Elebele N2.3bn Wooden Bridge Akpabio, Nigeria Media, Niger Delta Leaders
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
It is so sad that our media, from the corporate to the mainstream traditional media, industry, independent, local and social media, have been falling over one another in the attempt to launder whatever is left of the image of the policy and execution drivers of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
It is just in this effusive errand-like reportage aimed at correcting the ‘misinformation’ that the Commission expended N2.3billion in the construction of less than a kilometer Elebele wooden bridge, Bayelsa State that the Nigeria media err, and has inadvertently given itself away as accomplice in the blind rape of the region, in the unspeakable embezzlement and misapplication of funds that should go for the development of the Niger Delta.
These news mediums are guilty of blood money and unholy romance and posterity may not be kind to them unless they make sincere, urgent and sufficient amend.
Whatever they got paid or whatever they expect to get paid through patronage to fight on the side of the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akapbio and the Managing Director of NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, and the other thieving management cadre of the commission, cannot be separated from act of criminal conspiracy, if a spade must be called by its name.
There is no doubt that media practitioners owe it a duty to safeguard the image of the national interest and to ensure that the image of the country is not unduly battered by off the sail reportage that will expose Nigeria to international opprobrium. However, a practitioner and the media must draw the line between patriotic alignment and call to duty; lest he injures not only the economic and political foundation of the very national interest he seeks to protect by shielding looters and corrupt office holders, but endanger the image of the country in siding with undesirable elements to plunder its social and economic base.
As the fourth estate of the realm, it is first and foremost the duty of the media to hold political leadership and public office appointees accountable, and should guide against temptation to fall into any state of unholy romance with undesirable elements, looters and their conspirators that have elected to shortchange, rape and bruise society, mercilessly and in the most rapacious order.
The media profession is so intellectually constituted to be able to discern very quickly, acts of sabotage that threatens society and its imminent collapse, arising from massive environmental degradation, social value dislocation and depreciation, through dysfunctional state infrastructure and corrupt induced economic hardship.
What has played out in the case of the controversial Elebele Bridge purportedly constructed with N2.3billion by the NDDC, is a case of professional servitude driven by establishment relationship against the principle of public service journalism.
lt does not matter whether these tribe of media are fronting for others before the incumbent leadership of the ministry and commission; because it looks all too glaring that the past leadership were part of the unbri and humongous corruption that walked on four legs at the ministry and commission, involving all those that have served in management capacity, whether recently or otherwise, serving or retired, whether living or dead.
Like the looters, the media house and practitioners that does not see anything wrong why it has taken NDDC more than two years to process receipt of a formal or informal complaint from the people of Elebele and failed to take a decision to fix the collapsed bridge, nor query the system for the obvious criminal negligence over the timely fixing of the said bridge, cannot in truth say it is part of the fourth estate of the realm.
Nor can the Niger Delta Ministry and the NDDC appointees who have been voting scandalous sums of money for Christmas and other festivities, and equally paying scandalous contract mobilization fee to lawmakers and rogue leaders from the region cannot be anything but sub humans, unconscionable humans, insensitive and highly irresponsible humans, to be defended by the media.
The Nyeglect of Elebele Bridge until now sounds them out as totally unfit for public office. It has become clear from revelations coming from NASS investigation that these characters care less about the development of the region or welfare of the people. All they delight in is their immediate interests and the interest of their immediate families and cronies, and thus, they lack the capacity to command a better view of what the ministry and commission was established to achieve.
It is reprehensible for the media to slant the reportage of the moment in the one sided defence of those who have utterly mismanaged a public corporation, who by their actions have shown themselves as haters of development and progress, and lovers of themselves with a propensity for the advancement of the self-cult, for stealing, mismanagement, looting and corruption. Thus whoever attempt to ameliorate these crimes and engage in the philosophy of skewed report balancing, of expostulation and image laudering to expiate their grave irresponsibility must accept culpability.
These people stole and wasted the commonwealth of the people of the Niger Delta, in a sane society; there should be collective efforts to ensure that they all go to jail.
Their individual case files should be undergoing media scrutiny for publication and public participation for extensive intelligence gathering to support the security agencies with information that should lead to the prosecution of these mindless rogues. No responsible media should be seen to engage in any underhand professional deceit by laundering the image of these economic vermins and public treasury looters.
I read with heavy heart, some of the publications that sought to ‘correct’ alleged false online reports that linked NDDC to the construction of the Elebele wooden bridge with N2.3 billion. While helping Akpabio and Pondei to discredit the controversial report, the media did not think it owe it a duty to question these men why they failed to take urgent action to fix the bridge, instead of shamelessly sharing the commission’s fund amongst themselves and their tribe of criminal contractors.
One, obviously quoting verbatim statement made by the NDDC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Obi Odili, wrote that reverse image search of the photo of the bridge showed that it was a self-help project by the community after the original bridge collapsed in September 2019.
What can be more professionally debasing? Elebele is a community in Bayelsa State, one of the richest oil producing states in the Niger Delta. The NDDC established as an intervention agency to cater for sundry needs of the people of the Niger Delta has its Head Office in Port Harcourt, less than 100 kilometers from Elebele. A community lost the major connecting bridge it has, resulting immediate barrier to movement, and by June 2020 the commission, according to media image launderers and spin doctors is still studying the request of the people to fix the bridge. Can anything be more self serving?
The NDDC image maker, Charles Obi Odili who is no doubt from the region as indeed his bosses, want the online social media that reported the ‘fake news’ exposed and discredited.
Let us quickly run through the content of his statement, which he fed to the fawning media, and decide between the people of Niger Delta and his bosses, Akpabio and Pondei, who the ministry and commission is serving:
“In the past 48 hours, a digital photograph of a wooden bridge allegedly constructed by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, at Elebele in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State has been trending on social media. According to the post, the NDDC built the wooden bridge at a cost of N2.3 billion. This is fake news.
“The Commission hereby declares that it has no such project at Elebele. We have gone through our records for the past 18 years and there is even no contract offer for the construction of a bridge in the community. The Elebele community in 2018 sought the assistance of the Commission to rebuild the bridge which had collapsed. The proposal is still going through our system and is presently at the design stage. While awaiting NDDC’s intervention, the Community undertook a self-help project and built the wooden bridge. It has no NDDC input. NDDC has not paid out any money for it. In clear terms, this bridge has nothing to do with NDDC.
“We urge our stakeholders to regard the post as part of the propaganda tactics of those who want the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to be scrapped to deny the people of the region, the benefit of infrastructural and economic development.
“The fake photograph is a follow up to the false allegations and campaigns launched by these detractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission in the news and social media space and even at the recent public hearing by the National Assembly. These forces and their spokespersons are not from the Niger Delta.
“They are enemies of the region. The people of the Niger Delta have lined up behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s ordered forensic audit exercise. That exercise will account for how the projects undertaken by NDDC were done and bring to account those who failed in their responsibilities to the people of the Niger Delta Region.
“The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC under its current leadership remains committed to ensuring the Commission achieves its core mandate as the interventionist agency for the Niger Delta region and its people.”
Odili’s verdict which the media fed on was as catchy, punchy and unsparing in demonizing the select online media ‘alarmist’ that “the wooden bridge has nothing to do with the NDDC.” But assuredly, the alarmists’ sketchy report has put the NDDC on the spot over the Elebele Bridge.
While the Commission acknowledged that “The Elebele community in 2018 sought the assistance of the Commission to rebuild the bridge which had collapsed”, it shamefully admitted that “The proposal is still going through our system and is presently at the design stage.”
As usual with rogues, the actors of the NDDC sleaze chose to see the select media that exposed its rotten records as enemies and from enemy territory.
The following are the board chairmen of the Commission since inception, and all of them from the Niger Delta Region. They are Onyema Ugochukwu 2001-2005; Sam Ede, 2005-2007; Bassey Dan Abia 2007-2009; Larry Koinyan 2009-2011; Tarifa Tebepah 2011-2013; Bassey Henshaw 2013-2015; Ndoma Egba 2016-2019;
The managing directors from inception are Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, Timi Alaibe, Pastor Power Z. Aginighan, Chibuzor Ugwuoha, Christian Oboh, Mrs. Kristy Atako, Sir Bassey Dan Abia, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, Nsima Ekere, Prof. Nelson Brambaifa, Dr. Lelegima Enyia Akwagaga, Dr. Joi Nunieh and Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei.
Apart from this category of key officers, the executive directors also wielded so much power and influence, and instrumental to some of the ugly dimensions in the looting spree. These are the suspects, that have obstructed the development of the region vide the instrumentality of the commission.