The Senate has set up a seven-member ad-hoc committee to probe the “financial recklessness” of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The committee was specifically asked to probe the IMC for allegedly squandering N40 billion in three months and seek account for other financial transactions within this period.

The committee will be headed by Olubunmi Adetunbi (APC, Ekiti North) with Jika Haliru (APC, Bauchi Central), Tanko Almakura (APC, Nasarawa South), Abdulfatai Buhari (APC, Oyo North ), Chukwuka Utazi ( PDP, Enugu North), Ibrahim Hadeija (APC Jigawa North East ) and Degi – Eremienyo Biobarakuma (APC, Bayelsa East ) as members.

The resolution to set up the committee followed deliberation on a motion on the “Urgent need to investigate alleged financial recklessness in the NDDC” – sponsored by George Sekibo.

Leading the debate, Mr Sekibo said there were accusations of misuse of funds by the previous management of the commission which portrayed the NCDC as a financial conduit pipe, especially when the aspiration of its founding fathers have been forsaken.

“The visible recklessness may have prompted the President to set up an Interim Management Committee while ordering a forensic audit of the commission so as to reposition it for its intended mandate,” he said.

“While the President’s action of setting up an IMC and the forensic audit may have been conceived to forestall the financial recklessness of the commission and reposition it for fast-tracking of the development of the region, the IMC has been more bedevilled with the same financial misuse, misapplication, misappropriation or outright fraud in the management of the funds of the commission.

“The IMC has inundated itself with undue gross misconducts in fraudulent contracts award without due recourse to due process and flagrant disobedience to the provisions of the sections 19, 25, 41 and 42 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

“Within the last three months, the commission has spent over N40 billion of the commission’s fund without recourse to established processes of funds disbursement which has opened up further suspicion among stakeholders of the Niger Delta Region,” he said.

The lawmaker also faulted the IMC’s arbitrary use of executive power in alleged wrongful sacking of management staff without recourse to established civil service rules and practice with the aim of allegedly concealing the fraudulent financial recklessness they have committed.

Initial disagreement

In Mr Sekibo’s motion, he prayed that the Senate mandate its committee on Niger Delta Affairs to carry out an investigation on all issues relating to but not a limited misapplication and misappropriation of N40 billion by the commission as well as all procurement and financial transactions of the commission in this fiscal year 2020 and any other matter that is not in accordance with the provisions of the NDDC Establishment Act 2000.

But Bala Na’Allah protested and said instead of the standing committee, an ad-hoc committee, which he said will handle it better, be set up to probe the commission, a prayer which was eventually adopted by the Senate.

Peter Nwaboashi, who is the chairman of the committee, seemed displeased at Mr Na’Alla comments as he tried to counter his allegations.

“…My learned colleague in the bar, Senator Na’allah raised a point of order and in the process, he said that the committee failed to perform its duties and it is on record. When the issue was raised again, he went over to say again that Sekibo did not bring it on behalf of the committee.

“First, Senator Sekibo is a member of the committee on Niger Delta Affairs and everything he did here was in consonance and approval of the members of this committee. For him to say that the committee is not part is a misnomer. When motions are not brought in the names of a committee, it has never happened in this Senate unless a report is brought in the name of a committee.

“Secondly, he went further to say I have ‘stopped’, that we have relegated on our powers or our functions. That is what it means. That is not correct. The period under the investigation is three months. If you can follow the motion. Within the period of investigation, we have been, the chamber has been locked and this first time we are taking motion on the floor of this Senate.

“To say that a member of the committee brought a motion and it was debated and you say that the committee has relegated on its powers, it is an affront on the integrity and personality of some of us in the committee. He is a lawyer, I am 31 years in the bar, you cannot make such derogatory statement about me,”he protested.

On his part, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the intention of the Senate is not to take away the responsibility of the NDDC.

“We believe that you have been doing your work. I know personally that you have been involved together as far as the NDDC is concerned. This is something that was put to vote. It is not strange to have an ad-hoc committee when we have a standing committee.

“We in this 9th Senate set up ad-hoc committees. I recall that in 2011, I headed a committee to investigate privatization. There was a committee on BPE so this is just the workings of the Senate. All that we need to do is to ensure that our committees, whether the ad-hoc or the standing or special committees, do their work. I want to assure you that nothing affects the integrity of the committee. It is just to ensure that there is sanity in the NDDC.”

The ad-hoc committee was given four weeks to carry out its investigation and report by the Senate.