The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says it has commenced an investigation into various allegations of corruption and misappropriation of COVID-19 funds in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Spokesperson of the ICPC, Mrs. Azuka Ogugua, disclosed in a statement on Saturday that some top directors and staff of the agency have been quizzed after months of intelligence gathering.
According to the ICPC spokesperson, top officials are being interrogated in the alleged diversion of N5.47 billion meant for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the nine states of NDDC.
“The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has quizzed top management staff of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), over allegations of various acts of corruption such as diversion of funds, procurement fraud and misappropriation of the agency’s Covid-19 funds.
“Some directors of NDDC were interrogated at the Commission’s headquarters recently, after months of intelligence gathering, following the receipt of petitions from Nigerians on the alleged illegalities and contracts fraud by some officials of the agency,” it added.
“Top officials of the agency are being investigated for their complicity in an alleged diversion of N5.474 billion meant for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the nine states of NDDC,” the statement read in part.
Mrs Ogugua said that the commission is also investigating the payment of monies for some staff training abroad, which was never attended due to the global lockdown measures enforced to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The Commission is also investigating the payments of millions of naira to the staff of the agency for foreign training during the Covid-19 full lockdown which were never attended, as well as the non-payment of entitlements to students on foreign scholarships.
“Other allegations being investigated by ICPC include the selling of back-dated contract award letters for projects and awards of contracts that were not captured in the budget of the NDDC,” she stated.
The ICPC spokesperson added that the Commission has retrieved relevant documents that will help in uncovering the truth, recover diverted funds and prosecute anyone found to have breached the law.
The NDDC Saga The NDDC has been a subject of controversy in the last few months over allegations of corruption in the award of contracts and the non-payment of Nigerian scholars under the payroll of the commission.
This prompted the National Assembly to invite the Minister of Niger Delta, Mr Godwill Akpabio, and the former Interim Management Committee head, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei.
Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council approved N722.3 million for eight field forensic auditors to audit the NDDC in a bid to unravel the level of corruption in the agency in charge of the development of the Niger Delta region.
The Federal Executive Council has approved N722.3 million for eight field forensic auditors to audit the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The payment will come directly from the Presidency as the National Assembly is on break and the 2020 budget for the NDDC has not been passed.
Noble Reporters Media learnt the field auditors will also look into the 12,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta.
The Minister of Niger Delta, Mr Godwill Akpabio, disclosed this on Wednesday after the virtual FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The NDDC became a subject of controversy over allegations of corruption in the award of contracts and the non-payment of Nigerian scholars under the payroll of the commission.
Following this, the National Assembly invited Akpabio and the NDDC boss, Daniel Pondei to probe the activities of the agency.
Appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC in a public hearing on July 20, Akpabio accused the lawmakers of benefitting from most contracts awarded by the commission.
However, this did not go down well them as the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila threatened a legal action should the Minister fail to name the purported lawmakers involved in the contracts.
The House also asked Akpabio, to publish the names of the members of the National Assembly who got contracts.
In a statement issued on July 28, the spokesman for the House and Committee Chairman on Media Affairs and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu, said that the minister had alleged that 60 percent of all the NDDC projects were awarded to members of the lawmakers between the months of January and May 2020.
Kalu explained that following the claim, the leadership of the 9th House issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Akpabio to publish a list of the lawmakers.
The House spokesman revealed that the lawmakers evaluated the minister’s letter and the directive to press charges against him have not been lifted.
Also, President Buhari reacted to the controversy trailing both the commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The President who spoke after the Sallah service on July 31, said some people trusted by his administration have abused the privilege.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) says its Interim Management Committee (IMC) has saved N35 billion from its verified payments to contractors.
NDDC’s acting Executive Director (Projects), Dr Cairo Ojougboh, revealed this on Friday while addressing reporters in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State headquarters.
He made the revelation shortly after the inauguration of the Committee for the completion and commissioning of NDDC’s new permanent headquarters at the Eastern By-Pass in the state.
Ojougboh, who is the Chairman of the committee, disclosed that the commission has also verified the payments for N1.5 trillion for other projects.
He affirmed that work on the office complex was at 98 per cent completion.
“As you can see, the lifts and escalators are working, the lights and the central air conditioners are functioning.
“You have seen the external works, so I want to tell you that what is left is the ancillary building, the windows are already in place. You have also seen the asphalts, so we are good to go,” the NDDC executive director was quoted as telling reporters in a statement by the commission’s spokesman, Charles Odili.
He added, “There were lots of booby-traps which made it impossible for this building to be ready before now, but we thank God for the successes we have recorded.”
No More Distraction According to Ojougboh, change has come to the NDDC and things will no longer remain the way they used to be.
He stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has worked for the change in NDDC, noting that even when the IMC leaves, those coming in would be more careful.
On the corruption allegations in the commission, the NDDC executive director said they have compiled the lists of those who benefitted from the agency’s contracts for another three years.
He said, “As for the list of contractors we published, that was for 2018 alone; by the time we publish that of 2019, a lot of things will come out to the open.
“Some persons claim they did not benefit from NDDC but we have documents linking them to those contracts. The forensic audit is unearthing a lot of things; 2016, 2017 and 2019 lists are ready but we have decided we would not be distracted again.”
Ojougboh alleged that the NDDC budget for 2019 was distorted to the detriment of regional projects, citing the example of regional hospital projects that were starved of funds.
“We made provision for hospitals in all Niger Delta states as our regional projects, but it was removed and replaced with the supply of chairs to schools in the region,” he said.
He, however, said that the NDDC had written letters to the National Assembly to explain why N11.6 billion budgeted for the completion of hospitals was removed and replaced with the supply of chairs and desks.
“Is that what we deserve in Niger Delta?” Ojougboh questioned.
A petition has been addressed to the Senate alleging that the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission mismanaged N6.25bn set aside for COVID-19 palliatives.
In a letter dated August 3, 2020, Chairman of the NDDC COVID-19 Palliatives Committee, Sobamabo Jackrich, described the management of the funds as “a show of shame and a scam.”
Jackrich said the money was “misappropriated and embezzled by the IMC of the NDDC and their Co-conspirators.”
“My findings is not only that the money cannot be accounted for,” he added, “but there is nothing on ground to show that the 6.2 billion naira of our hard-earned taxpayers money was invested for its original purpose which the President approved.”
Jackrich asked the National Assembly to probe and investigate the IMC, which is led by Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei.
“The IMC should be made to explain the hijack of the Palliatives Distribution process and the sidelining of the inaugurated Palliatives Distribution Committee which was saddled with the task of Distribution of the palliatives in the nine Niger Delta states as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari,” Jackrich said.
READ FULL VERSION OF JACKRICH’S PETITON
The NDDC is currently under scrutiny for alleged financial misappropriation.
Prof. Pondei, who was appointed by President Buhari in February 2020, has publicly appeared before a House of Representatives investigative committee on NCDC along with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) has secured the final forfeiture of N827, 679,098.32 from Flank Power Resources Limited and GMFD Ventures Limited.
Both firms are linked to contractors with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Matthew Edevbie is the Chief Executive Officer of Flank Power Resources Limited.
In a statement by the Head, Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Dele Oyewale, explained that the forfeiture followed the order of Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, sequel to an affidavit deposed to by an EFCC investigator, in which the Commission prayed the court for the forfeiture of the sum to the federal government of Nigeria, being proceeds of unlawful activity, traced to some contractors’ accounts with Zenith Bank.
A breakdown of the recovery shows that N616, 679, 098.32 (six hundred and sixteen million, six hundred and seventy-nine thousand, ninety-eight naira, thirty-two kobo) was recovered from Flank Power Resources Limited, while N211million (two hundred and eleven million naira) was recovered from GMFD Ventures Limited.
The statement revealed that between 2018 and 2019, Flank Power Resources Limited received the funds from the NDDC, through its account number:1015642852, while GMFD received through account number: 1014657819 both of which are domiciled in Zenith Bank Plc for desilting contracts which aside from being inflated, were not executed but diverted and laundered.
“The sum of N616, 679, 098.32 recovered from Flank Power Resources Limited was facilitated through 62 Zenith Bank drafts in favour of the EFCC Recovered Funds Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, while the N211million from GMFD came through 22 Zenith Bank drafts in favour of the same account.
“The EFCC secured the interim forfeiture of the money on June 8, 2020, and its final forfeiture was granted by the court on June 29, 2020”, the statement added.
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to pay the fees and stipends of scholars of the commission who are facing hardships abroad.
The Director of Corporate Affairs at the NDDC, Charles Odili, disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday.
This followed a protest by the students recently in the United Kingdom who called on the President to intervene in the matter.
“Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week,” Odili said in the statement.
He also has explained the rationale behind the delay in remittance of the fees of the scholars, saying their fees and stipends would be paid by the end of the week.
Odili revealed that the delay was caused by the sudden death of the then acting Executive Director of Finance and Administration (EDFA), Ibanga Etang, in May.
He said, “Under the commission’s finance protocol, only the Executive Director (Finance) and the Executive Director (Projects) can sign for the release of funds from the commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
Controversial NDDC Contracts On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili claimed that the one submitted by Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the Commission.
He alleged that the list submitted to the National Assembly was actually compiled by the then management of the commission in 2018.
The NDDC spokesman noted that there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019, but they were not submitted to the lawmakers.
“The Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors.
“It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors,” he said.
Odili insisted that the list did not include the “unique case of 250 contracts” which were signed for and collected in one day by one person allegedly for members of the National Assembly.
The recent revelations on the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may have come as a surprise to many Nigerians, but it is not a shocking development for Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Governor Wike believes the agency has since deviated from its original mandate and has become a source of wealth for some corrupt politicians.
“I have said before and it is very clear; my concern is everybody knows that NDDC was set up for the development of the region,” he told Channels Television on Tuesday during an interview on Sunrise Daily in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
He added, “Unfortunately, they have turned it to a different thing; NDDC is a cash cow for politicians. In my own election, NDDC brought N10 billion cash to fight against me.”
The governor’s reaction is the latest among several others following the probe of the agency by lawmakers in the National Assembly in Abuja.
The lawmakers had launched a probe into the fraud running into billions of naira said to have been perpetrated by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC between February and May 2020.
This led to the discovery of more scam in the agency which sparked a series of drama and blame games between government officials and lawmakers.
During one of the investigative hearings organised by the National Assembly, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, alleged that about 60 per cent of the NDDC projects were awarded to lawmakers – a claim that sparked more reactions from some members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
They Have Not Invited Us Amid various responses to the minister’s claim, Governor Wike accused the agency of embarking on projects in Rivers without the consent of the state government.
He also reacted to the probe of the NDDC by the lawmakers, saying it was one-sided as the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the agency led by Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei ought to be investigated as well.
“When they are talking about probing IMC, I said what are you doing only with IMC, what about the other committees? Professor Kemebradikumo and the rest of them. They (the lawmakers) have not invited us and why I don’t want to go is that what am I doing with the IMC?” the governor asked.
He stated, “I am one governor who challenged the NDDC; we went to the Federal High Court, the Federal High Court returned the matter to the State High Court. NDDC went to appeal and we won them and at the State High Court, we have won them.
“You cannot go to a state and begin to carry out projects without the permission of the state government, you don’t know what their plans are. You can’t come into my state to disturb my development plan, you must let me know.”
Governor Wike believes that in order to reverse the fortune of the agency, technocrats and not politicians should be placed in charge of the commission to enable it function effectively.
Explaining the role of governors in the South-South, he said, “Under the NDDC Act, there should be a governing board made up of the governors.
“Since 2015 we have been asking for that board, but it was only last year that the President was able to … constitute a governing board. But that is just theory.”
Former Niger-Delta states Governors, Orji Kalu and Emmanuel Uduaghan on Monday denied any wrongdoing regarding their involvement in Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) contracts.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, had reportedly mentioned both former Governors as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts.
However, Kalu, who was Abia State Governor between 1999 to 2007, said his involvement in NDDC contracting had been based on community interest.
“Between 2016- 2018 during my tour to several communities; leaders and welfare unions of most communities pleaded for urgent intervention on some dilapidated roads,” he said, in a statement signed by one of his aides, Emeka Nwala, “I wrote to the NDDC informing the body of the conditions of these roads and the need for their attention since Abia is an NDDC state.
“The NDDC in their consideration which I am very grateful to awarded the roads to companies that duly tendered for the projects and not myself. Whatever link I have with the projects is because it was considered due to my intervention.”
Meanwhile, former Delta State Governor, Uduaghan, described reports linking him to an NDDC contract as “mischievous” and a “falsehood.”
“In the said publication, it was stated that ‘Uduaghan was linked to the emergency repairs of Close B, Alhaji Estate & Environs, Rumuodomaya, Port Harcourt at a cost of N429m’,” a statement signed by Uduaghan’s spokesman, Monoyo Edon, said.
“We want to state very clearly that the said accusation is FALSE. Dr. Uduaghan has never approached the NDDC for any contract whatsoever. It is even more ridiculous that the said contract is a road inside Port Harcourt town.”
Unpaid Contractors In his statement on Monday, Kalu, who is now the Chief Whip of the Senate, alleged that the NDDC is yet to pay contractors who built the roads he facilitated for the commission.
“The roads I requested for intervention as mentioned by the Honourable Minister were repairs of Ezere-Acha-Ndiokoukwu Road; Amaubiri-Eluama-Uru Ring Road, Lokpaukwu, Umuchieze; Ndi Oji Abam-Atan Road; the Okafia-Ozuitem-Bende road and Ozu-Amuru-Abam Road,” he said.
“The contractors have completed and delivered these roads a long time ago except Abam-Atani road which I learned from the contractors was slowed down due to rain but still ongoing.
“Meanwhile, it would interest Nigerians to know that the contractors who built these roads have not been paid any dime. It has not been easy with the contractors but because it’s a community project they have only but kept hope alive on the NDDC.”
A Troubled Commission The NDDC is currently undergoing a forensic audit over allegations of financial misappropriation within the agency.
Supervising Minister for the Commission, Akpabio, had appeared before a House of Representatives Committee in July where he said lawmakers were the major beneficiaries of NDDC contracts.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila then challenged Akpabio to provide a list of lawmakers who have benefited from the agency’s contract.
Kalu, on Monday, said the linking of his name to the contracts will not push him to stop his interventions on roads in NDDC states.
“Good roads help to drive the economy,” he said. “Therefore, I believe the NDDC forensic audit should focus on the missing funds and not works done.
“They should focus on paying contractors that delivered their jobs and not using my name indiscriminately to sell newspapers.
“The Honourable Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio is my good old friend. We have been friends even before I became a governor.
“I hope he doesn’t expect me to stop seeking road interventions in our communities.
“It is his civic responsibility to support the communities and I am very confident he will oblige our future requests especially in areas of good roads.”
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has appealed to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to urgently pay the allowances and tuition on their scholarship scheme abroad.
NIDCOM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Abike Dabiri-Erewa made the appeal in a statement signed by Gabriel Odu, Media, Public Relations and Protocol Unit of the commission.
Mrs Abike explained that the payment of the allowances, tution and other incentives to the students, would ensure their continued stay in their place of study.
The statement made reference to a letter written to the Hon Minister of the Niger Delta Senator. Godswill Akpabio, dated June 18, 2020, NIDC/001/20/1 drawing attention to the plight of the students, and urging the NDDC who are directly responsible for the students’ scholarships to pay.
She added that the Commission counts on the Minister’s assurances that all outstanding payments to affected Students will be made.
At the moment, there have been persistent calls by the students for urgent intervention.
While deadline for payment of the fees of some of the students have expired or about to expire, non payment of their allowances have turned many of them to virtually become beggars
The NIDCOM Chairman once again appeal to the Niger Delta Ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to intervene urgently and promptly too.
The NDDC has been in the news recently following a probe of the commission over corruption allegations.
For President Muhammadu Buhari, there should be a coordination between the National Assembly for a speedy conclusion of the NDDC probe.
The Nigerian leader wants the probe to get to the root of the matter and reposition the commission
Senator Matthew Urhoghide has denied claims he was awarded contracts by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Senator Urhoghide represents Edo South in the upper lawmaking body of the country and was named by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, as one of the lawmakers who benefited from contract racketeering in reports making the rounds.
According to Akpabio, a former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Urhoghide was allegedly awarded six contracts by the NDDC, a claim the lawmaker has denied.
The Senator on Wednesday said the claim by the Minister is unfortunate, describing it as untrue and a ploy to misinform the public and his constituency in particular.
“For Akpabio to say I have been a beneficiary is unfortunate and is a wicked lie and I just believe whatever mischief he wanted to perpetuate, I think Nigerians, through my own explanation, should be able to read between the lines” the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, told Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
The lawmaker claimed that “Akpabio’s records are not even correct. The contracts (NDDC) I have attracted to my constituency are in excess of eleven, adding that “he (Akpabio) does not know what is going on.”
Out of the six contracts that Akpabio mentioned, four are street lights projects which are ongoing with the contractors (gotten through competitive bidding) not paid a dime as mobilization, Senator Urhoghide said.
The lawmaker also clarified that the projects are NDDC projects in his constituency.
The NDDC has been in the news recently following a probe of the commission over corruption allegations.
During a hearing by the House of Representatives last week, the Niger Delta Affairs Minister had alleged that some lawmakers were part of those who benefited from contracts awarded by the commission.
Following the claim, the Speaker of the House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila, ordered Akpabio to publish the names of the lawmakers awarded contracts by the commission and equally threatened to sue the minister over his claim.
For President Muhammadu Buhari, there should be a coordination between the National Assembly for a speedy conclusion of the NDDC probe.
The Nigerian leader wants the probe to get to the root of the matter and reposition the commission
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu quoted his principal as calling on “auditing firms and investigative agencies working in collaboration with National Assembly Committees to resolve the challenges in the NDDC must initiate actions in a time-bound manner and duly inform the Presidency of the actions being taken.”
The spokesman for the House of Representatives, Rep. Benjamin Kalu (APC-Abia) has alleged that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, has not proved his allegations against members of the parliament.
In a statement, Kalu challenged the minister to go public with documents to prove that 60 per cent of contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was awarded to lawmakers.
He recalled that Akpabio had made the allegation at an investigative hearing on the alleged N40 billion financial malfeasance in the NDDC.
He recalled that the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabimila, challenged the minister to publish the list of the members within 48 hours.
According to him, instead of publishing the list for the world to see in the interest of transparency, the minister chose to send an eight-paragraph private letter to the speaker.
Kalu explained that the letter by the minister made reference to projects of 2018 which pre-date the 9th House of Representatives and had little to do with the bogus allegation.
“The House, therefore, reiterates that the minister was given an ultimatum to publish names and not to write a personal letter to the speaker.
“The minister is hereby cautioned to desist from spinning tales and is invited to go public as instructed.
“Nevertheless, it will interest Nigerians to know that paragraph three of the minister’s letter fully exonerated the 9th Assembly.
“Also, in paragraph seven, the minister completely withdrew his previous statement about 60 per cent of the NDDC projects being awarded to members of the 9th Assembly.
“It is also instructive for Nigerians to note that the total number of projects in the 2019 NDDC budget was 5959 out of which 5416 projects were rolled over from 2018, which the 9th Assembly obviously had no influence or control over,” he said.
Kalu said that Akpabio presented an ineffectual spreadsheet of only 266 projects out of which about 20 projects were attracted by past members of the National Assembly as constituency projects.
He said that the projects were given to the members as contractors, but in furtherance of their representative mandate for the constituency.
According to him, the projects presented in the Akpabio’s letter are not within the scope of the investigation and has do nothing to address the leadership’s ultimatum.
Kalu said that contrary to the mischievous narrative being peddled on the internet, the only mention of the Chairman of the NDDC Committee of the 9th House of Representatives, Rep. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo in that letter, was as to his alleged request for the complete payment of 19 contractors.
The legislator said that the contractors had approached Tunji-Ojo with complaints about NDDC’s non-payment for their services.
He added that the allegation had been completely refuted by Tunji-Ojo and for which there is no evidence linking him.
The spokesman, however, said that the directive to press charges against the Akpabio has not been lifted by the House as the leadership was busy considering the weight of the minister’s letter.
“If it does not clear the doubt and wrong perception, it will be sent to the court for clearance as the speaker stated,” he added.
Two members of the Senate have denied the allegations of benefitting from contracts of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Senate Committee Chairman on Niger Delta, Peter Nwaoboshi, and his colleague from Delta South district, Senator James Manager, denied the accusations on Monday in separate statements.
This followed claims by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, that 60 per cent of NNDC contracts were awarded to members of the National Assembly.
In his reaction, Nwaoboshi who was allegedly named in the said publication of being awarded 53 NDDC projects, challenged Akpabio to send the list to the anti-graft and other security agencies if he could prove the allegation.
He described the claim as unsubstantiated and accused the minister of having an agenda to continuously blackmail him.
According to the lawmaker, this is aimed at diverting public attention away from the serious mismanagement of the NDDC allegedly by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) under his supervision and under the guise of a phantom forensic audit that has no operating timeline.
On his part, Manager maintained that he does not know of any company owned by him that has ever gone into bidding of government jobs anywhere in the world.
He also challenged his accusers to provide a detailed description of the said contracts, names of the companies, and the beneficiaries of the payments.
“Those who are alleging to defame me must be aware of the consequences,” the lawmaker warned.
The allegation by the minister had sparked outrage on the part of the lawmakers who dared him to mention the names of those who benefitted from the said contracts.
In an interview with Media tv (known to Noble Reporters Media), the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Media Affairs and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu, had dissociated members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly from the allegation.
The controversy trailing the corruption scandal in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has continued to spark mixed reactions in the country.
Amid a series of drama, confrontation, and war of words, the National Assembly is investigating the allegation of corruption in the agency.
Among the latest dramatic events from the probe is the heated argument between a lawyer, Mr Monday Ubani, and the spokesperson for the House of Representatives, Mr Benjamin Kalu, during their appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
Ubani, who is also a governance expert, and Kalu, who is also the House Committee Chairman on Media Affairs and Publicity, disagreed over the allegation by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, on the complicity of some lawmakers in the contract scam in the NDDC.
The Powerful Politicians
While the lawyer stressed that there were evidence that some lawmakers have been indicted, the lawmaker insisted that there was nothing of such.
“We are waiting for them (the House) to initiate criminal prosecution against Godswill Akpabio; when they now try it, they will get to know the names of those that are there with them,” Ubani said.
According to him, the lawmakers cannot initiate any criminal prosecution or civil prosecution when the minister has names of members of the present House that have been indicted.
Ubani alleged that the annexure attached to the minister’s letter to the House contained the names of the lawmakers, including the chairmen of the Senate and House committees investigating the NDDC.
He said, “Both committee chairmen; there are other members of the House that are there, including some powerful politicians.
“Let me tell you what happened in the House. In the morning, the Speaker was saying that he had referred this particular matter to the Clerk, asking that lawyers should be engaged to initiate criminal perjury and civil defamation against Akpabio when he has not gotten the letter.”
“The moment the letter came that has this list of all the members that are implicated, remember how the Speaker ended? He said ‘this matter is now rested; I will now refer this matter to the Ethics and Privileges Committee’ which means this matter has died a natural death,” Ubani added.
Akpabio Exonerated Us
In a swift reaction, Kalu who is also a lawyer, faulted the allegations by Ubani, stressing that the Akpabio had exonerated the lawmakers in his letter.
He said, “With due respect to my senior colleague, he is wasting the time of Nigerians and your airtime, what is he referring to? What I have here is a document from the minister; the original document.
The lawmaker, therefore, challenged Ubani to mention the names of the members of the 9th Assembly who constituted 60 per cent of the project of the NDDC as claimed.
He also questioned if the two members said to have been named by the minister as purported beneficiaries of the contracts constituted 60 per cent.
While he noted that he could not speak for the Senate, Kalu insisted that the name of the House Committee Chairman, Olubunmi Ojo, was not mentioned in the document.
The said document, he stated, referred to the events in 2018 and has no relevance to the probe of the agency between January and May 2020.
…Stakeholders Demand International Forensic Auditors …Forensic Accountants Back Audit, Indigenous Firms Participation …NDDC Playground For Corrupt People, Including NASS Members – Onuegbu …Groups Want Nunieh Investigated, Akpabio, Pondei Removed, Prosecuted
There are growing concerns that the outcome of the probe by the National Assembly (NASS) of the allegations of financial malfeasance in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may impact the forensic audit of the agency ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Even though the Presidency, on Friday, said Buhari would act decisively on the resolution of the legislature at the right time, stakeholders in the region are already expressing doubts about the capacity of the audit firm engaged to do a thorough job, especially with the allegation that high political office holders have their hands in the pie.
Consequently, the aggrieved stakeholders are calling on Buhari to engage globally renowned forensic auditing firms to carry out the exercise. They alleged that since the Procurement Act was abused in the process leading to the emergence of the engaged firm, there is the tendency that the outcome of the audit may be compromised.
In the midst of this, groups including Youth in Africa Anti-Corruption Network (YIAA Network), and the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI Network) have called for the immediate removal and prosecution of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Obot Akpabio, the acting managing director of the NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei; Commissioners and everyone, who in one way or the other, is allegedly involved in the grand corruption taking place at the agency.
The groups also insisted that the erstwhile managing director of the commission, Dr. Joi Nunieh, should be properly investigated by the Code of Conduct Bureau, while the National Assembly should re-invite Pondei for a full investigation.
They, however, urged the National Assembly to resist the temptation of discharging Pondei from further investigation and interrogation, alleging that failure to reschedule Pondei’s interrogation means the lawmakers were conspiring to cover up allegations made against some of its members by Akpabio.
THE Coordinator, National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), Dr. Edward Obi, while weighing in on the N81b saga said as the NDDC continues to face credibility crisis, Buhari should immediately engage reputable forensic auditors to audit its finances and projects.
Obi, who said it was illegal to award the auditing contract without due process, stressed that Nigerians should be brought into the discourse as far as the choice of a transparent, reputable auditing firm with international pedigree is concerned to unravel the true state of the alleged malfeasance.
“I stand to be corrected, the NDDC is not all about making Niger Deltans rich; it is not about giving jobs to Niger Deltans; It is about creating opportunities for Niger Deltans to take advantage of what is available to them. So, I don’t believe that giving jobs to Niger Deltans is what NDDC is for, No. If that agency had done what it ought to have done, by now there would have been a multiplicity of opportunities for Niger Deltans and other Nigerians to make business by themselves.”
IN the same vein, a business mogul and 2019 Action Democratic Party (ADP) governorship candidate in Rivers State, Mr. Victor Fingesi, described the scandal rocking the agency as an embarrassment to the country, insisting that concerted efforts must be made through an independent forensic audit that will unmask diverters and plunders of development funds through the NDDC.
“It is time to bring in an international auditor, KPMG, and some of those firms that have international repute to immediately audit the NDDC, and thereafter advise the Federal Government on what to do about the looted funds. If you are given a contract and you don’t execute it, you should bring back the money.
“Auditing firms in the country have been auditing too many agencies; too many companies, that they all now have friends everywhere. With what is going on today in the NDDC, people can reach people. So, for a thorough, I think we have to bring in an independent auditor that does not operate here. I named one, KPMG,” he said.
THE former board chairman of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NEITI), Ledum Mitee, wondered why the Federal Government failed to engage NEITI, which has the statutory responsibility to audit, track revenues from oil to probe the NDDC.
He explained that NEITI in its Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement 2007-2011, and 2012-2016 audited reports, revealed a lack of accountability and transparency in the financial activities of the NDDC.
“With just half of the money that they are spending on forensic audit, NEITI can do a very thorough job on the NDDC. The whole process of the NEITI audit is not easy to compromise. Mind you, it involves multi-stakeholders as people from the oil companies are there; civil society groups are there, as well as government agencies. But, why do you pay as much as N1b to an auditing firm, that will be superintended over by those already in the eye of the storm, and who have already been indicted? How would Akpabio sit over that? How would the IMC superintend over such an audit…?”
Mitee pointed out that for every hour the National Assembly spends questioning NDDC officials’ financial recklessness, somebody in the Niger Delta is dying from either preventable diseases like malaria or the contaminated water that they are drinking.
THE National Vice President, Trade Union Congress, Chika Onuegbu, who is an economist cum chartered accountant, said given the level of fraud and irregularities that have taken place in the NDDC, an independent forensic audit, which goes beyond the mere presentation of invoices, names of companies, or certificate of work completed, to unravelling who did what job, and on the spot assessment of jobs awarded and paid for, is needed.
“Payments from banks have to be traced, not just to those companies, but the ultimate beneficiaries. That is why the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria is required. If N10m was paid to YWZ Ltd, who are those authorised to withdraw the money? Who has the BVN? Companies are legal entities, but of course, companies are not human beings, it is human beings that run them. The CBN should avail information and support to the forensic audit so that the final account where the monies ended up would be unveiled,” he said.
Onuegbu described the NDDC as a playground of many corrupt people, including members of the National Assembly, who are deeply concerned about the forensic audit, as opposed to the normal audit.
“Let the forensic audit go on, let the report of that forensic audit be made public, and let whoever feels aggrieved write a petition for another audit firm to come and check. But let us not scuttle the forensic audit. All of us that are from the Niger Delta know that the NDDC is a colossal failure and the epicentre of fraud in Nigeria.
“The forensic audit is not the solution to the problem of NDDC. It is just a process of unearthing the massive corruption that has taken place in the place. After that, there is a need to review the NDDC Act, either the NDDC is scrapped and the fund channelled to oil-producing communities,” he said.
UCHE Onyeagucha, a former Secretary to the Imo State Government described the NDDC as a filthy institution to the extent that with or without a forensic audit if Nigerians don’t change their attitude towards corruption, not much would be achieved.
“There should be a total, comprehensive audit of every person in the NDDC. And then you can still feel free to investigate all the properties and assets of all the persons, who have served there from the beginning to date. You should also go back and investigate the property and assets of all those who have been members of the NDDC Committee of the House of Representatives, all the NDDC Committee of the Senate, from the beginning to date. Where their property, assets, and bank accounts fail to match their income, they should be made to explain. That is how you will do the cleansing, which has to be comprehensive” he said.
MEANWHILE, the Global President, Association of Forensic Accounting Researchers (AFAR), Prof. Godwin Emmanuel Oyedokun has lauded the forensic audit but faulted the process that brought up the exercise.
He said: “The only thing that I have a problem with is the process that brought that forensic process up. A forensic audit is necessary and good, but who initiated it? Is it a group or the NDDC office that initiated it, and do they have the power to do so? If there is a problem from the beginning, the process can’t be legal. The Federal Government doesn’t have the power to initiate it. The Federal Government through the management of NDDC should have been the one to do so.”
Oyedokun who is also the President, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), Lagos Chapter, explained that forensic audit is a procurement issue and when carrying out procuring services, it should be the responsibility of the NDDC.
“The Federal Government can mandate the directorate of NDDC to do so. That was the reason that the National Assembly argued that the minister was usurping the powers of the NDDC board to initiate the contract because the forensic audit is also a contract.”
Contrary to calls by some groups in the Niger Delta that an indigenous forensic firm mustn’t be allowed to carry out the probe, he said it’s an abuse of freedom of speech to say that indigenous auditing firms shouldn’t be involved in carrying out the forensic audit of the NDDC.
For those canvassing for foreign audit firms, he asked: “Are they also ridiculing their professionals and saying that we should go and hire somebody from the United Kingdom to come and do the audit? Would such people know the terrain of Nigeria more than the indigenous experts? It is a misuse of freedom of speech.”
He further said that accounting firms like, KPMG, Deloitte, and PwCs are not foreign audit firms, they are still Nigerian companies only that they are using the network names across the world.
“If a Nigerian joins a network of audit firms, he is still a Nigerian. With international qualifications, you can’t work as an accountant in Nigeria. The Chairman of Deloitte in Nigeria, for example, is a Nigerian and would lead a team of Nigerians and Nigerian facilities to carry out a forensic audit. There is a difference between conventional auditor and forensic auditors. Once the people that selected Olumuyiwa Bashiru & Co., can confirm that the so-called firm has partners that have been trained in forensic auditing, with evidence, then so be it. It must be noted that forensic report is quite different from auditor’s report,” he said.
THE past president, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Alhaji Rasaq Jaiyeola told The Guardian that Nigeria’s accounting firms have many professionals that can carry out thorough forensic auditing of the NDDC.
He explained that the institute started training members on forensic audits over 10 years ago, stressing that before then, many of its members have been practising internationally.
“We have national firms that are well-grounded in forensic auditing. We have many capable hands with international affiliations. So, I don’t see any big deal in forensic auditing that ICAN members cannot do. As long as they are ICAN members, they should be able to perform,” he said.
According to him, ICAN founded the Audit, Investigations and Forensic Accounting Faculty in the year 2009 and started its certification programme in forensic accounting in 2011.
“As at December 2014, ICAN had trained and inducted 382 members as Certified Forensic Accountant of Nigeria,” he said.
SPEAKING on behalf of the groups calling for the removal and prosecution of Akpabio and Pondei in Abuja, the President of YIAA Network, Ovo Emokiniovo Otarigho said: “We are dismayed with the accusations and counter-accusations between Senator Akpabio and the erstwhile Managing Director of the commission, Dr. Joi Nunieh, as well as the shameful drama presented by Prof. Pondei. We demand that the people entrusted with the responsibilities of our commonwealth should face justice and be accountable to the citizens, and not to serve themselves. On account of that, we vehemently reject the statement of the Speaker of The House of Representatives, that Prof. Pondei might be excluded from further interrogation. We, therefore, call on him and members of the committee to re-schedule another day for the continuation of the investigation of Prof. Pondei on account of his stewardship. We shall view the failure to reschedule his investigation as an act of complicity on the part of the National Assembly over allegations made by Senator Akpabio.”
“Furthermore, we call on the National Assembly to expose all its members alleged to have been involved in this grand-scale scam to defraud the people of the Niger Delta of their rights to experience development through the NDDC. In the bid to unravel the truth, all witnesses in this investigation must be protected. We, hereby call on the Inspector General of Police to live up to the essence of his duties, which is to protect the lives of the citizens. All attempt by alleged conspirators in this corruption to threaten witnesses to thwart the truth must be discouraged and resisted by the Police.”
Mavin Records boss, Don Jazzy has reacted to the probe on the budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The music producer stated that the Niger Delta region lost the opportunity to be a model for the nation which the NDDC would have delivered.
This he says is as a result of the corruption of a few.
“THOUGHTS ON NDDC: I read through this to know the Senate’s resolution on the back of the #NDDCprobe in the National assembly and so many things come to mind. NDDC’s birth in 2000 during former President Obasanjo’s regime was supposed to right the wrongs made under OMPADEC in the 90s but here we are, still digging the hole we found ourselves after two decades.
“Corruption has now become so endemic in our nation that we pilfer huge public funds with reckless abandon. We like to blame the elite and the govt for the sorry state of the country while so many of us are just waiting for our turns to be in public positions and become rogues. Let’s be clear here – 20 years of NDDC have had many key grassroots’ actors from the Niger Delta region who would supposedly understand the plight of the people. A very great opportunity for this region to be a model for the entire nation was wasted by a few selfish people whose intention was to convert Nigerians’ patrimony to their personal wealth. We keep talking about unimplemented and abandoned projects by unidentified contractors that were not rightly procured.
“Are our consciences so untouched that we continue treading this disastrous path even with the rising poverty level and the dearth of infrastructure across the country? How would future generations of Nigerians feel when they read this history of unabated rot? Ken Saro-Wiwa of blessed memory, lost his life for this region’s cause. If the dead could see after their demise, would he be proud of how things have turned out? NDDC, with this huge financial recklessness over the years, is just one of many government agencies. I can’t even imagine how surprised we would be if many other government agencies are perused this way? This isn’t just sad but also very unfortunate. My people, we have a very long way to go”.