The fate of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Interim Management Committee (IMC), is hanging in the balance.
The NDDC’s IMC was recently indicted by a senate ad hoc committee which probed the N81.5 billion financial scandal rocking the commission.
The committee had recommended sack of the NDDC’s IMC and asked its officials to make refund of money amounting to N4.923 billion naira.
BIGPEN reports the senate committee also recommended a reversal of the NDDC to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) where it originally was prior to Buhari-led administration for proper supervision.
This is coming as stakeholders in the Niger Delta have called out President Muhammadu Buhari over the continuous stay of the IMC in office despite the huge fraud allegations trailing its tenureship.
Buhari had in May extended the tenure of IMC until December this year to leave office after it may have submitted its report on forensic audit commissioned last year.
The extension is to cover the period of the forensic audit of the NDDC, earlier approved by the Federal Executive Council, a terse statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina had said.
In a recent statement, the President expressed his interest in getting to the root of the NDDC crisis and urged the National Assembly and the law enforcement agencies to adopt better coordination in unraveling the commission’s problems as well as expedite actions on the task.
“All investigating agencies and auditing firms currently working collaboratively with National Assembly Committees to audit and reposition the NDDC must act with urgency and a sense of purpose, and ensure that I am kept informed of any and all actions being taken.
“Our determination to entrench transparency and accountability applies not only to the NDDC, but also to all other institutions of the Federal Government. We will not relent”, he said.
But the Senate, on Thursday, had adopted the recommendation of its ad-hoc committee on the alleged misappropriation of N40 billion by the IMC and passed a resolution, which among other things, called for the dissolution of the IMC, and refund of all the funds allegedly misappropriated.
The House of Representatives is expected to also tow the same path in its expected resolution.
Dependable sources told BIGPEN that the Presidency was yet to receive the senate report said to have indicted the IMC.
The source hinted that once the report is received in line with President declaration to get to the root of the NDDC crisis, it will be acted upon decisively at the appropriate time.
There have been public outrage over why the Presidency has kept the IMC with many groups including the nation’s main opposition party, PDP demanding the sack of Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and dissolution of the committee.
According to Nation report, Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesman, was quoted to have said that President Buhari would not act on the senate recommendations based on media reports but would wait until the resolutions of the National Assembly is passed to him.
“What I want to tell you is that if you want us to react to the resolutions of the National Assembly, the standard practice is that resolutions, like approved bills and all of that, are presented to the Presidency.
“We don’t want to react to media reports because of their inaccuracies and reporting by the media, we can do things that will hurt the cordial relationship the Executive and the Legislature.
“Nobody else wants to be rushed into any comment concerning any resolution by the House, until we receive in the Villa. The President receives them and directs actions.”
Meanwhile, pundits said any delay in the implementation of the national assembly recommendation by the presidency may spark unrest in the region as several groups are threatening mass protest that may cripple activities at the country’s oil and gas business hub.
This comes as the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) on Saturday, said it has started mobilising members to prod the implementation of the recommendation of the senate on NDDC financial scandals which they termed as “national disgrace”.
TUC President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, in a statement, said the Organised Labour is disturbed by the corrupt activities going at government’s Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals.
It vowed to call out members to reclaim Nigeria from an insignificant few that have cornered its wealth to themselves and cronies.
“How could all these happen in a region without portable water, good schools and road network? How could NDDC spend N122.9m for condolences when there is no good hospital for the sick?
“Why should this happen in a region where governors are saying they do not have the financial strength to pay the new minimum wage? Yet our leader, Muhammadu Buhari is celebrated world wide as anti corruption czar.
“NDDC, like others are jinxed. Everyone placed in charge of them steal from them and threaten whistleblowers.
“Until the government in power ceases to see appointments as political settlement the country will not make any significant progress. For once let action be taken and culprits seriously dealt with like it is done in most climes.
“The Congress shall henceforth take serious action against government policies because you cannot keep telling the people to tighten their belts while you loosen yours.
”It is inhuman to hike electricity tariff, VAT, increase the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as fuel only for the criminals in government to loot the money.
“To this end TUC is going ahead to mobilise the general public for a mass protest against the government and the institutions,” Olaleye said.
Another group, coming under the auspices of Niger Delta Development Initiative (NDDI), is already mobilizing critical stakeholders and well-meaning individuals in the region to march against the continuous stay of the IMC.
The group is rooting for the immediate sack of Mr. Godswill Akpabio, the current minister of the Niger Delta Affair who supervises NDDC, outright dissolution of the Interim Management Committee and demand for the reconstitution of a board for NDDC.
NDDI warned that failure to meet their demands within time could lead to chaos and disruption of oil facilities across the region.
“We note with anger the perceived corruption allegedly displayed or committed by Senator Akpabio and other members of the IMC which catered away billions of naira met for the development of region in line with the core mandates of NDDC was the height of inhuman and wickedness”.
The group alleged that Akpabio, the acting Executive Director, Dr Cairo Ojuogboh and other ‘cohorts’ had ran NDDC as their “personal empire” and “one-man-show” to the detriment of the region.
They reminded those allegedly ‘looting the commission’ that establishment of NDDC was a product of prolonged negotiations during the arms struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta.
According to the statement, “it is sad to note that Dr Cairo Ojuogboh who is from Agbor in Delta state which does not produce even a drop of oil dictating the actions, programs and policies of NDDC.
“They did not only stole the future of the people but also stole education and made countless Niger Deltans illiterate, they stole healthcare and killed countless children as well as money meant for generating employment and made millions jobless”.
Comrade Famous Daunimegha, (President) and Prince Kakas Amgbare, (spokesman) signed the statement on behalf of the group.
In an earlier report, BIGPEN reported that, a group of leaders, elders and stakeholders under the auspices of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), had on Wednesday, said they are not interested in the drama and semantics playing out since the NDDC probe started, but instead want the presidency and National Assembly to get to the root of the allegations and take decisive decision in the interest of the oil-rich region.
“All the Niger Delta wants is that justice be done and stolen loot recovered,” Mr. Tony I Uranta, the group’s Secretary General, said in a statement.
“UNDEDSS has repeatedly decried the quantum of corruption that has become the trademark of the NDDC and the governments of the Niger Delta.
“We have been totally in support of the current renewed anti-corruption stance and directives of President Buhari; especially the demand that a comprehensive forensic audit be carried out as directed by Mr. President, and, that those indicted be made to face the full consequences of criminality in courts of law”, the Uranta’s group said.
Meanwhile, another group, Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (CHURAC), has described the situation in NDDC as a “horrible matter” that demand urgent intervention.
The group stated that the Niger Delta is currently “facing two ways dimensional scams” from the supervising Minister to the NDDC and the Interim Management Committee (IMC) on one side”, Oyinkedi Fuofegha, Publicity Secretary, of the group said in a statement.
The group said the both Akpabio and the IMC need to be probed by the presidency in the same manner they did to the former Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu so as to unearth the mysteries behind the allegations against them.
“While the accusers, the National Assembly ad hoc or standing Committees on Niger Delta should be investigated properly by the anti-graft agencies”, the group added.
Making their demands in a statement on Saturday, CHURAC said, “The presidency should invoke the National Inquiry Act to empanel reputable Nigerians in order to take carry out a holistic investigation of all allegations and counter allegations against the interim management team of the Commission and members of the National Assembly.
“The NASS is in all sense of probity, prudence and accountability lacked the natural principles of fair hearing to investigate corruption in NDDC when its members are accused of neck deep in the largesse. President Buhari should immediately intervene to unravel the truth.
“We said it in different forum that NDDC is swimming on a cesspool of corruption. Indeed, the purpose of its establishment has been defeated. Though we supported the IMC because of the way and manner Buhari disobeyed the NDDC enabling Act in constituting that botched substantive board. However, we didn’t support them to be soiled in the looting spree.
“Our appeal therefore is that Buhari should disband the IMC immediately. He should just appoint a substantive board in line with the NDDC Establishment Act, 2000 while the forensic audit goes on. The Commission should be removed from Akpabio’s coordination in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and be given back to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“The forensic audit should also cover the periods Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Coordinating Minister to NDDC and the IMC are holding sway the Commission. Buhari should leave no stone unturned if he is fighting corruption”, the group reiterated.
The senate ad hoc Committee had queried how the NDDC’s IMC had expended the extra budgetary sum on staff and contractors in breach of the procurement process and approvals at a time the country was under a lockdown.
The sleaze-ridden IMC had during senate public hearing on the reported N81.5 billion allegations, gave a breakdown of the expended N4.923 billion as cost for overseas travel to the United Kingdom in the sum of N85.7million. Senate report says the money was paid to 14 staff members of NDDC’s IMC to travel to the United Kingdom.
The IMC, also claimed that scholarships grants to Niger Delta students studying abroad cost the sum of N105.5million. It also claimed that the Union members had a trip to Italy which cost 164.2million.
The payment was reportedly made on April 3, 2020, to some NDDC union executives for an International Labour Organisation conference in Turin, Italy during the worldwide lockdown, according to senate investigative report.
Besides, they claimed that Lassa Fever Kit was bought for Niger Delta states at the cost of N1.96billon while Public Communication amounted to N1.12billion and COVID-19 Relief to residents of the region also cost N1.96billon.
The Chairman of the Senate Ad hoc Committee set up to probe the NDDC, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Ekiti North), described the use of the funds as “financial recklessness” in breach of the procurement process and approvals.
While presenting the Committee’s report and adopted recommendations Adetunmbi said: “In conclusion, the Committee noted that it is difficult to find a correlation between Niger Delta community development and cash invested in the zone.
In view of this, the committee recommended the sack of the IMC to President Muhammadu Buhari as well as reversal of the NDDC to the Office of the Secretary the Government of the Federation (SGF) for proper supervision. NDDC, prior to President Buhari’s-led administration, was under the supervision of the SGF.
Giving reason why President Buhari should dissolve the controversial Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei-led IMC, Senator Adetunmbi opined, “Continued cash injection in the Niger Delta challenge issue has not worked under the various IMCs.
“It may be useful at this juncture for the Government to intervene by stepping down the EIMC (Executive Interim Management Committee), thereby helping them leave the stage for a properly constituted board with specific mandate to address the pains of the Niger Delta people”, the senate said in its report.