- Denies collecting 30% kickback
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, yesterday said the recent naming of some emergency contractors involved in the alleged sleaze in the agency has finally broken the siege on the commission.
The NDDC boss, who was reacting to a newspaper report credited to the Senate ad-hoc committee that he and members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) were collecting 30 per cent of total contract amount from contractors before paying them, also flayed the lawmakers for relying on hearsay to arrive at decisions.
Pondei, however, noted that he would not be distracted by “spurious allegations perpetrated by those bent on scuttling the ongoing forensic audit of the commission.”
He dismissed the allegations as an unfounded and orchestrated plot by those mentioned in the contract sleaze to get back at him for daring to name and shame them for holding the commission and the region hostage for years.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Edgar Ebigoni, the NDDC boss also denied that any member of the IMC or himself ever sought or received a bribe or any other form of inducement for performing their duties.
Members of the Senate committee, who grilled the Pondei-led IMC in July 2020, during which he denied the allegations, were Senators Olubunmi Adetunmbi, Jika Haliru, Mohammed Tanko Almakura, Abdulfatai Buhari, Chukwuka Utazi, Ibrahim Hadeija and Degi-Eremienyo Biobarakuma.
The statement read: “The acting managing director stated on oath during the probe that he has never requested or received kickbacks of any sort from contractors. It is therefore surprising and disappointing that the Senate committee can be attributed with unproven allegations as their final report.
“The IMC is also shocked that the ad-hoc committee chose to believe the naysayers who claimed that the NDDC headquarters was not nearing completion, a claim which the IMC denied.
“Whatever made the Senate ad-hoc to sit in Abuja to accept a negative report rather than accept the challenge of the IMC to visit the headquarters for an unbiased assessment, is yet unknown.
“Also in the report, the Senate ad-hoc committee, in a bid to glorify the head of the immediate-past IMC, credited the forensic audit to her, even when she testified negatively to the existence of the forensic audit.
“In any case, the admittance of the committee that the forensic audit is ongoing is a welcome development. We are glad that the president is determined to see the forensic audit through despite all odds.”
Pondei stressed that the IMC has been undertaking a painstaking evaluation of projects before approving any historical debt payment, no matter the level of documentary progress already recorded.
According to him, “Previous project valuations have been slashed and actual value of work done determined. Most emergency contractors are therefore no longer getting the humongous figures they had been promised by their co-conspirators within the commission.
“The reduced payment is a saving for the commission and the Niger Delta, not a payment for the persons in the IMC or the commission. The IMC intends to steer the commission away from questionable, low-impact projects, with quick-win projects not being excluded, into programmes of regional scale with emphasis on areas already identified in the Niger Delta Action Plan.
“The programmes will cascade into related projects that will mesh smoothly into a seamless whole on completion. The IMC is looking at the environmental hazards of flooding, inter-regional transportation, including rail system, port development, health, education and power sectors.
“The IMC is irrevocably focused on delivering on its mandate to the people of the Niger Delta and not a selected few from within and outside it. It enjoins all people of goodwill to partner it to achieve this laudable objective.”