister Akpabio advised all employees of the commission with symptoms of COVID-19 not to panic, but report to the nearest Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Port Harcourt, for evaluation and treatment. All staff members in the headquarters have been advised to immediately self-isolate and await communication from the management.
This is coming on the back of recent controversies surrounding the Commission’s Interim Management Committee, IMC, which is being accused of squandering ₦40 billion within three months. In fact, unsurprisingly, an interest group from the Niger Delta is already insinuating gimmicks about the closure of the headquarters, alleging that the IMC is trying to find a way to sweep the ₦40 billion allegations under the carpet. The Niger Delta Rights Advocates (NDRA), through their spokesman Darlington Nwauju, said that they are alarmed that after the IMC accused chairmen, Senate and House of Representatives committees on the Niger Delta inserted projects into the NDDC’s 2019 budget, they are putting the headquarters under lock. He alleged that they are trying to divert attention from the ₦40 billion accusation.
The IMC has come out stoutly to defend itself, denying any missing amount of the kind alleged, saying that those scared of the outcome of the forensic audit ordered by the president Muhammadu Buhari, as reported by Switch Nigeria. See here. A video has gone viral with a top official in the IMC, alleging plots to distract them, and directly accusing the chairman, Senate committee on NDDC, of corruption. The death of Etang has come as a serious blow to not only the Niger Delta as a region expecting an effective NDDC, it is also a big loss to the APC in the Niger Delta, and the Ministry, as well as Nigeria at large.
Etang, a former Chairman of Esit Eket Local Government of Akwa Ibom State, on April 9th, 2018, resigned as Special Assistant to the Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State on Projects and formally registered with the APC at his Etebi Ward 7, along with over 300 followers on April 10th, 2018.
Only three weeks ago, Etang announced that his tenure as the Director of Finance and Administration had been extended by the president. He wrote on the 30th of April, 2020, “Today, My tenure as the Executive Director of Finance and Administration, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was extended by His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari. Thank You His Excellency Senator Godswill Akpabio. Thank You His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari .” Etang, a former President of Afigh Iwaad Ekid, a youth organization in Eket Federal Constituency, fell ill two weeks ago and was taken to RSUTH.