NDDC Probe: House of Reps Panel Indicts Akpabio, Pondei, Ojuogboh, Others
The House of Representatives Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has indicated Sen. Godswill Akpabio-led Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs over mismanagement of the commission, IGBERE TV reports.
The panel also revealed that the Commission has become worse off since it moved under the supervision of the Sen. Godswill Akpabio and urged the House to push for its return to the Presidency, under the supervision of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The Panel is also seeking to have the Interim Management Committee (IMC) and a number of contractors investigated and prosecuted by anti graft agencies should they fail to account for N81.5bn suspicious spending from January to May, 2020.
This is just as the committee calls for the immediate dissolution of the Prof. Daniel Bradikumo Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC), in favour of a properly constituted Governing Board.
The lawmakers also queried the appointment of Dr Cairo Ojuogboh as Executive Director in charge of projects, saying that the former Deputy National Vice Chairman, South-South region of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is “grossly unqualified” and “unfit” to hold the office of Executive Director in the Commission.
These are contained in the report of the Committee which probed allegations of Financial Malfeasance and Other Activities in the NDDC in July, 2020.
The 21-page document exclusively obtained by newsmen, contains 16 different recommendations which include the need to report the “gross violations of the nation’s Public Procurement Act to the anti graft agencies for further investigation, prosecution and recovery” of the alleged looted sums.
It also called on the NDDC Management to “seek a refund of N19.7m from Olumuyiwa Bashiru & Co and report back to the House with a proof of compliance latest 45 days from the adoption of this recommendation.”
“The Project Monitoring Department should carry out an appraisal of the extent of work done so far by Clear Point Communications Limited and quantify same in monetary value against the scale of fees (N641.14m) in the media industry and pro-rate the payment while the remainder should be refunded.
“Refer to the anti graft agencies to investigate the contract payments in order to ascertain the level of infractions and prosecute violators accordingly.
“A scrutiny of the medical treatment bills/insurance payments made by the commission to ascertain their appropriateness especially given that the commission has health insurance and referral partnership l, and it is still making payments for staff medical treatments. These cases should be referred to the anti graft agencies for diligent investigatiion, prosecution and possible recovery.
“The court proceedings and the court judgement (for which N400m was paid to Tigerhead Nigeria Limited in March) be made available to the House within 14 days and failure to do so, he (Acting MD) should be reported to the anti graft agencies for further investigation and possible recovery”, the panel recommends.
The panel’s finding as contained on page 11 revealed that the IMC under Daniel Pondei has been reckless in allocating funds to management staff ranging from covid-19 payment, medical check-up and other questionable payments of over N8.1bn outside of salaries, allowances and overhead in contravention of Section 80 of the Constitution
It found further on page 12 that “payments were made to the acting MD, the Executive Directors and other Directors of NDDC within the period of lockdown to attend overseas graduation ceremony of NDDC-funded post graduate students despite general and open protest by Niger Delta Scholars abroad over non-payment of tuition fees.”
The panel also revealed that Pondei and his IMC made “extra budgetary contract payments of over N28bn to 76 companies without due process and requisite technical expertise to handle road construction in contravention of section 80 of the constitution and sections 16(1)(b) and (16)(6)(a) of the Public Procurement Act”, adding that another N4.5bn was paid to Osmoserve Global to supply medical equipment and consumables during covid-19 lockdown without technical specifications, quantity and quality in violation of the PPA.
“NDDC contractors did not provide proof of contract performance and contract documents; we therefore recommend that the (N1.8 billion) payment made to AHR Global Standard Services be thoroughly investigated by the anti graft agencies to ascertain value for money and performance as they did not comply with the covid-19 emergency procurement guidelines of the BPP.
“Given that the NDDC did not provide all the requested contractual documents, it is difficult to determine contract performance and value for money. We therefore recommend that these contracts:
— Coordinate Global Services – N551.08 million
Be referred to the anti graft agencies to investigate the violations of the extant laws, sanction and prosecute culpable officials and contractors”, the panel recommends.”
In a direct attack on the suitability of the current Executive Director in charge of projects at the Commission, the Committee in its recommendation 15, on page 18 of the document, noted that Dr Cairo Ojuogboh’s appointment violated relevant sections of the NDDC Act with regards to qualification and competence to hold such a position.
It said: “Based on section 12(1) and 12(1)(a) of the NDDC Act 2000, Dr Cairo Godson Ojuogboh is unqualified and unfit to occupy the office of Executive Director Projects of the NDDC and should be discharged forthwith from that position.”
Cairo, a medical doctor by training was appointed to oversee projects at the NDDC following the constitution of the current IMC.
The panel in the concluding part of the report also faulted the rationale behind the placement of the NDDC under the supervision of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs led by former Akwa Ibom State governor, Sen. Goodwill Akpabio.
“The NDDC by law is meant to be under the President that delegated the supervision to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). This arrangement demonstrates the high importance and priority that all previous governments attributed to the region in view of her economic contributions to the country. With the delegation of that supervisory function to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, things seem to be moving in the wrong direction with potential and visible negative impacts that will undermine the goals of the Commission. The interference of the Ministry as demonstrated in the procurement procedures of the Forensic Audit, the award of contracts (Covid-19, Head Office and several others) is condemnable…”
“The House being committed to good governance and respect for due process has lost faith in the IMC as presently constituted given the level of infraction perpetrated from January to May 25th, 2020(as exposed in this investigative report) and call for the dissolution of the IMC and constitution of a governing Board in line with the NDDC Act 2000 as amended. All infractions must be referred to the relevant anti graft agencies for diligent investigatiion”, the report added.
Laid since Wednesday, 22 July, 2020 before the House for consideration at the Committee of the Whole, the report which was dropped due to some members observations that they needed to be given copies before the consideration, has continued to remain in the “cooler”.
The House has since resumed full plenary before and after the budget defence, but is yet to list the NDDC probe report for the much awaited consideration and adoption.
Attempts by our reporter to find out from the chairman, House committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Abubakar Hassan Fulata, were unsuccessful as calls and a text message sent to his phone were not responded to as at the time of filing this report.