N’Assembly Investigates Alleged N40bn Fraud in NDDC


•House summons Akpabio

Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The National Assembly yesterday passed a resolution to investigate an allegation of N40 billion fraud against the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

While the Senate raised a seven-member ad-hoc committee to look into the allegation, the House of Representatives summoned the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the IMC to explain to the House the plan of the commission to ameliorate the effect of the present economic situation on the region.

After debating a motion sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Navy, Senator Thompson Sekibo, the Senate passed a resolution to investigate the allegations on how the IMC spent N40 billion within three months.
The ad-hoc the committee, headed by Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi, was given a month to look into the financial transactions and report back to the Senate.

Members of the committee are Senators Jika Dauda Haliru (APC Bauchi Central), Mohammed Tanko Almakura (APC Nasarawa South), Abdulfatai Buhari (APC Oyo North), Chukwuka Utazi (PDP Enugu North), Ibrahim Hadeija (APC Jigawa North East) and Degi-Eremienyo Biobarakuma (APC Bayelsa East).

The Senate also directed its Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, headed by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, to within one month investigate the appropriateness of the alleged arbitrary sack of the management staff of NDDC.
Sekibo, in the motion entitled “urgent need to investigate alleged financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission,” alleged that reports from the commission revealed financial recklessness which must be halted and investigated.

According to him, while President Muhammadu Buhari set up IMC to co-ordinate forensic audit of financial transactions carried out by the dissolved board of the commission, reports emanating from IMC indicated financial recklessness by the new management.

He added that aside financial recklessness by IMC, it’s also indulged in alleged arbitrary sack of the management staff of the commission.
“While President Buhari’s action of setting up an IMC and the forensic audit may have been conceived to forestall the financial recklessness of the commission and reposition it for fast-tracking of the development of the region, the IMC has been more bedeviled with the same financial misuse, misapplication, misappropriation or outright fraud in the management of the funds of the commission.

“Within the last three months, the commission has spent over N40 billion of the commission’s fund without recourse to established processes of fund disbursements, which has opened up further suspicion among stakeholders of the Niger Delta Region,” he alleged.

While debating the motion, Senators Bala Ibn Na’Allah and Ajibola Basiru, through different constitutional points of order, said the motion was based on allegations and tried to stop it from being adopted.
Lawan said the seven-man ad-hoc committee would determine the veracity or otherwise of the allegations.
Also discussing the alleged sleaze in the commission, the House directed its Committee on NDDC to investigate all procurements and financial transactions of the commission for this fiscal year to ascertain compliance with relevant provisions of the law.

The committee is also to investigate adherence to the Act setting up the commission, in the layoff and engagement of key management personnel.
This was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion, titled, ‘Need to Investigate the Alleged Financial Malfeasance and Other Activities in the Niger Delta Development Commission,’ sponsored by Hon. Peter Akpatason.
While presenting the motion, Akpatason raised the alarm on claims that the commission had spent over N40 billion without a corresponding effect on the region.

He said 70 per cent of the funds were allegedly spent on emergency projects and completion of the commission’s headquarters building, without due regard to fiscal governance as encapsulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 and other extant financial regulations.

The lawmaker added that a contract was allegedly awarded for the supply of Hilux vehicles and medical consumables to the tune of N4.8 billion in clear breach of sections 19, 25, 41, and 42 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

Akpatason expressed concern that the forensic audit for which the IMC was set up to conduct is most likely to become a conduit for forensic looting.
He added that the trend if not arrested would worsen an already pathetic situation in the Niger Delta region post-COVID-19.