ABUJA — Worried by alleged mismanagement of funds of the commission running into billions of Naira, the Presidency has summoned the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to answer questions on the true financial status of the agency.
Competent sources confirmed to the media that the President would meet the management team of the NDDC and take them up on many issues relating to the management of the resources of the commission since the new board came on board in December 2013.
Buhari, according to sources close to his office, is furious that the management has allowed influential politicians to hijack the agency and made away with billions of Naira under the guise of executing contracts with little or no result on the ground to show for such money.
It was learnt that the President would seek answers to why the commission refused to adhere to due process in the award of major contracts valued at billions of Naira, preferring instead to split them in violation of the Public Procurement Act.
The President is reported to have been furious that the commission went ahead to award multi-billion naira contracts, paid and backdated them to last year to cover the financial misdeed even after the board had been sacked with a specific mandate to the managing director to take over the place.
Attempt to divert N3.8bn allocation
The struggle for the control of the finances of the commission is said to have reached its most embarrassing point about two months ago when two directors of the commission connived and withdrew N3.8 billion from the NDDC account in the Central Bank of Nigeria and paid the money to their favoured contractors drawn from their own states, leaving the managing director in the dark.
It was learnt that the managing director, who had accused the CBN of withholding the money was shocked on reaching the CBN to discover that two of his directors had secretly signed and collected the huge amount and paid to their ‘contractor-friends’ without his knowledge.
It was also learnt that the meeting, which is to take place at the Presidential Villa this week, is to enable President Muhammadu Buhari to get first brief from the Managing Director, Mr. Dan Abia and the two executive directors of Finance and Projects, Henry Ogiri and Engr. Tuoyo Omatsuli on what they have been doing to move the troubled region forward since they were appointed to office in December 2013 by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The briefing by the three key officials will also determine the next line by Buhari regarding their continued stay in office given the gamut of petitions of wrongdoing against them by Niger Delta stakeholders, individuals and groups.
Diversion of N2.7bn
In one case and with documents made available to the media, N12.5 billion was split by the commission and paid to 12 companies said to be sponsored by top politicians close to the commssion for the ‘supply of security vehicles’ for the Nigeria Police Force to patrol the Niger Delta states only for the same commission to award another N2.7 billion ‘contract to individuals and groups’ to supply the commission with ‘intelligence gathering/management’.
A top source in the commission said that aggrieved staff and stakeholders have already raised the alarm that the so-called amount claimed to have been ‘paid’ to the intelligence-gathering contractors was simply diverted for political purposes.
“The truth is that no project called intelligence gathering was ever carried out but it was just a trick by some highly-placed persons to divert the money,” an official of the commission confessed.
The contract bazaar by the commission also saw another N1.6 billion being carefully split among 85 companies for the ‘procurement, transportation and delivery’ of waste disposal trucks to the commission. It could not be ascertained if the trucks had arrived Port Harcourt as at last night.
But the most embarrassing, according to new documents released to Vanguard, is the award of another set of contracts to influential politicians worth billions of Naira under the subhead of “Women Empowerment Programme” of the NDDC for the supply and delivery of tricycles to the commission which was also backdated to last year to cover the misdeed as the amount involved was far beyond the approval limit o the commission.
Findings showed that the President decided to invite the management to explain their actions to him after receiving series of briefings on the troubled board by officials of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, which supervises the NDDC.
But a director in the commission, who did not want to be quoted told the media in Port Harcourt that the meeting with PMB was not as a result of the adverse audit report but a deliberate effort by the commission to brief the president on the activities of the agency.
The official explained that it was the management that requested for an audience with the Presidency in order to clear the air on many issues relating to the NDDC, one of which was the confusion over whether the two executive directors should continue in office after the board that brought them had been sacked.
The commission has been mentioned lately in a web of corruption allegations ranging from contract-splitting running into billions of Naira and inability to account for N183.7 billion which passed through it between 2008 and 2012.
Angered by the development, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukara, has issued a query to the embattled commission to account for the huge amount of public funds, an action that has not gone down well with the Executive Director, Finance, Mr. Henry Ogiri.
Apart from vilifying the Auditor-General for making the report public, Ogiri also questioned the audacity of Ukara to insist that the commission was unable to account for the said amount and called on the Institute of Accounts in Nigeria, ICAN, to discipline Ukara for alleged ‘unprofessional conduct’.
But the AGF has stood his grounds, maintaining that the NDDC refused to respond to repeated pleas by his office to respond to audit queries issued to it despite sustained reminders spanning over a year in each case.