I never harassed fmr NDDC acting MD, Akpabio insists

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has denied sundry allegations, including harassment levelled against him by a former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ms. Joi Nunieh.

Nunieh, who headed the former Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, in an interview on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, on Monday, said she slapped the minister for harassing her.

She also accused the minister of other misdemeanours.

However, Akpabio in a statement yesterday by his media aide, Mr. Anietie Ekong, said his attention had been drawn “to a cornucopia of false, malicious, and libellous press interviews granted by Ms. Gbene Joi Nunieh, the erstwhile acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) in some news and social media platforms and a series of concerted vicious campaigns of calumny deviously orchestrated by her against his person ranging from the allegation of corruption, sexual and workplace harassments, pipelines bombings, secret cult activities, abuse of office, amongst other lies peddled by her.”

According to Akpabio, his initial attitude was to allow his lawyers and the judicial system vindicate him of the false allegations against him, “but was compelled to react to some of the wayward allegations levied against his person by Ms. Nunieh, especially the one bordering on sexual harassment.”

The statement added: “To start with, let it be known that there is no scintilla of truth in all the allegations peddled around by Nunieh. They are simply false! The honourable minister did not at any time, place or circumstance make any form of sexual advances to Ms. Nunieh, not even to put himself in a position or posture suggestive of sexual advances towards Ms. Nunieh, or any female staff of his ministry or the NDDC.

“For the records, the honourable minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, is happily married and content with his wife. Together they are blessed with children, four of whom are young women. The honourable minister is an avid believer of the affirmative action and that was visible in the appointments he made as a two- term executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015. Under his watch, he appointed several women into various high-level positions as chairpersons of local government councils, magistrates, judges, and heads of parastatals, directors, permanent secretaries, and commissioners.”

The statement described the minister as the first governor in Akwa Ibom State to have a female deputy governor, as well as the first to appoint female chief judges of the high court, recommended women for ministerial appointments, citing a former minister of housing and urban development.

Akpabio, the statement stated, also supported for an appointment the first female vice-chancellor of the only federal university in the state, among others, adding that “he has always championed and still champions the cause of women and young children.”

“The honourable minister has never hidden his admiration and respect for his wife, Mrs. Ekaette Akpabio, children and sisters, he, therefore, felt compelled to react to the malicious attack on his person by Ms. Nunieh bordering on allegations of sexual harassment. The honourable minister, therefore, finds the said allegation nauseating and very cheap blackmail, for Ms. Nunieh to suggest or insinuate that he sexually harassed her, while she was the acting Managing Director of the NDDC.

“The honourable minister also finds it appalling that Ms. Nunieh never deemed it fit to report the alleged incident to the police at the earliest opportunity she had, before, during or after her tenure as the acting Managing Director on February 17, 2020, if indeed the allegation was true. Waiting till July 10 and 13, 2020 when the National Assembly appears to be probing some of her actions as the acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) exposes her motive, especially at a time when the momentum for the Forensic Audit.”

On the allegations of involvement in contract racketeering, the bombing of oil pipelines, corruption/diversion of funds, the minister stated that several times and at various fora since his assumption of office, he had only awarded three contracts to date.

He listed them as the appointment of the lead forensic auditors, which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC); the emergency procurement contract for COVID-19 intervention in the Niger Delta area, which due to its urgency, had his interim approval and presidential approval in line with the Bureau of Public Procurement Act; and the award of vehicles procurement duly approved by the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Federal Executive Council but yet to be consummated.

All these contracts, the statement added, went through due processes.

On Nunieh’s allegation that the minister directed her to change the dollars in the NDDC’s account, the statement said: “For the records, it should be noted that NDDC’s account is domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Every inflow and outflow is known and traceable.”

THISDAY

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