Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, yesterday said the commission was compelled to fully pay for certain contracts before the approval of its budget by the National Assembly. Pondei listed some of the contracts paid for on the prompting of the National Assembly before its 2019 annual budget was harmonised. He alleged that some lawmakers, especially members of the adhoc committees, held the commission hostage over the years with the annual budget approval.
The revelations followed recent accusations of fraud against some top officials of the NDDC, which prompted an inquest by the National Assembly.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Edgar Ebigoni, the NDDC boss maintained that most of the contracts the commission was arm-twisted into paying for were either never done or never completed by the benefiting lawmakers. He alleged a “blackmail scheme” against the NDDC top echelons by the legislators, saying this explains why the National Assembly passed the 2019 budget of the NDDC, which was billed to expire in May 2020, in March 2020.
“The implication was that the management of the NDDC had only five weeks to implement the budget of one fiscal year, and present a performance report on the same budget,” Pondei stated.
He added, “This scheme has continued to play out, because as at this month of August 2020, the budget of the NDDC for the 2020 fiscal year has not been passed by the Joint National Assembly Committee on NDDC.
“Sadly, nobody seems to care to ask questions because people are falling for the well-scripted smokescreen playing out in the two chambers of the National Assembly.”
Pondei contended that the document containing the list of companies awarded the contracts was among the many others tendered before the National Assembly committee, which never saw the light of the day. He said the NDDC committee never allowed the commission to speak on the issues, when they eventually appeared before the committee, during the public hearing.
According to him, “It was based on this evidential claim that the Interim Management Committee of NDDC staged a walk-out, on the first day they were to testify before the committee. The details of this list can be verified from the Central Bank of Nigeria, through a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request.
“Indeed, the same allegation informed the reason all well-meaning Nigerians urged the committee chairman, Hon. Tunji-Ojo, to recuse himself from the chairmanship of that hearing.
“This is in keeping with the Nemo judex in causa sua, which is a Latin phrase that upholds the principle of natural justice that no one can judge a case in which they have an interest.”
The NDDC managing director stressed that against all objective appeals and moral persuasion, Tunji-Ojo, alongside some other accused members of the House Committee on NDDC, proceeded to hold a public hearing, which was initially slated for two days, July 15 and 16, 2020. He added that the hearing effectively ran till July 20, and, suddenly, Tunji-Ojo decided, at his own pace and time, to recuse himself from the hearing, on the last day. Pondei said the action cast a dark shade on the entire public hearing.
He stated, “This is because, the same reason for which he recused himself on the last day was enough for him to steer clear from the matter, ab initio. The foregoing points to a clear fact that the committee set out to do a bidding that was never in the interest of the public.
“They obviously needed a public hearing to tell the public what they wanted the public to hear, rather than the facts of the matter.
“The spokesperson the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, on a national television programme, recently, admitted publicly that contractors often approached chairmen of the House committees and the members to use their office to compel MDAs to pay them.
“This definitely should be the new height of the abuse of the oath of office they swore not to allow their personal interest interfere with the discharge of their official duties.
“Recall that since these allegations were first made by the Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, on national television, Tunji-Ojo has not deemed it fit to discountenance the allegations by way of a law suit.”
Pondei listed the contracts and benefitting firms to include: Kith Global Ventures Limited, remedial works at New Ogorode roads Lot 3, at the cost of N493, 684,169.00, which was paid on 17/03/2020; 301 Constr. Ltd, remedial works at Nja Road to Akoku Uno Lot 1, at the cost of N350, 027,919.80, paid 17/03/2020; Cracked Stone Constr. Limited, remedial works at Ajaolubeti road, Environs Lot 2 at the cost of N394, 010,952.10, paid 17/03/2020.
Pondei stated that Collincrystal Energy Limited was to carry out emergency works at Benin Township Road Lot 7, at the cost of N431,053.035.20, which was paid 17/03/2020.
He listed the others as follows: Collincrystal Energy Limited, emergency works at Benin Township Road Lot 3, at the cost of N361, 357,276.20, paid 17/03/2020; Grapik Limited, emergency works at Umudee internal road, at the cost of N207, 673,107.70, paid 17/03/2020; Southland Constr. Limited, remedial works at Umuduru Chukwu Umuorlu Road, at the cost of N518, 409,089.30, paid 17/03/2020; Southland Constr. Limited, remedial works at Umuduru, at the cost of N519, 949,949.10, paid 17/03/2020; and Grandfox Global Services Limited, emergency works at Ope Road Okigwe LGA, at the cost of N580, 438,578.00, paid 17/03/2020.
Named also were Collincrystal Energy Limited, which was to do emergency works at Benin Town Road Lot 6, at the cost of N348, 853,184.60 and paid on 7/03/2020; Crism Constr. Building Limited, emergency works at Eziama Osuama international roads, Isiala Mbano LGA, at the cost of N561, 592,377.80, paid 17/03/2020; Argento Limited, emergency works at Benin Township Road Lot 4, at the cost of N382, 805,411.60, paid 18/03/2020; Two Rocks Cont. Limited, remedial works at New Ogorode Road Lot 4, N500, 875,848.00, paid 18/03/2020; Elkan Zibson Ltd, emergency repairs of failed and unmotorable sections of Ezumoha internal roads, Isiala Mbano LGA, at the cost of N531, 150,414.29, paid 19/03/2020; Cracked Stone Constr. Limited, remedial works on failed and unmotorable sections of Benin Township Road Lot 8, at the cost of N417, 806,787.01, paid 19/03/2020; PDH Global Logistics Limited, emergency repairs of failed and unmotorable sections of Umuezuo Umuagbavu road, remedy of failed and unmotorable sections of Chikwe Orlu Street environment, at the cost of N543, 247,587.35, paid 20/03/2020; Aritel Oil and Gas, remedying of failed sections of Chikwe Orlu Street environment, at the cost of N550,100,132.34, paid 24/03/2020; and Dis Concept and Solutions Limited, urgent remedy of failed and unmotorable sections of Jessy and Jenny Road, off Peter Odili Road, Port Harcourt, at the cost of N476,794,367.22, paid 26/03/2020.
Pondei also said Ogugo Concept and Solutions Limited was to do emergency repairs of failed and unmotorable sections of environs of Yenagoa LGA, at the cost of N300, 029,695.14 and was paid on 26/03/2020; Webster Global ventures Limited, emergency repairs of failed and unmotorable sections Benin Township Road Lot 2, Oredo LGA, at the cost of N357, 242,054.35, paid 26/03/2020; Webster Global Ventures Limited, remedial works at failed and unmotorable sections of Akuku Illah Road, Oshimili North LGA, at the cost of N 463,489,890.13, paid 26/03/2020; and Webster Global ventures Limited, remedial works at failed and unmotorable sections of New Ogorode Road, Lot2 Sapele LGA, at the cost of N 466,416,380.71, paid 26/03/2020.