THE House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has summoned the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to respond to allegations of N80.5 billion irregular expenditure in the NDDC.
The committee also summoned the acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei and the Managing Directors of the companies paid for contracts. The resolutions were reached on Friday in Abuja at the investigative hearing on the alleged irregular expenditure in the intervention agency.
The summons was sequel to the refusal of the officials to honour an invitation to appear and respond to allegations of wrongdoing. The chairman of the committee, Honourable Olubumi Tunji-Ojo (APC-Ondo), said the officials should appear unfailing on Monday.
Earlier, Mr Johnson Kolawole, head of the Directorate of Research and Programmes, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, accused that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC of gross abuse of budget implementation process.
He stated that the IMC expended over N80 billion between January 2020 and May 2020 as against the N22 billion repeatedly portrayed by the IMC. He said the 2019 Appropriation Act as passed by the National Assembly provided for some emergency projects across the states in the Niger Delta with an additional N800 million as emergency contingency sum.
According to him, the IMC has spent N20 billion on emergency road repairs and there are fraudulent cases of contract inflation and non-implementation. “How would they explain the payment of N13.6 million for consultancy on the construction of ‘infant Jesus’?
The said payment went into a Zenith Bank account number 1014119683. “On May 19, 2020, the IMC paid a firm N39.375 million as consultancy fee for rebuttal. What a waste! “The company had earlier received N34 million into its Zenith Bank account number1012613187 for ‘consultancy on reputation management for NDDC’.
“Same day, when businesses and countries were closing their doors, the same company was paid N34 million for ‘Niger Delta Development Forum in Washington DC, USA’ and another N32.9 million for ‘Summit on NDDC and Investment Opportunities in Dorchester, London’, same day.
“There was no evidence of implementation of the above contracts. Money paid went to private individuals; this ad hoc committee can call for the account statements of the firm to verify this. “Same company received into same account a sum of N536 million for ‘campaign to save lives’ in the Niger Delta on April 23, 2020.
“The payment was broken into 16 units to divert attention. Again, the money went into private pockets. Some staffs of the commission were beneficiaries. “On May 22nd, another N641 million was paid to the same company for media support for forensic audit as though forensic audit was meant to be a media affair,” he said.
Kolawole alleged that monies meant for students on scholarship abroad were being diverted into private accounts of the IMC. A former acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Ms Joy Nunieh, told the committee that only N8 billion of the said N81.5 billion expended between October 2019 and May 2020 was spent under her watch.
Nunieh said she was under pressure by Akpabio to abuse processes and to engage in financial recklessness. She said she prepared documents for the forensic audit mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari before she was forced out of office. She revealed that the lead consultant engaged to carry out the forensic audit did not follow the due process as it breached constitutional requirements.
Nunieh also said that no reputable auditing firm in Nigeria is among the nine sub-auditing firms already engaged to carry out the job. She explained that none of the firms had carried out any forensic audit in the last four years as mandated by the constitution.
Nunieh recommended that the president and the National Assembly should ensure the engagement of forensic auditors and see to it that they follow the due process as otherwise could bring the process to disrepute. She said that the forensic auditors should look into staff recruitment process and qualifications as professionals and experts in the commission are insufficient.
She urged the Inspector General of Police to investigate and arrest Akpabio for forcing her to take an oath of secrecy. Tunji-Ojo said the committee had not indicted anybody and that all the accused should appear for a fair hearing. He said the committee is not out to witch-hunt anyone but to bring out the facts and reposition the NDDC for better service delivery.
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