…Pondei’s allegation against NASS diversionary —NDRA
…Open your books for forensic audit, group confronts N’Delta govs
…APTI writes Buhari, detailing how NDDC spent N1bn for desilting of water ways in 3 weeks
…Group petitions UN over corruption in NDDC
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Davies Iheamnachor, Gabriel Olawale & Elizabeth Osayande
Acting Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, asking him to carry out a holistic investigation into the award of contracts that were not executed.
In a petition dated July 29, 2020, Pondei said in 2017, the NDDC awarded contracts to certain companies for the production of desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta but noted that the contracts were never executed.
This came as Niger Delta Rights Advocates, NDRA, described as diversionary, claims by Pondei that some House of Reps Committee members on NDDC coerced the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the NDDC into making payments for contracts before the commission’s 2019 budget could be released.
NDRA also called for the arrest and prosecution of the 50-member Contracts Verification Committee, CVC, headed by Dr Cairo Ojugboh, constituted by the IMC to verify all contracts of the NDDC before payment could be made.
In another development, a civil society group, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy, VATLAD, asked governors of the nine oil-producing states of Niger-Delta to publish details of their incomes and expenditures for forensic auditing, rather than hunt for roles in the NDDC.
On his part, Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) has written the Managing Director of NDDC, asking him to, as a matter of urgency, make clarification on the purported contracts awarded to his constituency.
Pondei’s petition to the IGP read: “On or about 2017, the commission awarded contracts to certain companies for the production of desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta. The list of the companies is attached.
“The contracts were awarded in furtherance of the commission’s education sector mandate to improve learning condition in the Niger Delta.
“Instead of supplying the chairs and desks to the commission’s warehouse in Port Harcourt or to any of the NDDC offices in the nine Niger Delta states, the contractors supplied them to a warehouse described as Akuede Akwis, Benin Expressway, Okpanam, before Wichtech.
“The warehouse is located in Delta State and has no relationship with the commission. Waybills evidencing delivery of the desks and chairs at the said warehouse are hereby attached. Despite having been fully paid for the contracts, the contractors and the owner of the warehouse have refused to release the chairs and desks to the commission.
“The resultant effect is that the commission and the Niger Delta have been deprived of the use of the desks and chairs and neither have the contractors refunded the monies paid on the items to the commission.
“It is on the strength of the foregoing that the NDDC invites you to take a look at the fact culminating in this petition.”
However, seeking clarification on the contracts awarded for his constituency, Senator Urhoghide said: “I had written to the acting Managing Director of NDDC to make clarification on the six purported projects since the commission is insisting that it stands on its earlier position that contracts were awarded to some senators of which my name was mentioned.
“The NNDC must come up with the names of the companies, the status of the projects, amount committed into the projects and stage of the projects. This is a prelude to my further action. I want to know if they are in my constituency and the status.”
Pondei’s allegation of coercion by NASS c’ttee members, diversionary — NDRA
On its part, spokesperson of NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, in a statement in Port Harcourt, said: “We consider this as one of the several disingenuous and inchoate scripts aimed at diverting the attention of the public from the real issues plaguing that commission.
“We recall that sometime in January 2020, specifically on 10th, a 50-man Contracts Verification Committee, CVC, headed by Ojougboh, was set-up with the Director Project Monitoring and Supervision (Emmanuel Audu-Ohwavborua) as Deputy Chairman and Director, Community and Rural Development, Mrs Iyingi Numbere, as Secretary.
“This committee was given two weeks to document and verify all projects embarked upon by the NDDC in the nine mandate states of the commission and turn in its report without hindrance.
“The claim by the NDDC was that there were several fake Interim Payment Certificates, IPCs, and the NDDC needed to stop frivolous payments and even arrest such purveyors of fake IPCs in order to set the tone for the forensic audit exercise.
“Based on this latest expository of an obviously confused management team, led by Pondei, is it not abundantly clear that there is breach of Public Service Rules and Regulations and criminal breach of trust for the NDDC IMC to pay for jobs without verification, even after publicly declaring that it had set-up such a committee?
“We, therefore, demand that the 50-member CVC be immediately arrested for deceiving Niger Deltans and allowances paid them for the two weeks period be refunded immediately and the affected professional staff members who are members of this committee, be relieved of their duties.
“Again, we restate our call for the sack of the Pondei-led IMC for breach of public trust and conspiracy to continue to deprive the people of the region of meaningful development.”
Open your books for forensic audit, group tasks N’Delta govs
Meanwhile, VATLAD, speaking through its national president and one-time governorship aspirant in Delta State, Mr Emmanuel Igbini, accused the governors of performing “even far below NDDC.”
Igbini said: “We insist that these governors should concentrate on delivering good governance to our people and transparently account for the billions of naira they collect on our behalf on monthly basis.
“How many governors of the oil producing states can boast of performing better than even this poorly performed NDDC? We urge Governor Nyesom Wike to compel his colleagues (governors) to showcase their achievements and publicly publish details of their incomes and expenditures for forensic auditing..
“Their lamentation (complaints of Wike and other South-South governors) has nothing to do with the sincere desire to reposition NDDC for the greatest good and benefits of our people of the oil-producing states.
“First, we agree with him and it is a statement of fact that, indeed, NDDC is cash cow for Nigerian politicians, but we strongly disagree with his advice to President Buhari on how to positively reposition NDDC.
“Wike must be reminded that the systematic and deliberate looting and destruction of NDDC began and was consolidated under the 16 years of his PDP-led Federal Government and state governments of the oil producing states of NDDC, almost immediately after the National Assembly patriotically rose to override former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s refusal to assent to the NDDC Bill.”
APTI writes Buhari, alleges NDDC spent N1bn to de-silt waterways in 3 weeks
Meanwhile, Act For Positive Transformation Initiative, a civil society organization, CSO, has given details of a new set of expenditures by the NDDC, saying the IMC, headed by Prof Pondei, spent N1 billion within three weeks on de-silting of water ways.
The CSO which testified against the NDDC at the recent public probe of the agency by the House of Representatives, also alleged that Pondei paid himself an imprest of N103million in June and July, 2020, while the Director, Projects, Ojougbo was paid N36 million within the same period.
It also said that other members of IMC staff were paid N9.245million.
The new revelations were contained in a letter addressed to President Buhari, dated August 5, 2020.
Head, Directorate of Research, Strategy and Programme of the CSO, Kolawole Johnson, also rejected the reason recently given by the IMC for delaying the payment of scholarships to Nigerian foreign students under the commission, saying it was a hoax.
Johnson said the payments were delayed because making a direct payment wouldn’t have benefited the management team’s pecuniary interest.
The letter read: “After the death of the late EDFA, additional fraudulent payments have been made to companies that were actively involved in cases of contract scams investigated.
‘’For example, the engineering company that got the fraudulent media consultancy contract for COVID-19 awareness, has received over N400million within same period the management refused to pay the scholars (216,388,449.44 – June 19 and 185,475,813.81 – July 09).
“Your Excellency, in brazen recklessness and defiance to your directive to the supervising Minister to halt payment for desilting, knowing full well that it was a common avenue for looting, the interim management, led by Pondei, has squandered over N12billion under the guise of desilting in three weeks (July 8 to July 28, 2020), against your directives. On July 9, 2020, over N8billion was moved out, largely on desilting.
“These payments were made in a day, the same day the management appeared before the Senate Ad-hoc Committee investigating the allegations of financial recklessness against the commission.
‘’It will interest you to note, sir, that five of the companies that received the fraudulent payment on that fateful day were traced to just one person, meaning an individual received five payments of over N3billion in one day, while hundreds of contractors who were duly awarded genuine contracts are languishing in debt.
“On July 28, the scholars issued a notice to protest across foreign embassies if the management of NDDC refused to attend to their dues. The management under the supervision of Akpabio ignored the threat and paid out over N3.6 billion largely on fraudulent desilting.
“On July 8, same day Prof Pondei received the second tranche of the illegal N51.6m allowance within three weeks, the MD paid himself and other members of the IMC another frivolous allowance. Prof Pondei got N9.887million, while other members got N9.245milion.
‘’The following day, Prof Pondei paid himself N3.2million for appearing before the Senate Ad-hoc committee on July 9. Staff and cronies also benefitted from these bleeding allowances within the period in focus.
‘Nothing good’ll come out of NDDC probe‘
In its take on the matter, Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, has called on the Federal and Delta State governments to provide adequate infrastructure to the Urhobo nation, even as it called for provision of adequate security in the region.
The group added that nothing tangible would come out of the ongoing NDDC probe
Speaking through its President-General, World-Wide, Olorogun Moses Taiga, UPU said: “I don’t expect anything good at the end of the NDDC probe. It’s just drama because we have seen all this type of thing before, it’s drama.
“It’s a shame that what all our efforts for the improvement of the well-being of people that produce the wealth of this country is being abused. For us in UPU, it’s not just the NDDC probe, we are calling on President Buhari to swear-in Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director of NDDC as approved by the Senate.
“We are calling for forensic audit of all the projects approved by NDDC since inception. What is the proportion of projects given to indigene of that region to execute? Let us have the list of all people that have taken contracts since NDDC was established.
“The East West Road has remained uncompleted for over 20 years while Ughelli/Asaba Road, Benin-Sapele-Warri Road among others that need to be completed.
“The roads are in states of deterioration, which has led to needless loss of lives, properties and productive man-hours. A one-hour journey now takes between three to six hours. For Urhobo people and other Nigerians plying the road, especially from the Ugbenu, Oghara, Adeje, Elumu to PTI junction axis of the Benin-Ughelli expressway, it has been a harrowing experience.
“The Sapele and Warri Ports which were given to the Navy are currently under-utilized and need to be restored back to full operation. The government should develop the Okwagbe/Ganagana port in Ughelli South of Delta State.”
Urhobo youths demand Akpabio’s sack, inauguration of commission’s board
The Urhobo Youth Assembly, UYA, has urged President Muhammadu to sack the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswil Akpabio, within seven days.
UYA in a letter to the President, alleged that in the past 20 years of existence of the NDDC, no statutory board of the commission had been so reckless and controversial with its finances as the revelation going on now.
The youth group’s letter read: “The entire leadership and members of UYA frawn from the 24 kingdoms spread across the eight Urhobo speaking councils of Delta Central and our Urhobo brothers in Warri South, Bomadi and Patani rose from a crucial emergency national meeting in Ughelli, weekend.
“The meeting was called principally to review the state of the nation via the high powered corruption that has bedeviled the regional interventionist agency, the NDDC under the supervision of Chief Akpabio as minister.”
The UYA resolved, “That the Federal Government should within the next seven days sack the controversial Minister of Niger Delta, Akpabio, and initiate a thorough process of arresting and prosecuting all those who have looted and diverted funds meant for the development of the oil and gas producing communities of the Niger Delta region.
“That it is imperative for the government to know that no statutory board of the NDDC in the past 20 years of its existence has been so financially reckless and controversial like this Akpabio imposed three members kangaroo IMC that is not known to the NDDC Act 2000.”
Group petitions UN over corruption in NDDC
The Restore Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, NGO, has petitioned the United Nations, UN to look into the alleged massive corruption in the NDDC.
In a petition by the National Leader of the NGO, Gloria Okolugbo, the group called for the prosecution of indicted persons involved in corruption, explaining that the mismanagement of funds and other resources were gross violations of the human rights of Niger Deltans.
Okolugbo said: “More worrisome to us as non-state actors is the fact that some official’s presently occupying positions in an interim management capacity of the NDDC have very huge cases of graft to answer to and are continuously being found to misappropriate funds.
“Therefore, a corrupt act by one individual official could violate this state obligation. For instance the rights of the ordinary Niger Deltan to housing, education and health care which most of these huge amounts now diverted were meant for have grossly been violated, this is the reason we bringing this before you, the UN,
“We urge that the rule of law prevail in NDDC, and that everyone investigated and found culpable be made by international cooperation to refund assets and face the consequences of the years of denial and deprivation my people have suffered.”