Alleged N139.3Bn Fraud: MD NDDC shuns Reps summons

NDDC CORRUPTION: THE NORTH DESERVES APOLOGIES! By Sharon Faliya Cham ''The beauty of reason is that it can be applied to understand the failure of reason" - Professor Steven Pinker ''It is not possible to be in favour of justice for some people and not be in favour of justice for all people" - Martin Luther King Jr. Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the forensic auditing of the finances and activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) last year, which consequently inspired the open investigative hearings of the Commission by the National Assembly this July, it has been floodgates of scandals upon scandals, which paint an obscenely lurid picture of how the elites and politicians of the Niger Delta region have turned the NDDC into a very fat cash cow that serves them cash instead of development and good life for the generality of people in the region. To confuse and deflect the attention of the poor indigenes of the region from how they criminally made themselves billionaires at their expense, the elite and leaders of that region perfected an art of propaganda in which they always pointedly blame the woes of that area on northern Nigerians, specifically the Hausa/Fulani who have become the favourite subject of blame and attack from groups and persons who hate looking at their own mirrors to identify the source(s) of their own problems. The noun 'parasite' was wilfully turned into a mischievous adjective by them to describe the northerner, just to give effect to the craft of fooling poor Niger Deltans to look away from the indigenous robbers and plunderers crippling them both physically and emotionally. In fact, they have so commonised the word 'parasite' to the extent that even people in some other parts of the country without crude oil or any known resource that helps in sustaining Nigeria also delight in calling the North parasite while delightfully chewing meat from cows and rams. When they call the North parasites, the intended objective is to make Niger Delta hoi polloi forget that their states receive 13% of the sales made from the crude oil extracted and sold from the region, which is just an addition to the fat monthly federal allocation they also receive, also always much more than other states of the federation. And all of those are beside the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) whose annual budgets alone always surpass the total sum the entire northern states get from the federal government in a year, whereas the ministry alongside the interventionist agencies mentioned are all programmes carefully instituted by the Nigerian State to develop the region ahead of other regions in gratitude and appreciation of the fact that the country's oil economy rests on that region (so far). Again, all of that is beside the Corporate Social Responsibility programmes major independent oil firms do in the region, ranging from provision of hospitals, schools, electric power plants, employments and scholarships, usually strictly for people of the region. And that's not all. The federal government, especially this one headed by President Buhari, also includes the region in its signature projects captured in its other offices like the Federal Ministry of Works or that of Agric or that of Water Resources or Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and so on. As a matter of fact, everything is arranged to be a win-win situation for the Niger Delta, yet because of the massive corruption and unbridled criminality of its elite and leaders, the region has remained slummy in total contrast to the wealth it generates and the wealth it receives back. To cement their hold on the people and the massive resources the federal government and oil firms plough back to the region, they created all manner of heavily armed militias whom they use to blackmail and extort the country for themselves. And to make the plight of the poor people of the area worse, the criminal activities of the armed militias always lead to the pollution and destruction of their farmlands, habitats and aqua life. For each of these, the 'parasites' are always blamed while the sleazy kingpins and ''queenpins'' luxuriate themselves across the globe with the proceeds of their plunder. The proceeds taste so eternally delicious that they invented a catchphrase called Resource Control, meant as a gambit to have it all in their pockets (again) while their proletariat continue to live in stilts above oily rivers. Well then, it was just a matter of time before the Buhari wind blew to expose the rump of the fowl. With the feathers blown away, it became all too clear that the North wasn't the chicken's rump embedded with parasites that were eating away the flesh and intestines of the chicken. And so with television screens showing that all the characters of the rape and plunder of the Niger Delta are Niger Deltans, and even displaying fainting theatrics as answer to probing questions, it became all too clear for the Niger Delta hoi polloi that they have been conned and blinded for too long. Their television screens didn't show them Hausa/Fulani Mallams fainting when asked to show what projects were executed with over 80 billion Naira in the Niger Delta during the Covid-19 lockdown; all they saw were their own kith and kin fainting on live television, perhaps as a perfect metaphor for how the region was made to faint under the unbearable weight of the edifice of corruption that was carefully and masterfully erected there by their indigenous taskmasters. It is under this gigantic edifice and atmosphere of corruption that another gambit of extortion, blackmail and distraction called 'restructuring' was birthed. Having conned their people into thinking and believing that the North is a parasite that is freely feeding fat on ''our oyel'', and feeling pained and frustrated that a 16 years old era that satisfied their morbid taste for unearned wealth was expectedly halted in 2015, they ramped up the volume of their restructuring song to a very deafening decibel. The most arrogant singers of the restructuring song among them, and across certain parts of the country, have never ever hidden their opinion that their entire agitation for restructuring was aimed at hurting the North whom they mischievously accuse of unfairly benefitting from the ''current skewed structure'' compared to their own regions. And each time they wax those untruths, the truthful citizen is left wondering whether the 13% Derivation Fund, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have been handed over to the North, thereby skewing Nigeria's structure unfairly in its favour! Well, I have always argued that, considering the fact that 99.9% of the agitators of restructuring are always well-known admirers and supporters of corruption and corrupt politicians, their actual reason for agitating for restructuring is purely and simply based on their unbridled desire to pocket the totality of what they think Nigeria earns from their areas, but certainly not for any reason of proper and judicious management of resources and good governance. Looking at the mess in the NDDC, PAP and the integrity deficit that is a common feature among the ''activists of restructuring'', it always becomes pretty easy to see that they will be so incapable of running anything properly for the good of their own people, much less the good of all. Corruption and greed are the currency and character of their agitation. Therefore, even if Nigeria were to restructure in the way they want the restructuring to be, it wouldn't be long before you see their restructured enclaves ''fainting'' under the crushing weight of the character they have blatantly refused to restructure. For all of that, it wouldn't be a bad idea if they apologize to the North for the deliberate mischaracterization they subjected the region to, and that is if they have sufficient modesty and fairness of mind to do so, which also depends on if they feel any sense of contrition from the NDDC mess and other messes they helped in creating. * Cham is a public affairs analystKemebradikumo Pondei (Source: Channels)

By Tordue Salem, Abuja

The Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei has rejected the invitation of the House of Representatives for an investigative hearing into the N139.317 billion allegedly misappropriated between 2013 and 2018.

Details of the queries were contained in the 96-page audit report on the activities and programmes on NDDC for the period 1st January 2013 to 30th June 2018.

Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Rep. Wole Oke who announced the absence of the NDDC at the scheduled hearing, resolved to adjourn sitting to Thursday.

Also read: ENDSARS: No Nigerian’s blood need to be spilled— Jonathan

According to the report, the 626 contractors engaged by the Commission for the execution of contracts worth N309,172,941,001.86, received a total sum of as mobilization fees worth N61,468,160,743.03 in Abia (32 projects), Akwa Ibom (64 projects), Bayelsa (80 projects), Cross River (29 projects), Delta (99 projects), Edo (51 projects), Imo (33 projects), Ondo (50 projects), Rivers (106 projects) and 82 other regional projects.

Some of the queries include: “waste of public fund due to collection of mobilization fees without resorting to project sites by Contractors – N61,468,160,743.03”; “irregularities in the contract for completion of NDDC headquarters building, Port Harcourt – N16.223 billion”; “Irregularities in the execution of a contract awarded to Messrs Setraco Nigeria Ltd for the construction of Gbaregolor-Gbekbor-Ogulagha road phase 1 – N16,157,782,480.20; unauthorized revision and variation of contract sum without due process and payment above completion level on the contract for construction of Kaa-Ataba road and bridges – N10,930,414,996.45.

Others include irregularities in the supply of 3,852 doses of hepatitis B vaccines and 1,570 doses of typhoid vaccines (28) and supply of Lassa Fever kits in 23 Lots to NDDC warehouse in Port Harcourt and distribution, transportation and storage – N2.527 billion; Excessive payment of imprest to the NDDC Executive Board members – N1.358 billion; Engagement of external solicitors in contrast to extant provisions – N1.583 billion; Award of the contract of emergency contracts without stating the contract prices – N3.002 billion; Payments of rent to a legal advocate on a property that belongs to River State Government but released to Federal Government to house NDDC headquarters – N1.225 billion; appointments of special and personal assistants for members of Governing Board and payment of their salaries and allowances at government expenses – N1.006 billion, among others.

In its recommendations, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine stated that the sum of N61,468,160,743.03 should be recovered from the 626 contractors in line with Financial Regulation No. 3104 which provides that under no circumstances should payments be made for a job not executed and any amount involved shall be recovered from the said contractor and shall be blacklisted and referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for prosecution.

On the N100 billion spent on emergency contracts in 2018, the AGF also observed that the Commission “concentrated most of its efforts on the award of emergency contract in the period under review while most of the planned/budget and ongoing projects are not given needed priority.”

Breakdown of the emergency contracts awarded showed that N58.137 billion was spent in 2017, N20.867 billion spent in 2016 while N1.689 billion spent in 2015, respectively, adding that “most of the emergency contacts are executed at an average cost of N500 million and above. None of these emergency contracts can be termed as emergency indeed because there was no evidence of the communities in which they were sited are calling for the projects.”

On the unauthorized N10.930 billion contract variation, the AGF recommended that: “The Managing Director should be sanctioned for non-adherence to laid down the due process on the variation and revision of the contract price from N3,062,385,032.98 to N10,930,414,996.45 which was 357% increase from the initial contract sum.

Recall that the AGF had in its 60-page audit query report for 2008-2012 earlier submitted to the House Committee on Public Accounts queried the Commission over N70 billion and secrecy shrouded in the multi-million dollar revenues paid by oil firms since inception.

The query was part of numerous audit query issued by the oAuGF including the sum of N31.453 billion ‘some payment of 2012 not verified due to non-presentation of payment vouchers and bank mandates; non-remittance of N29 billion before 2008; N5.69 billion payment vouchers from Access Bank Account Number 0015078045 not presented for audit, and payments by unrecognized oil companies into the Commission’s final accounts to the tune of N3,280,818,832, among others.

Other audit queries include the unexplainable transfer of N3.118 billion to an undisclosed Union Bank account, dormant fixed deposit account and current account in enterprise Bank with the sum of N68.432 million, N1.4 billion in an abandoned credit and entrepreneurship development scheme fund distributed among participating banks (non-agricultural component); unaccounted fixed deposit account; N92 million contract awarded for services not required, N309 million withheld by banks that failed to implement NDDC credit and entrepreneurship development scheme and N1.546 billion payment for the broadcast of NDDC Today Programme.

On the N3.280 billion audit query paid by ‘Unrecognised oil companies into its final accounts, the Commission explained that: “All contributions received from the oil companies were paid directly into our Union Bank account in Port Harcourt and the offshore account in the United Kingdom and in recent years, very few were remitted into the First Bank Port Harcourt Account and the offshore account in the United Kingdom. These transactions were done without any human interference from NDDC, hence the possibility of manipulation or fraud is very remote.”

In its response, as contained in the 60-page response document to the oAuGF’s audit queries seen by Nigerian Tribune, the Commission to the N936,770,112.83 over-payment on VAT before 2008, argued that VAT on all payments due to contractors and consultants on projects, supplies and others service is calculated and paid to the relevant tax authorities at the end of each month. It is a deduction from the contractor’s bill unless specified in the bill of quantities or supplier’s invoice.

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