Nigerians Eagerly Await Buhari’s Action on NDDC Probe, Says Group

Muhammadu Buhari

A group, Transparency And Accountability Advancement Group, has said that Nigerians eagerly await President Muhammadu Buhari’s action on the probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission by the National Assembly.

In a statement by its Director of Information and Strategy, Damian Nwikinaka, the group said with the revelations of the worrisome on-going contract scams, financial recklessness, corruption, abuse of office and mismanagement being perpetrated at the NDDC, President Buhari could not continue to act like humongous corruption had become the synonym for his government.

The statement reads:

“Nigerians are amazed that several days after incontrovertible revelations and confessions by the Interim Management Committee regarding large scale fraud, extra-budgetary expenditure, abuse of procurement laws and mismanagement of the Niger Delta Development Commission, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to act. The Senate in particular did a thorough investigation. It set up an independent ad hoc committee comprising senators outside the membership of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta. The Adhoc Committee was headed by Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi of Ekiti State.

“The Committee carried out extensive investigation of the allegations of malfeasance against the IMC. It got the Commission’s account statement with the Central Bank of Nigeria, received presentations from the CBN, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, the Bureau for Public Procurement and other relevant government agencies, as well as confessional statements, both oral and written from the IMC members, showing how the NDDC IMC blew N81.5 billion in just a couple of months on fictitious contracts, frivolities, and in breach of extant financial and public procurement laws.

“Indeed, Nigerians are eagerly awaiting the action of Mr. President on the worrisome on-going contract scams, financial recklessness, corruption, abuse of office and mismanagement being perpetrated at the NDDC. President Buhari cannot continue to act like humongous corruption has become the synonym for his Government.

“When he was asked recently what he thought of the ongoing revelations of corruption at the EFCC and NDDC, the president said that some of his appointees have abused trust by misusing their offices for their self-aggrandisement. Yet he is delaying action and emboldening the Niger Delta Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio, and the IMC to continue the pillage of the NDDC, as was clearly exposed during the National Assembly investigations as part of their oversight duty.

“In the 121-page report, which was adopted as a resolution of the Senate, the Senate Committee found that the IMC, which is headed by Prof Daniel Keme Pondei as Acting Managing Director, made withdrawals in the name of contracts that could not be verified. These fictitious contract payments ran into billions of naira. It therefore recommended that the IMC should refund the sum of N4.923 Billion to the Federation Account.

“Among the payments made, the Senate discovered that the Pondei-led IMC on April 15, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown paid out N1.96 billion purportedly for the procurement of Lassa Fever Personal Protection kits purportedly for the 185 LGAs of the NDDC states. Yet, the IMC, which said rather strangely that it used staff of the NDDC to distribute them, could not produce evidence of delivery of these kits to any of the 185 LGAs. Everything spoke to the fact that this was a fictitious unexecuted contract, which was used to steal and launder money from the NDDC.

“The IMC failed to provide a single name of at least one recipient out of the 185 LGAs to whom the kits were purportedly handed over. It was self-evident that the fictitious contract, which was paid for by the IMC on April 15, 2020, was a conduit to steal the said N1.96 billion.”

The group said the Senate consequently resolved that the IMC should refund the sum of N1.96 billion under the “Refund of Extra Budgetary Expenditure” along with N85.7 million, purportedly paid for overseas travel to IMC members during the Covid19 lockdown; N105.5 million, purportedly paid for non-existent scholarship grants; N164.2 million, purportedly paid to the NDDC Staff Union members for a journey to Italy, during the Covid19 lockdown; N1.12 billion, purportedly paid for public communication activities during the Covid19 lockdown for which the IMC failed to provide evidence of places where the campaigns took place; and N1.49 billion, purportedly paid for Covid19 relief materials which was not procured.

It added that for a president that came into office on a strong Anti-Corruption agenda, this falls way off the mark, adding, “Nigerians are alarmed by the inaction of the president and are losing faith in his leadership.”

The group said “President Buhari cannot continue to act like all is well at the NDDC under the IMC. He should take a decision on these issues that have been critically examined and highlighted in the Senate report and the Senate resolutions. These resolutions reflect the wishes and desires of the Niger Delta people, and Nigerians generally, on the way forward for the NDDC.

“President Buhari should restore Accountability at the Commission by dissolving the IMC, implement the other resolutions of the Senate and direct the Anti-Corruption agencies to prosecute all persons indicted.”