Buhari Inaugurates NDDC Advisory Committee


*  Says N3.7bn recovered from ex-directors, others

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja disclosed how law enforcement agencies had recovered over N3.7billion and other assets worth billions of naira from contractors and former directors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Buhari made this disclosure while inaugurating the NDDC Advisory Committee made up of the nine governors of the Niger Delta Region as well as the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Mohammed Mahmoud.

The governors who represent the nine oil producing states in the committee are: Mr. Udo Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Dr. Ifeanyu Okowa (Delta), Mr. Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Senator Duoye Diri (Bayelsa), and Mr. Godwin Obaseki (Edo).

Others are: Prof. Benedict Ayade (Cross River); Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu Akeredou (Ondo); Mr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Senator Hope Uzodinma (Imo).

The president said aside the N3.7 billion recovered in cash from the culprits and other assets valued at billions of naira, the enforcement agencies have also placed a seal on other assets worth over N6 billion.

“To date, the EFCC and other agencies of government have recovered over N3.7billion in cash as well as various assets worth billions of Naira from some contractors and former directors of the commission. Furthermore, I am told that government agencies have placed liens on over N6 billion of assets which are being investigated,” he said.

A statement by the president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari told members of the committee that such abuses of the past underscored the need to henceforth, carry out strict and diligent oversight of the commission’s activities.

According to the statement, Buhari tasked the committee to discharge its responsibilities with every sense of diligence and efficiency, admonishing the body to work with relevant ministries.

The president said he hoped to henceforth see a departure from the recklessness of the past in the administration of the NDDC as well as the physical output of the commission in the Niger Delta region.

He recalled the launch of “New Vision for the Niger Delta (NEVIND)” in 2016 during the first term of his administration, with the intention of promoting sustainable peace, security, infrastructure and human capital development in the region through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NDDC and the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).

However, the president regretted that these institutions had been unable to live up their responsibilities as a result of mismanagement, thus denying the people of the region their well deserved living standard.

“As a result, the people of the Niger Delta were left with abandoned infrastructural projects and substandard social programmes which were designed to improve their living conditions.

“It is to reverse this trend that I approved, in February 2020, the constitution of a 10-Man Presidential Monitoring Committee (PMC) as provided for in Section 21 of the NDDC Establishment Act,” he said.

Buhari said the PMC would be chaired by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs with membership drawn from various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), with the mandate to monitor the operations and activities of the commission, adding that the commission would also report to the minister.

The statement further said Buhari remarked that inauguration of the NDDC Advisory Committee yesterday was done in compliance with the provision of Section 11 (I) of the NDDC Establishment Act with the committee charged with the responsibility of advising the NDDC Board and monitoring its activities.

It also said the president, while justifying the inauguration of the committee ahead of the reconstitution of the NDDC Board, said:

“This is to enable us develop insights into the affairs of the Commission which will properly guide the Board when reconstituted once the Forensic Audit exercise on the Commission is concluded.

“You may recall that the Federal Executive Council, on 5th of February, 2020 approved the appointment of the Lead Forensic Auditors. I am told they are concluding their pre-engagement activities and should be ready to commence work soon’’.

Furthermore, the statement said Okowa, while speaking on behalf of members of the advisory committee, thanked the president for the inauguration, and for also granting the request of the Niger Delta governors for a forensic audit of the NDDC.

“The governor expressed the hope that the result from the forensic audit would help streamline activities of the NDDC with a view to putting it on course to deliver on its mandate to the people.

“Underscoring the roles of the Advisory Committee, the Delta State Governor noted that for sustainable development of the region, the NDDC must perform its duties in close collaboration with the states to avoid duplication of projects,” the statement said.

Adesina also quoted Okowa as saying, “We do not want to criticise what has happened in the NDDC for quite some time, but the fact is that the cooperation between the states and the NDDC has not been strengthened overtime and we have various cases of duplication of projects that are not properly planned.

‘‘But I believe that with the inauguration of this body, we will be able to sit down, meet together, work in collaboration and supportively to bring greater developments to our people.”

Speaking with State House reporters on the forensic audit after the inauguration, Akpabio said 55 companies are currently being evaluated with majority of them being international companies.

According to him, the lead consultant for the audit has divided the region into 16 groups in accordance with the volume work available.

Akpabio also said allocations to different states of the Niger Delta would be audited with a view to verifying the degree of values added to governance.

The minister also said personnel auditing would be carried out and governance structure for the region would subsequently be recommended with a view to checkmating future excesses.

Akpabio who described the commission as a cesspool of corruption, noted that assets worth N76 billion had been uncovered and some owners have admitted acquiring them through corruption.

He commended the president for spearheading the audit, saying the exercise will commence on March 29.

“I want to commend President Buhari’s administration for the boldness to carry out this audit because this is the first time any president has ever thought of looking at what accrued to the commission and how the money was being utilised.

“It has always been like rumour that the place was like an ATM and a cesspool of corruption but this is the first time we are availing the veil of incorporation to know those who actually own those companies and those who actually contributed to the wastage that we have seen over the years.

“The EFCC and other agencies have seized about seven houses including a hotel and the owners have willingly handed over, admitting that the proceeds where illicit funds from NDDC and cash running into billions have also been recovered and we have placed lien on N76 billion worth of certain properties and cash in various banks.

“Even though the process is not yet out in the public, a lot of progress is being made and I am quite certain that at the end of the exercise everybody will be happy.

“We are also going to have the fourth national council of stakeholders of the Niger Delta region to discuss the way forward for the region including proper briefing in writing of this forensic audit and what will happen to the region thereafter.

“The exercise will commence from March 29th and will last all the way to 4th of April in Port Harcourt and the governors have also agreed to use one of those days to have another major meeting of the advisory committee.”