An advocacy group, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, has petitioned the National Assembly for expediting action on the planned probe exercise of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The group call was contained in a petition signed by the group’s head Directorate of Research, Strategy and Programmes, Mr Kolawole Johnson alleged that about N80b was squandered by the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC between January and May this year.
Johnson, in his petition, urged the National Assembly to stop NDDC under its present leadership from further financial transactions aside from monthly salary payments to workers.
The statement read, “That the National Assembly directs the commission to stop all forms of procurements.
“That the National Assembly directs the commission and relevant agencies to stop all forms of payments from the commission’s account.
“That a proper account must be given for the over N80bn squandered by the commission between January and May 2020.
“That the commission should be allowed to pay salaries only.
“That the National Assembly directs the commission to stop payments of all forms of allowances as this has been grossly abused.”
Kolawole alleged further that the IMC members of the NDDC pay themselves monthly allowances running into hundreds of millions, which are also extended to some staff of the commission.
Johnson alleged that special payments were made through fraudulent imprest and paid to the account of a Director in the commission, Mr Charles Odili, on the 30th of April, 2020 at about 12:56 pm in the sum of N10m in his UBA account.
The same Odili was said to have raised memos for over N1.2bn for imaginary media work within four weeks and said, “the MD of the commission, Prof Pondei routes one of his illegal monthly allowances N51.6m as imprest on Personal Security and Project Monitoring through the bank account of a staffer named Oweife Justina with employee ID no 94 while Dr Cairo Ojugboh, who collects N18m for the same purpose, uses Eno Ukpe’s bank account, a staffer with employee ID no 509, for his payments.
“They also receive N10m monthly for hosting visitors. These payments are not connected to the money already provided in the budget for project monitoring, which has been overdrawn by over N180m in the last few months.
“Among numerous agitations, our office is, in recent times, inundated with cries from students abroad under the commission’s scholarship who are currently stranded in different countries.
“While these students are facing untold hardship, the present Interim Management Committee members are busy paying themselves money meant for the hapless students.
“Prof Pondei, in particular, paid himself and received foreign scholarship payments into his private UBA account no 1002290165 on the 17th of April at about 16:50gmt.
“Same for Dr Cairo Ojugboh who also received millions into his private account no 1002428409 around 16:24GMT being payment for a 2020 post-graduate scholarship for himself.
“Many staff, especially those who had allegedly conspired with the present management to squander the commission’s fund, also received millions into their private accounts for the same 2020 post-graduate scholarship they never attended even during the lockdown.”
The group noted that the 2019 budget of the NDDC expired on May 31, 2020, and that the commission was yet to submit the 2019 budget performance to enable the parliament to begin legislative work on the 2020 budget submitted to the National Assembly.
But the IMC through Dr Cairo Ojougbo absolved the committee of fraud allegation and accused the National Assembly under the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of masterminding the allegations against members of the committee and the Minister.