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Akpabio denies abandoning task of constituting NDDC board

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Godswill Akpabio.

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said on Friday that he did not leave the responsibility for the constitution of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board for someone else.

Akpabio, who made the denial in a statement, noted that reports that he left the constitution of the NDDC board was a mere fabrication of sponsored writers in the media.

The statement reads: “My attention has been drawn to sponsored write ups in the media, claiming that I passed the buck on my responsibility for the constitution of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

“The write ups, deliberately published while I was outside the country on national duty, reportedly quoted my media aide, Jackson Udom, claiming that I have denied responsibility for the constitution of the board of the commission. I have checked with Mr Udom and he has clearly said he was misquoted.

“While I am not shocked by the mischief inherent in the publication, I am alarmed at the extent of falsehood the writers went in pushing their anti-Niger Delta agenda to scuttle the due consideration of the report of the Forensic Audit by stampeding the government. More alarming is the attempt to drag the hallowed name of our president into this plot.

“For the avoidance of doubt, President Muhammadu Buhari has set out to reposition the NDDC after 19 years of rot, saw to the undermining of the dreams of the fathers of the region, to fast track its development through the setting up of an interventionist agency.

READ ALSO: Akpabio leads delegation to beg fugitive, Tompolo, over crisis around NDDC board

“Part of the strategy was a forensic audit to understand what went wrong, despite the resources committed to the commission over the years.

“The report of that audit has just been submitted to the President, who is studying it to come up with a formula for a commission fit for purpose. That formula is what the board being put together will work with.

“It is not in the interest of the region to stampede the government into aborting the reform process. The President has demonstrated immense love for the Niger Delta and its people. This is reflected in the support he has given to the NDDC to complete some of the projects abandoned over the years, like the headquarters complex in Port Harcourt, the Students’ Hostel at Uyo and the electrification project in Ondo State.

“The President wants to give to the region an interventionist agency that will realize the dreams of our fathers for our people and generations yet unborn. The greatest disservice we can do to the region is to attempt to stampede him, through ingeniously crafted media campaigns.

“I am irrevocably committed to assisting the president to leave behind a legacy for the Niger Delta people, particularly, saving the NDDC from dying like past developmental agencies put together for the region since 1958.”

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Politics

Appeal Court discharges Alao-Akala, two others on N11.5b corruption charges

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adebayo alao akala

The Court of Appeal, Ibadan, on Thursday, discharged and acquitted a former Governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, on the N11.5 billion corruption charges levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Alao-Akala was discharged and acquitted along with a former Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Hosea Agboola and a businessman, Femi Babalola.

Agboola is currently the Chairman of the Advisory Council to the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde.

He served as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters during Alao-Akala’s administration between 2007 and 2011, while Babalola owns Pentagon Engineering Services, the engineering firm that executed some contracts during the period.

The commission arraigned the three men on an 11-count charge of fraud at the Oyo State High Court, Ibadan, in 2012.

EFCC alleged that Alao-Akala awarded a road contract worth N8.5billion to Babalola’s firm, Pentagon Engineering Services between 2007 and 2009 when he was governor of Oyo State.

The commission insisted that the firm handled the contract on behalf of the 33 local government areas of the state without budgetary provision while the former governor ordered the supply of drilling machines on behalf of the LGAs at the cost of N3.5 billion.

The three defendants, however, filed a no-case submission after EFCC had closed its case before the court.

Justice Muniru Owolabi struck out eight out of the 11- count-charge and ordered Alao-Akala to enter his defence on the remaining three charges bordering on conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence and award of contract without budgetary provision.

READ ASLO: Nobody’s ambition will supersede Oyo APC’s mandate —Alao-Akala

He, however, discharged the former governor on the charges of acquiring property with money derived from an illegal act and concealing ownership of such property.

The judge said the witnesses called by the prosecutor failed to link evidence to the acquired property, adding that EFCC also failed to prove genuine ownership of the property.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the three men approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the ruling.

At Thursday’s proceeding, a three-man panel of the appellate court headed by Justice Jimi Bada set aside the ruling of the lower court.

Other members of the panel are – Justices Abba Muhammed and Abdulazeez Waziri.

The appellate court held that the lower court erred by ordering the defendants to enter defence for the three counts because the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

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‘Come back to where your political journey started,’ PDP woos Kalu

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Orji Uzor Kalu

The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday appealed to the former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, to return to the party.

Kalu, who is one of the founding members of the PDP, joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) in November 2016.

The National Secretary of the PDP, Samuel Anyanwu, made the appeal when he led the party’s delegation to visit Kalu at his Abuja home.

Anyanwu, who addressed journalists at the end of the closed-door meeting with Senate Chief Whip, said they discussed what would benefit the nation.

READ ALSO: Tinubu, Orji Kalu meet in Abuja

He said: “We let him know the reason why he should move over to our party. We had a good discussion and this is just the beginning.

“We are talking about bringing people back to the party because the more the merrier.

“This is a place he started, so you have to leave where you are and go back to where you started.”

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Plateau Assembly passes 2022 budget of N116.7bn

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Plateau Assembly

The Plateau State House of Assembly on Thursday passed the state’s 2022 budget of N116.7 billion.

The budget passed by the lawmakers was N10 billion higher than the N106.8 billion Governor Simon Lalong presented to the House a few weeks ago.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Mr Yahaha Adamu, said at the plenary the increase in the budget was necessitated by the needs presented by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) during budget defence.

A breakdown of the budget revealed that N76.7 billion was earmarked as recurrent estimate and N40 billion for capital expenditure.

READ ALSO: Plateau Assembly Speaker dismisses claim on resignation as crisis festers

The House urged the governor to sponsor a bill seeking the alteration of the law establishing the College of Arts, Science and Remedial Studies, Kurgwi.

Adamu said the bill would help to change the name of the school to that of a Polytechnic and enable it to benefit from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).

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