By Ademola Adeleye
Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Professor Daniel Pondei, lived up to his name today.
A Daniel who found himself in the den, no, not of roaring lions but a carefully laid net by a group of lawmakers who were determined to rip off his heart, all the alleged sordid details that attended the squandering of a gushing ₦40billon of monies belonging to the good and proud people of the Niger Delta.
Professor Pondei sat before the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta to answer questions bothering on allegations of massive corruption in the Commission.
For some weeks now, the NDDC has been in the eye of the storm, allegations of sexual harassment, insubordination and massive looting of the agency have been traded between the former Managing Director Joi Nunei and the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
Last week, Pondei was dragged before the honourable House, to face the honourable members but he walked out of the Committee’s hearing room, accusing the chairman, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo of being an interested party in the investigation saying the most Hon member was on a revenge mission.
Tunji-Ojo replied: “I am not a president or governor and so I do not enjoy immunity; if you have a case against me, send to the relevant security agencies and if I have a case to answer, I will appear. I read in a national newspaper where the IMC accused me of being on a revenge mission; this is not true; this investigation is about the emancipation of the Niger Delta people.”
He then recluse himself to allow the deputy chairman,Hon. Thomas Ereyi-Tobi, take over.
Mo Money, Mo Problems
The NDDC managers have been accused of embezzling over N40billion belonging to the people of the Niger Delta. Pondei, speaking on oat had admitted spending N1.32billion for COVID-19 palliatives, N6.1billion for a company named ClearPoint for project verification and another N536m for “ Safe Live Campaign” in the Niger Delta.
To every question raised about the appropriateness of the spending, Pondei, a professor who is expected to be in charge of his faculties had only one answer:
“I don’t know.”
Pondei had been on the hot seat for a little over an hour when he suddenly showed he wasn’t interested in his surroundings anymore. He tilted his head to the right obstructing his glasses in the process
…darned glasses, let me take it off….
At first, it looked like he was going to doze off, his clean shaven head moving slowing and proceeding steadily towards the table. Then he opened his eyes wide and began to knock his head in the air, slowly but consistently.
“Excuse me, MD is not feeling fine o,” someone said from behind and at the same time grabbing him by the shoulders, interrupting the progress of his head towards the table.
Surprisingly as Pondei was been shoved and shaken, he did not fall backwards or sideways as may have been expected of someone in a journey to faintland.
The man beside him who should have noticed early came to the party rather late, he stood up and began to turn in a circle, apparently more dazed than the dazed Pondei.
A quick thinking aide beat him to get to Pondei, leaning over the table he grabed his head in a tight grip and in one moment of inspiration decided the best way to bring the MD back from a certain death was to prevent his mouth from being closed.
The aide inserted his 10 fingers into Pondei’s mouth from the side and tried to blow some air in a bid to do mouth to mouth resuscitation. Suddenly, Pondei appeared to regain the use of his two hands as he tried to push the aide’s hands away.
Chaos reigns, end of social distancing
But the aide would not let go, he was determined that Pondei would not die, at least not today, not on the punky floors of the national assembly and definitely not when he was there to prevent it. He tightened his hold on Pondei’s mouth, transferring his grip to the roof of his mouth, pressing his nose and closing his eyes.
Pondei would have none of it, he grabbed the hands of the aide. The aide tightened.
What must have gone through Pondei’s mind, definitely the horror of a foreign hand invading his well flossed teeth? Then there is COVID, no one was sure if the man is negative, social distancing was dead, COVID indeed was dead.
Somebody brought a bottle of water and sprinkled on him, by now he was well awake, he was trying to ask questions, maybe to know if the questioning would continue. They probably assured him it would.
The sympathizers were divided over Pondei.
Man A: They should allow him to go, at least we are all human beings
Man B: It is deliberate
Man A: No it is not deliberate
There was commotion, voices rising over the other, no one seemed to make any sense, no one was attempting to drag Pondei out, it was at this point Pondei decided time was ripe for a second attempt at fainting.
But the teeth grabbing aide would have none of it. Again he grabbed his head and attempted to insert his hands into Pondei’s teeth. The NDDC boss would have none of it. He clenched tightly his strong teeth. The aide had enough, assisted by a police inspector and another aide, they helped Pondei to his feet and dragged him towards the door.
Man: (Screaming) Somebody should open the door
Pondei perhaps needed no second invitation judging from the speed and ease at which he made his way towards the door and out to freedom.