Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, Acting Managing Director of NDDC

IMC alleges NASS ‘padded’ NDDC’s proposed budget 2020 with N11.5bn

*Accuses 7 contractors of failure to supply 4,800 benches, desks valued at N1.623 billion

*Where are the schools you are going to put N11.5 billion worth of chairs, desks in Niger Delta region? Asks Director of Projects

*Niger Delta groups want Buhari to suspend procurements in NDDC

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

While battling to clear the Commission of sundry allegations of sleaze and financial irresponsibility in discharging its mandate to the Niger Delta people in Nigeria in the ongoing investigations, the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has alleged that N11.5billion contracts were smuggled into the agency’s proposed budget 2020.

The NDDC Sunday, August 9 alleged that the “non-essential contracts” were for the supply of desks and chairs to schools in the Niger Delta.

Cairo Ojuogboh, Director of Projects, in a statement by Charles Odili, Corporate Affairs Director at NDDC, Sunday questioned the rationale behind the “N11.5bn non-essential contracts” for the 4,800 chairs and desks, wondering where they would be deployed in.

Previously, the Commission was also said to have petitioned Mr. Mohammed Adamu, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), in respect of failure to supply 4,800 benches and desks by seven contractors, valued at N1.623 billion.

Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, Acting Managing Director of the Commission, in his petition to the IGP, dated July 29, 2020, and tilted: “Re: Forwarding of documents in respect of on-going investigation”, had alleged that seven contractors were paid N232,209,600 each for 4,800 chairs and desks, but were not supplied to the Commission but to a private warehouse in Delta State.

The warehouse operator has refused to release the chairs and desks to the commission, thereby denying schools in the region their use.

The IMC has been at loggerheads with the National Assembly (NASS) over the probe of alleged financial recklessness and maladministration in the NDDC originally established to uplift the socio-economic fortune of the Niger Deltans.

Pondei, Acting Managing Director NDDC, and Ojuogboh also accused Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, Senate Committee Chairman, and Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee of being direct beneficiaries of the agency’s contracts.

However, report indicates that both individuals have denounced the allegations against them.

The Director of Projects said: “This year alone (2020), they put N11.5billion in the budget for the supply of desks and chairs to schools in the Niger Delta region.

“Where are the schools that you are going to put N11.5 billion worth of chairs and desks in the region?”

However, it was learnt Ojougboh did not state the budget in question since that of 2020 is yet to be passed by the National Assembly.

He assured that the Commission would resume the inspection of its projects across the Niger Delta in spite of “distractions.”

“We have had enough of distractions, and we have decided not to be bogged down anymore. We will go about our work with renewed vigor.

“We are taking a special interest in the distilling projects, because heavy rains are coming and some areas will be flooded.

“We will visit all the locations because no payments will be made until our engineers, quantity surveyors and the Project Monitoring and Supervision (PMS) have approved.”

He clarified that the Pondei-led IMC had only paid for verified jobs that were done over the years.

Meanwhile, Niger Delta groups have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend all procurements in Niger Delta Development Commission.

In their petition, 29 civil society organisations (CSOs) across the Niger Delta recommended that supervision of the NDDC should be returned to the Presidency.

The groups, which lamented what they described as systemic hijack and grand corruption in the NDDC, said: “We are shocked by the mind-boggling revelations at the parliamentary investigative hearings of Procurement Act violations and contract frauds, non-budgetary and extra-budgetary expenditures, confessions of illicit solicitations and crooked contracts by the former and present leadership of the commission, fully-paid but non-executed projects and outright embezzlement in the agency.”

According to them, “this rot in the NDDC is not a recent phenomenon; it rather dates way back to almost the commencement of the commission.

“What started as bribery cum inducement to influence and get contracts, and to which authorities then paid a blind eye, quickly up-scaled and snowballed in both dimension and magnitude, to what we see today.”

“As has clearly emerged, today, all known and unknown means are contrived in the commission to beat due-process, by-pass regulating laws and side-step checks and balances.

“It is thus very sad that the humongous resources running into trillions of naira that have accrued to the region through the NDDC has systematically dissipated without any commensurate or even near-commensurate infrastructure or impact to ascribe to it,” they said in the petition.

Vivian Bellonwu (Social Development Integrated Centre); Jaye Gaskia (Take Back Nigeria Movement); Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre); Ken Henshaw (Centre for Social Studies and Development) and Bonney Akaeze (Delta State Anti-Corruption Network), among others signed the petition.

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