NDDC Probe: Desist from Intimidating National Assembly, Group Tells Akpabio

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A Niger Delta Group, Global Centre for Good Governance (GCGG), has implored the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the leadership of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to desist from further intimidation and blackmail of the National Assembly for unanimously rising to their oversight function to probe an alleged N40 billion illegal expenditure by the intervention agency.

At a press briefing over the weekend in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, Dr. Chris Udoh, Country Director of GCGG, regretted that the exculpatory narrative of the IMC of NDDC had sadly been that “disgruntled elites who are uncomfortable with the forensic audit of the commission have mobilised resources to demonise them”

He however alerted that his group was “raising concern regarding the loud murmuring in the public space that the minister has been boasting that he will be cleared of all allegations” and also claims by those with insider knowledge that since the Covid-19 contract scandal broke out, the IMC was alleged to have engaged in massive destruction of contract documents, displacement of files, alteration of payment schedules and persuasion of some of their collaborators to disappear from the scene during the pendency of the probe so as to frustrate any evidential value they may offer. This, Dr. Udoh said, if proven true, was absolutely very disturbing.

Noting the alleged infractions of the IMC, which have dominated the media in the past weeks – the alleged complete payment to a company for construction of the head office building when less than 70% of the job had been done; alleged IMC payments running into billions of naira for phony contracts covering Water Hyacinths, Emergency Road Construction and River Desilting; alleged payment of billions of naira for Cholera Vaccine and Lassa Fever Protective Kits; and in flagrant violation of the extant Public Sector Rules, mandated all Directors/Heads of Departments/Units who have held sensitive positions in the past to proceed on mandatory leave and Directors with two years or less left in the service to proceed on mandatory retirement.

The group therefore saluted both chambers of the National Assembly for rising to the challenges of exercising oversight functions on the NDDC, insisting that “the actors at NDDC must be made to appreciate that they can be restrained by the limiting structures and facilities of oversight powers of the National Assembly. The National Assembly should deploy all tools available to it to follow the money”.

Dr.Udoh therefore urged the National Assembly Committees probing the NDDC to collaborate with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and the Central Bank of Nigeria to ascertain the true amount of money that has been paid out since the Minister assumed his supervisory role over NDDC and where such money ultimately ended.

According to them, “all contracts documents must be produced and complete TSA Schedules tendered. Evidence of delivery of supplied items not only to the NDDC stores but to end users with dates and acknowledgments must be made available. The National Assembly must engage in rigorous examinations, even to the point of brain scan that would reveal lying, doubts and the smallest hesitation. This has become necessary because the stories coming out of NDDC in the last three months are very disheartening. The National Assembly should go a step further to determine the veracity or otherwise of the alleged reprisal and retaliation attacks on the staff of the commission who are being mandated to proceed on compulsory leave or retirement.”

The Global Centre for Good Governance therefore recommended that “if the maelstrom of allegations against the Minister and the IMC turn out to be irresponsible and callous attempts to smear and tar them, then, the unreserved apology of the public should be extended to them. If, however, at the end of the investigation it is discovered that something terrible and powerful, something that is beyond our ken has surreptitiously taken over the levers of power at NDDC at the expense of our collective interest simply because its money tastes like the nectar of the gods, then our only demand would be that the guilty be severely punished and all the wrongs made right. In that case, we would urge the National Assembly to recommend to the appropriate authorities that the IMC and the Minister recuse themselves from further administering the affairs of the commission”