Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition (NDRC) has joined the swelling ranks of well-meaning Nigerians and people of Niger Delta region to drum support for the National Assembly for unanimously rising to their oversight function to probe an alleged N40 billion illegal expenditure by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The group was reacting to a claim by Citizens Quest for Truth Initiative (CQTI), which it said falsely claimed that the Senate probe of the accounts of NDDC was an “affront to the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission…and an affront to the directives of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, who instituted the forensic audit.”
Lamenting what he called the unsubstantiated and dubious claim by CQTI, led by Obiaruko Ndukwe, National Coordinator of Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition (NDRC), Comrade Alalibo Demiebi George, reminded the group that the National Assembly’s timely intervention was not only necessitated by the avalanche of alleged infractions by the IMC which had dominated the media in the past weeks, but more importantly by powers conferred on it by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said “Under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) the National Assembly is empowered to oversight activities of the executive branch of government including all ministries, departments, and agencies. It is not a right that can be abridged or subsumed under the executive branch as the Ndukwe’s of this world have been made to believe. In particular, Section 88 (1) of the constitution (as amended), confers on the National Assembly the power to “direct or cause to be directed investigation into – (a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws, and (b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for – (i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly, and (ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.”
He added that this was why the National Assembly had a responsibility to investigate the books of NDDC where the IMC had been accused of misappropriating the sum of N40 billion so appropriated.
George reminded CQTI and others proxies of the concerns raised by Senator George Sekibo, whose motion “Urgent need to investigate alleged financial recklessness in the NDDC” led to the Senate probe.
Senator Sekibo had noted that “While the President’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 bedevilled with the same financial misuse, misapplication, misappropriation or outright fraud in the management of the funds of the commission. The IMC has inundated itself with undue gross misconducts in fraudulent contracts award without due recourse to due process and flagrant disobedience to the provisions of the sections 19, 25, 41 and 42 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. Within the last three months, the commission has spent over N40 billion of the commission’s fund without recourse to established processes of funds disbursement which has opened up further suspicion among stakeholders of the Niger Delta Region.”
The lawmaker had also faulted the IMC’s arbitrary use of executive power in alleged wrongful sacking of management staff without recourse to established civil service rules and practice with the aim of concealing the alleged fraudulent financial recklessness they had committed.
He also reminded the traducers of the National Assembly that President Buhari on 17th October, 2019 ordered that a Forensic Audit be carried out in NDDC, from 2000 to 2019.
George said the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who is also supervisor over NDDC, told Nigerians that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) would complete the Forensic Audit in maximum of six months, adding that more than six months after, there is no visible evidence that the Forensic Audit has started, not to talk of submitting the audit report to the President.
Comrade George also drew the attention of well-meaning Nigerians to the statement of the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, while inaugurating the seven-man ad hoc Committee on alleged financial recklessness of the NDDC IMC that “ the probe into the finances of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Senate is to complement the forensic audit ordered by the Federal Government,” re-affirming that “we are in total support of the president’s directive for the forensic audit of the finances of the NDDC, and this is, in some way, complementary to that directive.”
According to the Senate President, “the investigation would avail the management of the commission an opportunity to defend the allegations against it. We have no predetermined position on the outcome of this investigation as an institution. Issues raised are allegations; therefore, the NDDC has the opportunity to come forward and defend its position.”
Comrade George therefore regretted that CQTI and their masters had held on to their tired narrative that disgruntled elites who were uncomfortable with the forensic audit of the Commission had mobilized resources to demonize them.