Concerned NDDC Staff Drops Bombshell As Akpabio Storms National Assembly On Mega-billions Rip-off   

Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, is storming the National Assembly this Monday to launder his badly damaged image in the worsening Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) corruption network.

The House of Representatives Committee on the NDDC summoned Akpabio to appear before it over allegations levelled against him on the N81.5billion fraud saga in the Commission under his watch.

But, it seems the complexity and scope of the rot in NDDC is beyond a Parliamentary probe. It requires a diligent professional investigation.

That perhaps, explains why the oil governors of Southern Nigeria publicly declared that both the forensic audit and the Senate investigation should continue and be concluded with dispatch so that the NDDC can quickly return to its role of advancing and protecting the developmental aspirations of their people.

Disturbingly, Concerned NDDC Staff from Utilities, Infrastructure, Design and Waterways Department in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, are alleging that the rip-off in the Commission is in trillions of naira, and not in billions.

In copies of the letter that were sent to Senate President, Ahmed Lawal, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, the Inspector General of Police, Director-General of the Department of State Services, NDDC Committee Chairmen in the National Assembly, the US Embassy and UK High Commission, they reeled out names of those including an Army General who allegedly looted the NDDC.

According to them, the suspects allegedly swindled NDDC through fraudulent projects, inflation of contracts by distortion of systems used for hundreds of emergency road repairs, over inflation of contract sums for distilling projects and in most cases the outright moving of funds allocated to such distilling projects with the projects never done.

‘’Never In the history of the NDDC was the stealing of funds done like during the notorious eight months reign of the thieves. They did not accomplish these heists alone but through the help of some staff of the Commission, one of whom stole close to N5.00 billion and tried to purchase an oil rig, which we learnt the security agencies were able to track and made investigative invitations to him in that regard, only for the case to be bungled due to the influence of a serving minister in your cabinet and today he walks free.

‘’NDDC has been raped by repeated board since its inception over the decades. However, the heist within eight months of the IMC is a masterstroke that may lead to the insolvency of the NDDC, unless collective efforts by the federal, state governments, security agencies, youth leaders and militant groups who are the ones suffering the effects of these heists are made to get the trillion stollen back to the NDDC coffers for genuine use.

‘’We appeal and urge the National Assembly committees presently checking and investigating the NDDC to look beyond Prof Pondie-led IMC which though tainted from recent revelations but can be considered a saint compared to the Prof Nelson Brambaifa/ Samuel Adjogbe / Cris Amadi era, and bring all to justice.

‘’Only then will a true forensic audit would have been carried out for the FG and suffering masses of the Niger Delta and the needed funds that were stolen from the NDDC to the tone of 1.2 TRILLION NAIRA be retrieved back for use in true developmental projects for the region.

‘’We plead with President Buhari to bring all of them to justice and retrieve the N1.2 trillion looted so far within eight months of the IMC tenure. We will continue to expose these criminals by publishing details of their criminal escapades routinely and go further to produce documents deeded to nail these thieves listed above if needed during their investigation through credible online sources’’, the concerned NDDC staff said.

Before their input, the South-South Governors Forum believes the forensic audit of NDDC will place the commission on a better pedestal to drive the transformation which people of the region have been yearning for.

The position was made known after a meeting of the forum last week.

A lot of issues have risen from the forensic audit of NDDC ordered by President Buhari over allegations of corruption and maladministration by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) set up to reposition the Commission.

The governors expressed deep concern over the crisis rocking the commission and said that it was convinced that the audit will put the NDDC on a sound corporate governance footing and reposition it to better deliver on its mandate.

Chairman of the Forum, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, said the governors are giving full backing to the ongoing investigation of the commission by the Senate, pointing out, “we believe the Senate is operating within the ambits of its oversight functions through the ad hoc committee set up for that purpose. It behoves on us to respect the Senate oversight function and allow it to discharge this responsibility in a fair, transparent and equitable manner.

“The South-South Governors are desirous to see an NDDC that is fully alive and responsive to its mandate of accelerating infrastructural development of the Niger Delta region and enhancing the general living conditions of our people. Hence, we will not hesitate to give our unalloyed support to any policy initiative that will make this a reality”, he said in a statement.

While the Forum advised parties in the current crisis in the NDDC to refrain from utterances and actions that will breach the peace and security of the region, it vehemently condemned the attempted abduction of Ms Joi Nunieh, the immediate past Acting Managing Director of the Commission, in the early hours of last Thursday, saying it was unwarranted, unnecessary and uncalled for.

“As responsible public servants and leaders in the Niger Delta, we are mindful of the implications her attempted abduction could have on the peace and security of the region, which the current administration has laboured to sustain in the last five years. We do not want that to be truncated as it can have adverse consequences on the national economy.

‘’We urge the feuding parties in the NDDC to conduct themselves in a civil, orderly and lawful manner for the good of the region and the progress of the country. Democracy is about the rule of law; we have the courts and the various democratic institutions to deal with any grievances people may have without resorting to underhanded tactics and methods to intimidate and hound others”, the governors said

The House of Reps Committee, however, issued the summons on Akpabio after Nunieh made damning allegations against him, while giving her testimony to the lawmakers through the Zoom virtual platform on Friday, July 17, 2020

Nunieh said in her testimony: “He asked me to change the dollars in the commission’s coffers but l refused and did not spend it and left it intact till l left. Akpabio also asked me to remove or redeploy the only Northerner in the NDDC and other directors that he is occupying a sensitive position in the organization. But l declined and I said sir, Katulgo was my classmate at Law School ad that he has committed no wrong or offence to justify his redeployment.

“He said the first thing I would do is to write a letter to him – he gave me the draft, that I should put it on my letterhead. In that letter, I was supposed to write about most of the companies; Senator (Peter) Nwaboshi owned the 98 companies.  

“I never ever told the world that Senator Nwaboshi was the senator that was collecting the N1bn. The issue of the N1bn was different. I said ‘how can an individual be collecting N1bn every month?’ The case of Senator Nwaboshi is the case of the 98 files which I was supposed to write about.”  

Besides, she also accused Akpabio of taking over the forensic audit of the commission which was ordered by President Buhari, adding, “Akpabio insisted that he will supervise the forensic audit after l had prepared all the documents for the audit. He breached the laws and brought in an auditor and l said he is not a forensic audit expert.

“What I met was not exactly what is going on. Akpabio insisted that he would supervise the forensic audit. I reminded him and showed him the letter that the President had written, that there is no way we could spend the money that was in our budget.  

“In his memo to the President, he requested that the money for the funding of the forensic audit be gotten from the Service Wide Vote. Mr President, in his wisdom, refused that request and in writing said it should be from NDDC’s appropriation, making NDDC the producing entity,’’ Nunieh said at the public hearing.  

“The lead consultant that everyone is talking about is not the forensic auditor. He does not have a lot. The role of the lead consultant is to gather. When all the forensic auditors have got all the data and reports from the field, they will put them together and give to the lead consultant who will put them together in a report. That is just his role. He is not the one to carry out any forensic audit.  

“This (Messrs Olumuyiwa) Basiru and Co, I do not know if they have ever carried out a forensic audit. So, I will be asking to tell them to give you evidence that they have ever carried out a forensic audit before, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, which requires that for any consultant or contractor, must show evidence that for the past three years or thereabouts, they have carried out that.”  

Nunieh also slammed Akpabio for allegedly misleading the Federal Executive Council to approve the procurement of auditors even when the audit was to be funded with the 2020 budget of the NDDC.  

On the amount spent during her tenure, the ex-NDDC boss disclosed that N8 billion was spent by her administration between October 29, 2019 and February 17, 2020 on the permanent site of the commission’s headquarters, two bridges and other projects.  

On the issue of staff recruitment for which approval was given, she said the minister had collected curricula vitae from “godfathers” and she made it known that the issue of employment was already an issue before she came as the Federal Character Commission that used to give NDDC the approval for employment stopped it because of the scandal.  

She denied carrying out any recruitment and giving out any contract during her tenure: “I am not corrupt. No contractor can sit anywhere and say they gave me N10. And I can say before the world that I’m the most unpopular MD ever that came to NDDC. The money of the people of Niger Delta is blood money, I refused to touch it. Even when my friends were contractors, even when they claimed that they were owed monies, my instruction was that everybody should finish their jobs. Everybody saw contractors going back to the site when I was the MD.  

“I was privileged to see all the videos. For one job, five people would send me videos of completion – the same job, the same video – and I would just laugh.”

Also revealing the rip-off in the heavily drained Commission was the Head, Directorate of Research and Programmes, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, an NGO, Johnson Kolawole. He accused NDDC’s IMC of financial recklessness and mismanagement.

According to him, the IMC had expended over N80 billion between January 2020 and May 2020 as against the N22 billion repeatedly portrayed by the IMC, pointing out that the 2019 Appropriation Act as passed by the National Assembly provided for some emergency projects across the state in the region with an additional N800 million as emergency contingency sum.

‘’The IMC had spent N20 billion on emergency road repairs, with fraudulent cases of contract inflation and non-implementation. How would they explain the payment of N13.6 million for consultancy on the construction of ‘infant Jesus’? The said payment went into a Zenith bank account number 1014119683.

“On May 19, 2020, the IMC paid a firm N39.375 Million as consultancy fee for rebuttal. What a waste! The company had earlier received N34 Million into its Zenith Bank account number 1012613187 for ‘consultancy on reputation management for NDDC’.

“Same day, when businesses and countries were closing their doors, the same company, Clear Point Communication Ltd was paid N34 million for ‘Niger Delta Development Forum in Washington DC, USA’ and another N32.9 million for ‘Summit on NDDC and Investment Opportunities in Dorchester, London’, same day.

“There was no evidence of implementation of the contracts. Money paid went to private individuals; this ad hoc committee can call for the account statements of the firm to verify this. Same company received into same account a sum of N536 Million Naira for “campaign to save lives” in the Niger Delta on April 23, 2020.

“The payment was broken into 16 units to divert attention. Again, the money went into private pockets, some staffs of the commission were beneficiaries. May 22nd, another N641 million was paid to same company for media support for forensic audit as though forensic audit was meant to be a media affair”, he said.

Kolawale alleged that monies meant for students on scholarship abroad were being diverted into private account of the IMC.

Watch Kolawole’s presentation via Channels TV:

In his ruling, Tunji-Ojo said that the committee had not indicted anybody and that all accused should appear for fair hearing.

He said that the committee is not out to witch-hunt but to bring out the facts and reposition the NDDC for better service delivery.

The NDDC’s probe got messier on Thursday with the police invading the Port Harcourt residence of Nunieh, even as speculations were rife that the action was to stop her from appearing and testifying before the House Committee in Abuja

Interestingly, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State rescued her and prevented the Police from ferrying her away.

In a seeming dramatic u-turn, the state command of the Nigeria Police some hours later claimed that the invasion was official. Spokesman for the command, Nnamdi Omoni, said ‘’l clarified that the policemen, who surrounded Nunieh’s house were actually on legitimate duty in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.’’

Though he did not state the Police team’s mission, he dismissed reports suggesting that the officers were on illegal duty, pointing out thatthe police officers, found in the house on Thursday, came from the IGP Monitoring Unit, Abuja.

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