The investigation of the Niger Delta Development Commission got messier on Thursday as the police invaded the Port Harcourt residence of its former acting Managing Director, Joi Nunieh.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who prevented police from taking
taking Nunieh away, reacted angrily and asked the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, to probe the invasion of the former NDDC boss.
In Abuja, top officials of the NDDC, who appeared before the House of Representatives committee investigating the commission, walked out of the venue of the committee sitting after insisting that the panel Chairman, Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, must step down.
Apparently disturbed by dramas at the probe, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday promised to get to the root of the problems undermining the development of Niger Delta in spite of enormous resources voted for it.
He urged agencies investigating the commission to speed up the probe.
Worried by the persistent criticisms of the operations of the NDDC, the President had, in October 2019, ordered a forensic audit of the organisation from 2001 to 2019.
On May 5, the Senate began its own probe of the commission when it set up a seven-man ad hoc committee to investigate the “financial recklessness” of its interim management committee.
The lawmakers said within the last three months, the commission had spent over N40bn without recourse to established processes of funds disbursement.
Also, the House is probing alleged mismanagement of N81.5bn between January and July, 2020 by the commission.
The various investigations have so far led to a lot of revelations about the handling of the commission’s finances.
For instance at the Senate committee sitting on July 8, the current Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof. Kemebrandikumo Pondei, admitted that the commission spent N1.5bn for staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds.’
It has also led to accusations and counter-accusations between Nunieh and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
How police invaded my house at 4am – Nunieh
But in the early hours of Thursday, the security men laid siege to Nunieh’s residence located at 3 Owuru Creek, Port Harcourt in an attempt to arrest her.
Nunieh, who is from Rivers State, was scheduled to catch a flight at the Port Harcourt International Airport, to Abuja where she was expected to testify before an ad hoc committee of the House investigating alleged misappropriation of funds in the NDDC.
Recall that Nunieh had accused Akpabio of harassing her sexually among other allegations including fraud and masterminding her removal from office for refusing to do his bidding with funds of the interventionist agency.
The minister has, however, denied the allegations, including sexual harassment.
A source at Nunieh’s residence told The PUNCH that several armed policemen stormed her residence about 4am, hit the gate repeatedly before forcing their way into the building painted white, though they could not go into the room where she took refuge and reportedly put a call through to Wike.
Wike, it was gathered, came with few of his aides and moved into Nunieh’s residence and immediately took her into protective custody in Government House, Port Harcourt.
Addressing journalist in Government House shortly afterwards, Wike described the invasion of Nunieh’s home as a disgrace and a show of shame.
The governor said it was absurd that Nunieh who was scheduled to appear before the House of Representative Committee was prevented by the security agencies.
Wike said that the former NDDC MD should be properly invited by the police if she had committed an offence, saying the action of the security personnel was an abduction attempt.
When contacted, the Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Nnamdi Omoni, told one of our correspondents that he would get back to him.
When contacted a second time to confirm the incident and his reaction about 3:30pm, Omoni, a deputy superintendent of police, said, “I will talk to you soon. I am still compiling my report.” The state police spokesman neither picked nor returned subsequent calls put across to his mobile phone about 4:28pm.
At the Government House, Nunieh thanked the governor for keeping his promise of protecting her.
She expressed surprise about the invasion of her home by policemen who came without any warrant of arrest.
The former NDDC boss said she called Wike when she heard that some persons claiming to be policemen were at her gate.
She said before, the governor had told her to inform him if she noticed any strange movements.
She said, “Early this morning about 4am, I heard people were around my gate and I tried to reach my governor because he had told me that If I saw any strange movements I should alert him. So I tried to reach him, his phones were turned off and I called other people who told me that they (the invaders) might not be real policemen so I should stay inside.
“They said they came to take me away and I asked them for the warrant of arrest. They said no warrant of arrest, so about 6am, they broke the gate and later Senator Magnus Abe called to tell me that he had reached the commissioner of police who said he didn’t know anything about it.
“The commissioner of police called me. I sent him my address. They (the policemen in her house) told me the commissioner was downstairs, but he wasn’t there. I think it was the deputy commissioner of police that was there. So I opened the door and they wanted to grab me and I managed to push back the door and locked it and went upstairs and got through to my governor.
“The policemen at my house tried to break down the back door. It’s a security door. They kept hitting it for over one hour but couldn’t get access.
“So, as they were still trying, my governor came and asked why they would come to arrest a woman like an armed robber and that they should leave the compound.”
She said she went with the governor to the Government House, where she took refuge.
She said those who were behind the invasion of her house wanted to stop her from testifying in the investigation of the NDDC.
Probe invasion of Nunieh’s house, Wike tells IG
Also on Thursday, Wike called on the Inspector General of Police , to investigate the invasion of the residence of Nunieh.
Wike said the invasion of Nunieh’s residence by security personnel, who were bent on arresting her without a warrant, was a kidnap attempt.
The governor stated this in a statement titled, ‘Governor Wike rescues former NDDC MD, calls on the Inspector General of Police to investigate her attempted abduction.’
In the statement issued by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, the governor berated those he called ‘self-styled armed policemen’ who claimed to be members of the Inspector General Monitoring Unit.