AS the controversy on allegations of corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) rages on with each single day unearthing new allegations and counter allegations one thing has become incontrovertibly clear that indeed funds have been mismanaged, outright stealing of resources and abuse of power has occurred.
Two events and the outcome of these events that led to this conclusion is the appearance of Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh, the Executive Director, Projects on a television channel and the press conference addressed by the Ag. Managing Director, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC.
We see the attempt by these two men trivializing a very serious matters of allegations of corruption hanging over their heads like an albatross goes to show that they do not only recognize the gravity of what is before them but
The response put forward by the EDP further put them in awkward position of distrust when he claimed that four international reputable auditing firms are involved in the forensic audit in the NDDC without naming the companies.
If we may ask what is so sacrosanct that the names of those four companies cannot be made public and why is it only the Nigerian Company that is mentioned, we did not see the representative of any of the other four companies on the day the documents were purported to have been handed over to the auditors to commence the forensic investigations..No name of any such company was mentioned by the Ag. Managing Director Prof. Pondei yet the EDP claimed four international reputable companies are engaged to carry out the forensic audit.
The issue of the selection process of the auditing firm is another matter that borders on abuse of the procurement Act as they often do in the NDDC.
The selection process was not transparent because we just heard from out of the blues that a certain amount of money has been approved by the Federal Executive Council to be paid to a company who’s profile or competence we do not know. We have searched all of the internet to see their reference for previous jobs done but nothing of such and we wonder how is this company become an international reputable one to take on the task of such enormous work.
The other issue put forward by the EDP is when he mentioned padding of the NDDC 2019 budget by the relevant committees of the senate and House of Representatives and also emergency training projects valued at N 6.4 Billion inserted in the budget by the Chairman House Committee on Niger Delta. Our response to this is another whitewash because every Nigerian know that padding of budgets in Nigeria is as old as this democracy and that padding of budgets is no news as far as Nigerians are concerned.
We make it clear that we are not in anyway endorsing any form of corruption by this statement, but going further the EDP owned up that the NASS members where duly obliged an amount in the budget as much as N15Billion and that is to say the IMC has become an accessory to fraud therefore the IMC does not have the moral standing to midwife this forensic audit and for acts of aiding and abetting fraud, this IMC and the Minister should not be allowed to stay in office a day longer than necessary.
Furthermore, by the actions of the IMC and the Minister, they have clearly disobeyed a Presidential directive that frowns at padding of budgets by MDAs, for going against this directive goes to show the crass disobedience of Presidential directive and how extant rules and procedures are disregarded and abused at will in the management of the Commission and it’s resources.
The EDP made mention of 1,000 projects in the budget as belonging to a serving senator while the Ag. Managing Director made mention of 500fake projects all in the 2019 budget.
They also made mention of Delta State local politics as the root cause of the crisis., for us this is a triviality taken too far, and the purported payment of N1billion every month to a company engaged by past board of the NDDC for recovery of statutory payments by oil and gas companies.
Let it be made known today that the Global Forum for Accountability and Transparency, Nigeria, shall come by ways of the Freedom of Information Act, to disclose the beneficiary companies of the 1000 and 500 fake projects inserted in the 2019 budget and also the amount of N1billion payment to a certain company, and for how long this amount has been paid and how much has been paid so far, including the names of owners of the companies.
Who is the beneficiary company that was paid $28Million for doing nothing and on who’s authority was the funds paid, the issue of N6.4billion unverified because these are allegations that must be substantiated. These men cannot continue to lie to the people.
Now the pertinent question to ask is why did the IMC not alert Nigerians at the early stage when all of these budget padding is going on behind closed doors so it gives Nigerians the opportunity to know those to be held accountable and absolve the IMC of any compromise with members of NASS.
The effort to use blackmail only came when all hell was let loose when the NASS show signs of pushing ahead with the probe which inadvertently makes the IMC guilty already. The essence of what the IMC did was to say since the NASS is not yielding to back off the probe we the (IMC) will spill the bean…that is owning up that a crime has been committed and if that is the case, which is clearly what it is, people must be held to account.
We have come to the conclusion that our fears are confirmed every single day the IMC comes out to address issues of allegations of mismanagement of funds made against the IMC, the very serious allegations of corruption is been trivialized…
Going further down the road Nigerians will be inundated by efforts to confuse them about the forensic audit exercise, the effort to spew the wrong narrative will reach it’s climax, that is why we have hammered over and over and will continue to do so that the call for probe of the NDDC predates Akpabio being a Gov, so the claim that he is been attacked because people are afraid of the outcome of the audit is all nonsense.
For instance the Interim board that was headed by Prof. Nelson Brambaifa, was equally enmeshed in monumental fraud of different dimensions never seen in the history of the NDDC at the time and there was similar out cry from all and sundry for investigation to be conducted by the EFCC, in fact many petitions were written some even called for the scrapping of the commission.
The Prof. Nelson regime too was enabled by a serving Minister from the region then and the Minister is reappointed by the President after the rape on the resources of the commission. Funds were purportedly withdrawn with reckless abandon from the foreign account of the Commission and given to that Minister for purposes of funding election and this is exactly the pattern this IMC has copied. With all the malfeasance that characterized that board no one has been brought before a court of law. This cannot continue and we must fight this one.
One of the reason we say we are going to issue our own minority report is because we do not have confidence that the auditing firm will do a thorough job because the process is rigged already. The confidence on the forensic audit is depressed and the result and the sanctity of it is eroded already.
It is therefore incumbent upon all of us, regardless of our tribes, positions or platforms to respond with truth, facts and data in the face of any attempts to confuse and deploy false information about the issues involving the NDDC.
WE have come to this conclusion because those who s legs and hands are in the till cannot be the same ones to midwife such a serious exercise.
The second reason is the meddlesomeness of the Minister in the affairs of the NDDC. The Minister has practically abandoned the work in his ministry and now focus more in the NDDC which has become a source of worry to many in and outside the region, more so when major roads in the region are crying for attention.
Joseph Ambakederimo, is the Founder/ Lead Executive Director of Forum for Accountability and Transparency, Nigeria.