NDDC Probe: House Summons Akpabio, as Nunieh Testifies


By Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu

The House of Representatives has summoned Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as well as the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, to appear before it on Monday to answer questions on allegations against them.

The House Committee on NDDC issued the summon on Friday at the continuation of its investigative hearing into the alleged missing N40 billion from NDDC funds.

Meanwhile, the immediate past acting Managing Director of NDDC, Joi Nunieh, finally gave her testimony on Friday when she joined the probe panel via Zoom following a failed attempt by the police to arrest her on Thursday and her rescue by Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, from police siege.

A contingent of policemen from the Force Headquarters, Abuja, had in the wee hours of Thursday invaded Nunieh’s house to arrest her, thus preventing her from testifying before the committee.

While giving her own aide of the story, she explained that she only spent N8 billion throughout her tenure, which was from from October 29, 2019 to February 17, 2020.

On the forensic audit, Nunieh said the President had written a letter to the National Assembly appointing the forensic and suspending the appointment of the board and that he was appointing the IMC to supervise the forensic audit.

She stressed that what she met wasn’t exactly what was going on as the minister insisted on supervising the forensic audit.

According to her, I reminded him (Akpabio) and showed him a letter that the President had written. There’s no way that we can spend the money that’s in our budget. He requested in his memo to the President that money for the funding of the forensic audit be gotten from the service wide votes. President Buhari in his wisdom refused that request and in writing said that it should be put in the NDDC appropriation budget, making NDDC the procuring entity.

Nunieh stated: “I said that to take the money and send it to the ministry will be like Federal Ministry of Health asking the federal medical center that they will like to implement what’s in the budget now. On the audit, while I was there, I was the one who prepared all the document in the forensic audit.

“After that argument, I now came up to say that everything that’s done will be in accordance with the Act, the first thing I did was to go through the procurement of the lead consultants. Many people have misunderstood clearly the procurement process of the lead consultants. Because I didn’t want any illegality or the forensic audit to be discredited, I ensured with the help of real consultants to help me come up with the terms for these auditors.

“The lead consultant that everyone is talking about is not a forensic auditor, only the other forensic auditors, the role of the lead consultant is to gather all the forensic auditors, all the reports and put it together and give it to the lead consultant who will do the reporting, that’s just his role.

“On the case of the forensic auditor, I do not know if they have ever carried out a forensic audit. Can I now stand before this committee to say that the lead consultant has been procured, my answer will be no. Remember, you cannot give any approval or procure any consultant without the appropriation made by the National Assembly. 2020 budget hasn’t even been considered or discussed not to mention being passed.”

The former NDDC managing director said that everyone in Nigeria had been deceived that the forensic audit was going on, but noted that the forensic auditors had not even been procured.

Nunieh said: “I want to say here that if Nigerians find out that the forensic audit is going on, every testimony and allegations that I have made should be canceled and disregarded, there’s no forensic audit going on. Secondly, can I say that the forensic auditors have been procured? My answer is no.”

Asked by the committee to explain the rationale behind the sum of N641 million used by the NDDC for media support for the forensic across the nine states of the Niger Delta, she said she knew nothing about it and it didn’t happen during her tenure.

Nunieh added that, “Contracts were given out to some companies that were not registered, some got registered after they were given the contract. In some cases contracts were pre-awarded before the designs were given. So, you find out that most of the projects were abandoned.”

She recommended that the committee should get a list of certified forensic auditors in Nigeria from the Auditor General in order to help in carrying out a proper forensic audit of the NDDC.

Nunieh said, “The audit is not just financial, it’s suppose to look through the personnel of the NDDC. When we are talking about billions of Naira being spent by the commission, it’s unbelievable that they don’t have up to ten engineers. The staff audit is necessary.

“Mr. President should direct the immediate establishment of a national procurement council in NDDC, it should be the first thing even before we talk about a forensic audit. That could help Nigeria save so much money in terms of fraud and corruption.

“We didn’t have this problem from the records I saw when the NDDC was under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The NDDC I will recommend should be taken back to the office of the SGF.

“At the NDDC, I want to make it clear, Senator Akpabio when he saw I was not cooperating refused them to give me an official vehicle. I didn’t have an official vehicle. When I first came in, there were two bulletproof cars that I was using. I came to Abuja, a gentleman met me at the airport and said I’m one of your contractors, I’m the one that gave you the car that you are using, and I said so I’m using a contractors car and I’m supposed to supervise a forensic audit. I told Akpabio I thought the car I was using is from the commission. He said don’t worry the man is a very good friend of mine. When I got back to Port Harcourt I returned the car, the second car is still at the mechanic, after what happened yesterday I asked them to go and collect it so they won’t say it’s because I wrecked the car.”

Nunieh also called on the National Assembly to intensify its oversight function.

“To Senator Akpabio, he felt the President has delegated all the powers to him, he felt he also had the powers of the board. There must be a reorientation for the ministers,” she added.

While appearing before the committee, the Director of Operations, Osmoserve Global Limited, Mr. Babatunde Adeboye, said the Managing Director of the company could not appear before the committee because the company got the invitation to appear on Wednesday through social media and was not even invited formally.

The company, according to a civil society organisation, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, was said to have gotten an emergency contract worth N4,861,354,250 to supply medical equipment for testing, treatment and care of COVID-19 cases and 15% mobilization paid.

But when the committee asked Adeboye if the company bid for the contract before it was awarded, he said since he was under oath, he was not competent to speak on the procurement part of the project since he was not part of it.

He explained that he could only speak on the delivery aspect which he was part of.

It was at this point that the committee asked him to come before the committee again on Monday with someone from the office competent to speak on the procurement aspect of the contract.