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NDDC: IMC looting spree must be stopped

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The fresh revelations of fraudulent and extravagant spending by the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission call for urgent action by the federal government to save the Commission. We also call on the Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives probing the corruption allegations against the IMC to uphold the law and live up to the expectations of the Niger Delta people, especially as we see on a regular basis more evidence of grand larceny by the IMC.

From illegal and injudicious payment for spurious contracts to the award of dubious image laundering contracts at humongous sums, the IMC seems to have perfected the art of living large on our Commonwealth, while the Niger Delta people live in abject poverty, and without a check by the Niger Delta Ministry. Since January 2020, the IMC has spent over N80 billion with nothing to show for it, much of the amount ending up in their private pockets. This is wicked and heartless.

We are confronted again with fresh evidence that the members are not just padding and paying contractors for shady jobs, they are brazenly collecting millions of naira in extra-budgetary allowances, and shamelessly diverting scholarship meant for Niger Delta students to their personal accounts.

The fresh petition by the Anti-Corruption NGO, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative (APTI), to the National Assembly and signed by the Head, Directorate of Research, Strategy and Programmes, Kolawole Johnson, accompanied with records of transactions made by the IMC, details several pieces of evidence of self-aggrandizement by the IMC members on a scale we could not have anticipated. The group showed that the IMC members have compromised and recruited some senior staff of the NDDC, through whom they paid themselves generous monthly allowances running into hundreds of millions of naira outside the schedule of allowances provided for by law.

According to the group, “The MD of the commission, Prof Pondei routes one of his illegal monthly allowances of N51.6m as imprest on ‘Personal Security and Project Monitoring’ through the bank account of a staffer named Oweife Justina with employee ID no 94 while Dr Cairo Ojugboh, who collects N18m for the same purpose, uses Eno Ukpe’s bank account, a staffer with employee ID no 509, for his payments. They also receive N10m monthly for hosting visitors. These payments are not connected to the money already provided in the budget for project monitoring, which has been overdrawn by over N180m in the last few months.”

Yet, though they treat themselves generously to helpings from the NDDC funds, the IMC executive management’s greed is boundless, as shown by NDDC payment records from its accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Kolawole added: “Among numerous agitations, our office is, in recent times, inundated with cries from students abroad under the commission’s scholarship who are currently stranded in different countries. While these students are facing untold hardship, the present Interim Management Committee members are busy paying themselves money meant for the hapless students.

“Prof Pondei in particular paid himself and received foreign scholarship payments into his private UBA account no 1002290165 on the 17th of April at about 16:50GMT. Same for Dr Cairo Ojugboh who also received millions into his private account no 1002428409 around 16:24GMT being payment for a 2020 post-graduate scholarship for himself. Several staff, especially those who had allegedly conspired with the present management to squander the commission’s fund, also received millions into their private accounts for the same 2020 post-graduate scholarship they never attended even during the lockdown.”

These are indeed serious indiscretions and abuse of office. For instance, on what basis are scholarship funds paid to the accounts of IMC members? Are the IMC members on a scholarship?

We have noticed that as these allegations come forth the IMC has persisted in engaging in a campaign of calumny against us and other Niger Delta activists pointing out their infractions, using men and women of easy valour. This same approach it has taken to stymie the investigation by the Committees of the National Assembly.

We, however, call on the investigating committees of the Senate and House of Representatives that they must not allow themselves to be Blindsided by the false propaganda being undertaken by hirelings of the IMC to abandon probity for compromise. They should diligently pursue these allegations in line with their constitutional duty under Section 88 of the Constitution and unravel the fraudulent activity of the IMC to ensure that justice is done.

Given the profligate nature of the IMC, we concur with APTI that the spending powers of the IMC has to be curtailed and limited to the payment of salaries and essential running costs with immediate effect. In the final analysis the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari should revisit the inauguration of a substantive Governing Board for the NDDC.

The argument that the probe of the IMC will affect the forensic audit is false because the IMC has no role in the audit, except if the agenda is to guide the auditors to work to the answer. Our position is that a credible independent international audit firm be engaged for the forensic audit.

The authentic voices of the Niger Delta are very clear in our demands, which are:

The IMC is illegal and does not follow the Act. The IMC must be disbanded immediately because, as an illegal contraption, it serves no functional purpose in the administration of the NDDC.

Since IMC has been there for the past seven months, the National Assembly must investigate its operations, the allegations made against it and Akpabio, and recover all funds spent without proper appropriation and in negation of extant rules of financial propriety.

The forensic audit has to be done by a reputable independent auditor, creditably and independently, just as the NNPC audit was done by Price Waterhouse a few years back while the legitimate board and management was still in place. The board and management of the NNPC were not set aside for an IMC in order to do the audit. The audit was done independently.

The NDDC Governing Board, which is provided for in line with the law, should be put in place immediately to run the affairs of the Commission.

In conclusion, we urge the Senate and House of Representatives to remain steadfast in their probe of the IMC in the discharge of their constitutional mandate of oversight (in line with Section 88 of the Constitution). We want to emphasize that Niger Deltans are fully behind all legitimate efforts to strengthen the NDDC, including the recovery of money illegally and unjustifiably spent by the IMC.

Arogbofa is the Director of Research, Strategy and Information of Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition.

This is a sponsored content is by Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition.


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