NDDC probe: Senate to investigate alleged contract award to lawmakers

• Asks IMC to refund N4.923B

The Senate ad-hoc committee set up last May to investigate alleged financial recklessness on the part of the management of the Federal Government intervention agency, the interim management committee of the  Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) submitted its report on Thursday.

Senator representing Ekiti North and Chairman of the ad-hoc committee,  Olubunmi Ayodeji Adetumbi read the report before his colleagues in the Red Chamber.

The Senate resolution to investigate the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC  was a sequel to an allegation of mismanagement of over N40 Billion by the agency.

The resolution was a sequel to a motion, ”Urgent Need to Investigate Alleged Financial Recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC),” sponsored by Senator representing Rivers East senatorial district, Thompson George Sekibo.

He alleged financial recklessness and an arbitrary sack of the management staff of the Commission.

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Part of the eleven recommendations of the Senator Adetumbi committee which was later amended to seventeen was that the IMC led by Professor Daniel Pondei should refund the sum of N4.932 Billion to the account of the NDDC.

The Professor Pondei leadership of the intervention agency in its submission before the seven-man ad-hoc committee had said the money was paid to staff and contractors as COVID-19 relief, procurement for Lassa Fever kit, amongst others.

The breakdown of the expenditure revealed that N85.7m, 105.5m and 164.2m were spent on Overseas Travels, Scholarship grants and Union Members Trip to Italy, respectively.

Other funds to be refunded were N1.96b, 1.12b and  N1.49b, for Lassa Fever kit,  Public Communication and COVID-19 Relief.

The Senate also resolved that ” all expenditures on historical contracts and obligations, e. g. Hotels,  court judgement, etc should be refunded by the IMC as payments are not provided for in the budget. ”

The Senator Adetumbi Committee also recommended that the assertion that certain lawmakers benefitted from contracts award should be investigated by the Senate

The recommendation which was adopted as the ninth recommendation by the lawmakers read in part: “There are assertions of blackmail by the NDDC against members of the National Assembly on the subject of the procurement process,  this must be investigated by the Senate Ethics and Privileges Committee.”   The Committee was given four weeks to investigate and report back to the Senate.

Checks by Tribune Online revealed that Minister of Niger Delta  Affairs with a supervisory role on the NDDC,  Godswill Akpabio, had declared that sixty per cent of the contracts awarded by the intervention agency was given to federal lawmakers.

The Senate Committee equally recommended the return of the supervision of the agency to the Presidency,  dissolution of the IMC and further asked President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint substantive Board for the agency.

The recommendations further read in part:” For the purpose of consistency and equality of policy,  there is a need to review the inconsistencies and differences in the apex control of these development commissions. In retrospect, the original arrangement of putting these Commission in the Presidency should be carefully reconsidered to allow for direct Presidential oversight in view of the huge public resources allocated to them.  ” “Section 7(3) of the NDDC Act already provides for this Presidential oversight.

” The absence of a Board of Directors at the NDDC Act created a major lacuna of oversight. The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is culpable of negligent supervision and could not function as effectively as a Board would have done.

” Therefore, the Committee strongly recommends that the President should activate the statutory provisions in the Act and call for fresh nomination for confirmation of the Senate.”

Individual lawmakers who spoke shortly after Senator Adetumbi read his panel report accused the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs led by Senator  Peter Nwaoboshi of poor oversight of the agency.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan in his closing remarks after the Senate adopted the Committee recommendations assured his colleagues that President Muhammadu Buhari would act on the Parliament recommendations.

He said:” President Muhammadu  Buhari is waiting for this report and it will receive the attention it deserves. I am hopeful that this report and recommendations will get the attention it deserves.”

“The Senate and the National Assembly have been sensitive to the yearnings of the people of the Niger Delta to ensure that special developmental attention is given to the zone.

“But those given the responsibility to mitigate the problems in the zone have squandered the resources. This report has exposed corruption in the NDDC.”

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