The Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Hon. Olubumi Tunji-Ojo (APC-Ondo), has recuse himself from the ongoing probe of the commission.
The committee is investigating an alleged of N82.5 billion irregular expenditure in the NDDC but the acting Managing Director of the commission, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, and his team, last Thursday, walked out on the legislators.
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Pondei 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.
Akpabio, Pondei being grilled
The committee had, last Friday, summoned the Minister of Niger Delta Affair, Sen. Godswill Akpabio to respond to allegation of irregular expenditure in the NDDC.
The committee also summoned Pondei and the Managing Director of AHR Global Service Ltd among others.
The summon was sequel to the refusal of the officials to honour an invitation to appear and respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
The Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Tunji-Ojo ruled that they should appear unfailingly on Monday, July 20.
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 Nunih, 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.
Nunih said that she was under pressure by Akpabio to abuse processes and to engage in financial recklessness.