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Drama as NDDC MD, Pondei, ‘faints’ during Reps Committee interrogation

The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, ‘fainted’ on Monday during his presentation at the ongoing probe of…

The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, ‘fainted’ on Monday during his presentation at the ongoing probe of the agency by the House of Representatives.

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio and the Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei-led NDDC’s Interim Management Committee (IMC) appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta over alleged corruption.

The committee is investigating an alleged N82.5 billion irregular expenditure in the NDDC

Akpabio and Pondei were issued with summons at the last sitting of the Olubunmi Tuji-Ojo led committee on Friday.

Former  NDDC Managing Director, Joy Nunieh, appeared before the committee via Zoom on Friday where she levelled many allegations of arbitrary breach of laid down rules in awards of contracts.

Nunei had been having a running battle with the former Akwa Ibom State Governor and now the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs over what transpired at NDDC during her tenure.

The committee had, last Wednesday, interrogated officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Auditor-General of the Federation.

The committee’s chairman said the documents submitted by both the CBN and the Auditor-General of the Federation showed that the total amount spent by the NDDC from January to May 2020 was N81.5 billion.

He said the commission claimed to have spent N1.3bn on community relations, N122.9m on condolences, N83m on consultancy and N3.14bn on COVID-19, N486m Duty Travel Allowance, N790.9m as imprest, N1.956bn on Lassa Fever, N900m on Legal Service, N220m on maintenance, N85.6m on foreign travels, N1.121bn on public projects communication, N744m on security, N8.8bn on staffing-related payment.

He said the NDDC also spent N248m on stakeholders’ engagement from February 18 to May 31, 2020.

The Auditor-General, Anthony Ayine and the representative of the Accountant-General, Sabo Mohammed, confirmed the N81.5bn transactions being investigated.

Chair rescues self

The Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Hon. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo (APC-Ondo),  recused himself from the ongoing probe.

Pondei had accused him of being an interested party in the probe.

Pondei, last week, stormed out of the hearing after accusing Hon. Tunji-Ojo of corruption.

“We in the NDDC are not comfortable with the Chairman of this committee presiding over a matter.

“He is an accused party.

“The NDDC has, over time accused, Rep. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC and he has responded in the press.

“He is an interested party and we do not believe that the NDDC can have justice because he cannot seat on his own case.

“We have no issue of appearing.

“We appeared before the Senate ad hoc committee and as long as he remains, we will not make any presentation,” he had said before walking out with his team.

The deputy chairman of the committee is now chairing the hearing.

The Allegations

Mr Johnson Kolawole, the Head, Directorate of Research and Programmes, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, NGO, accused the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC of gross abuse of budget implementation process.

He stated that the IMC had expended over N80 billion between January 2020 and May 2020 as against the N22 billion repeatedly portrayed by the IMC.

He said that the 2019 Appropriation Act as passed by the National Assembly provided for some emergency projects across the state in the region with an additional N800 million as emergency contingency sum.

According to him, the IMC had spent N20 billion on emergency road repairs; there are fraudulent cases of contract inflation and non-implementation.

“How would they explain the payment of N13.6 million for consultancy on the construction of ‘infant Jesus’?

“The said payment went into a Zenith Bank account number 1014119683.

“On May 19, 2020, the IMC paid a firm 39.375 Million Naira as consultancy fee for rebuttal. What a waste!

“The company had earlier received 34 Million naira into its Zenith Bank account number 1012613187 for ‘consultancy on reputation management for NDDC’.

“Same day, when businesses and countries were closing their doors, the same company, Clear Point Communication Ltd was paid N34 million for ‘Niger Delta Development Forum in Washington DC, USA’ and another N32.9 million for ‘Summit on NDDC and Investment Opportunities in Dorchester, London’, same day.

“There was no evidence of implementation of above contracts.

“Money paid went to private individuals; this ad hoc committee can call for the account statements of the firm to verify this.

“Same company received into same account a sum of 536 Million Naira for ‘campaign to save lives’ in the Niger Delta on April 23, 2020.

“The payment was broken into 16 units to divert attention.

“Again, the money went into private pockets, some staffs of the commission were beneficiaries.

“May 22nd, another N641 million was paid to the same company for media support for forensic audit as though a forensic audit was meant to be a media affair,” he said.

Kolawale alleged that monies meant for students on scholarship abroad were being diverted into a private account of the IMC.

Ms Joy Nunei, former acting Managing Director NDDC told the committee that only N8 billion of the said N81.5 billion spent between October 2019 to May 2020 was spent under her watch.

Nunei said that she was under pressure by Akpabio to abuse processes and to engage in financial recklessness.

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