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NDDC: Ojougboh’s fairy tales and sense of corrupt entitlement


It is disgusting to read the statements credited to the Acting Executive Director Projects of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Dr Cairo Ojugboh, in The Vanguard of Monday, August 31, published under the headline: ‘Probe: Nigeria’ll break if we release list of looters in NDDC — IMC’. It is safe to state categorically that Ojougboh is playing the familiar game of dropping unsubstantiated claims, which the IMC uses to deflect attention from its own indictment for corruption, financial recklessness and mismanagement.

If Ojougboh or any of his IMC colleagues has any such information, as Nigerians have repeatedly said, rather than play to the gallery, they should hand it over to the Anti-Corruption agencies to investigate and prosecute all those culpable. To make sensational comments that are unverified and spurious does not do justice to the war against corruption. A serious government will not have an appointee of a federal agency raise the alarm about the country going up in flames when it controls the investigation agencies and should instruct the appointee to make the report to these agencies and have them do their jobs. In all, it conveys the impression that Ojougboh is acting on behalf of some Corrupt interests in Buhari’s regime, who employ propaganda to divert the attention of Nigerians from their fraudulent activities.

In the newspaper report, Ojougboh entered into a diatribe against the National Assembly for exposing the severe malfeasance he, the Acting Managing Director Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei and their colleagues on the IMC had undertaken at the NDDC since Akpabio illegally imposed them on the NDDC in contravention of the law prescribing the appointment of its executive management.

Perhaps, emboldened by the perpetuation of that illegality by the Buhari regime and the president’s inaction on the indictment of the IMC for corruption, Ojougboh has even gone further to justify the Corrupt and reckless unappropriated expenditures the IMC has undertaken, including the Covid-19 bonus through which the directors siphoned over N1.3 billion. In addition, the IMC members have been paying themselves allowances not provided for in the schedule of allowances for MDAs, as listed by the National Incomes Salaries and Wages Commission. For instance, in addition to their regular salaries, the IMC has been paying out a steady N51 million every month to the Acting Managing Director Prof Pondei as maintenance allowance, and N18 million monthly to each Acting Executive Director, including Ojougboh. In all, over the course of a few months, as the National Assembly probe unearthed, the IMC members have illegally spent N81.5 billion. The Senate has asked the IMC to make a number of refunds, among other Resolutions but Ojougboh sees this as an effrontery, because President Buhari has failed to wield the big stick as he ought to.

According to the Vanguard newspaper, “The NDDC Executive Director on Projects took a swipe at the National Assembly for condemning the N51 million monthly imprest for the office of the Acting Managing Director of the Commission and the N18 million imprest for his office”. Ojuogbo said “My MD feeds 100 policemen every day and in Port Harcourt as an executive of NDDC, you need security more than anything, till tomorrow, you know of it. When they are sending these policemen, the instruction is feed them, cater for them, that is what is in the letter the police hierarchy sent. So people are talking about N51 million of imprest for the MD, it is a security vote … Myself, N18 million, it does not go to my account, it goes for security and other expenses”

If anyone needed a validation of the revelations from the Senate investigation, Ojougboh just presented not just the validation but the mindset with which the IMC members administer the NDDC. It is not just a criminal mindset that justifies their pleasure at the expense of the Niger Delta people, but one that revels in it, with an air of entitlement.

Ojougboh seems to have an obsession with the National Assembly, and compares his allowances with the allowances of principal officers of the National Assembly, as if that is what matters to the Niger Delta people! This is an outrageous display of megalomania and moral deprivation. It is even more dangerous when these claims by Ojougboh have no factual basis, in which case his whole objective is to tell lies and magnify them to paint a picture that justifies the IMC unconscionable criminality.

In the Vanguard report, Ojougboh revelled in more bombast, thus: “They are talking about COVID-19 payment, the federal government is giving every citizen N30,000 each, do you know how much the Federal Government has spent? The CBN and many other corporations have been giving COVID-19 allowances, just like NDDC did. Asked if the money spent by the commission on COVID-19 palliatives was budgeted for, he said, “It was not budgeted for because it was an emergency, it’s allowed. It comes under emergency. The N30,000 per person that the federal government is giving to the citizen, was it budgeted for? Did anybody budget for COVID-19? Nobody budgeted for COVID-19. The SGF is the Chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force in Nigeria, was that task force budgeted for? It’s an emergency and it’s allowed.” Ojougboh paints the Buhari administration as lawless and not adhering to laid down rules as a means to justify the IMC’s criminality. He even generates hyperboles of fraud, corruption, financial recklessness and mismanagement in the Buhari regime as justification for what he and his colleagues on the IMC are doing.. No government that is what its salt will let that pass and Nigerians are waiting to see what the president will do with regards to the lawlessness and criminality of the IMC.

It does not take rocket science to see that Ojougboh is economical with the tuth. There is no report or evidence anywhere that the Federal Government is paying every Nigerian N30,000 each. In case Ojougboh does not know what this amounts to, based on a population of 200 million, that comes to N6 trillion! Certainly, no such ’emergency expenditure’ has been undertaken by the Buhari administration since the Covid-19 pandemic. Similarly, the National Assembly has not awarded its members Covid-19 pandemic bonuses. Ojougboh is an embarrassment to the Buhari administration.

The behaviour of Ojougboh mirrors the character of the people that the Niger Delta Minister Godswill Akpabio has selected to administer the NDDC under his IMC contraption. If they are not fainting to dodge answering questions on their misappropriation of funds at the NDDC, they are telling exaggerated lies!

Of course, that Ojougboh and his IMC colleagues are still parading themselves as IMC officials and continue their pathetic lies, despite their indictment for corruption, is because the Buhari administration has failed to live up to its responsibility to the Nigerian people of punishing corruption and speedily prosecuting those indicted of corrupt practices. When characters like Ojougboh define the essence of a government, that government clearly has lost its moral compass.

It is necessary to remind readers of the facts of the IMC Corruption. Following weeks of painstaking investigation amid a calumny of blackmail by Akpabio and the IMC, the National Assembly undertook investigations into allegations of corruption and financial recklessness at the NDDC, including holding public hearings where IMC members further made confessional self-indicting statements. The 122-page Senate Report and Resolutions from the investigations revealed mind boggling extra budgetary expenditures by the IMC on frivolous and suspicious items, including N85.7 Million, paid for overseas travel to IMC members during the Covid19 lockdown; N105.5 Million, paid for non-existent Scholarship grants; N164.2 Million, paid to the NDDC Staff Union members for a journey to Italy, during the Covid19 lockdown when foreign travel was banned across the world; N1.12 Billion, paid for public communication activities during the Covid19 lockdown for which the IMC failed to provide evidence of places where the campaigns took place; N1.49 Billion, paid for Covid19 relief materials which was not procured, and the sum of N143.55 Million, paid to five Staff of PRS/MIS Department of the NDDC as “Advance for the 2020 budget Participatory Conference” which was supposed to hold during the lockdown and which it could not prove actually took place. Billions of naira more were reportedly paid to contractors without following due process financial rules and regulations.

In all, the IMC could not satisfactorily account for N81.5 billion paid out from the NDDC coffers over a period of nine months, between October 2019 and July 2020. Despite affirming publicly, in response to reporters’ questions on the NDDC probe, that some of his appointees “breached public trust” and promising to act when he gets the Senate report, this president who claims a public distaste for Corruption, has failed to act. The Niger Delta people and Nigerians in general cannot permit this to continue.

Buhari has diminished our democracy by allowing criminal actions of his appointees to go unpunished. His government cannot continue to act like it condones, even rewards, criminal behaviour by its appointees. Nigerians are waiting for him to act on the Corruption that has been exposed at the NDDC under the IMC.

Comrade Godknows Sotonye is the national coordinator of the Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition.

This article is sponsored by the Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition.

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