A Niger Delta group, Global Centre for Good Governance (GCGG), has implored the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the leadership of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to leave the National Assembly alone as it carries out its oversight function in relation to the probe of alleged N40 billion expenditure by the NDDC.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, Dr. Chris Udoh, Country Director of GCGG, expressed regrets that the IMC of NDDC has not answered questions on the alleged spendings but only blaming “disgruntled elite who are uncomfortable with the forensic audit of the commission.”
He said his group is “raising concern regarding the loud murmuring in the public space that the Minister has been boasting that he will be cleared of all allegations” and also claims by those with insider knowledge that since the COVID-19 contract scandal broke out, there has been displacement of files, alteration of payment schedules and persuasion of some collaborators to go underground in a bid to frustrate the National Assembly’s probe.
Udoh said issues the probe should look into are the complete payment to a company for construction of the head office building when less than 70 per cent of the job had been done; payments running into billions of Naira for phony contracts covering water hyacinths, emergency road construction and river desilting; payment of billions of Naira for cholera vaccine and Lassa fever protective kits; and the order for all directors/heads of departments/units to proceed on mandatory leave even when they still have two years or less to their legitimate retirement.
The group praised the National Assembly for rising to the challenges of exercising its oversight functions on the NDDC, insisting that “the actors at NDDC must be made to appreciate that they can be restrained by the limiting structures and facilities of oversight powers of the National Assembly.”
It urged the National Assembly to deploy all tools available to it to uncover any fraud in the agency.
Udoh urged the National Assembly Committees probing the NDDC to collaborate with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and the Central Bank of Nigeria to ascertain the true amount of money that has been paid out since the Niger Delta Ministry assumed supervisory role of NDDC.
According to them, “all contract documents must be produced and complete TSA schedules tendered. Evidence of delivery of supplied items not only to the NDDC stores but to end users with dates and acknowledgments must be made available. The National Assembly must engage in rigorous examinations, even to the point of brain scan that would reveal lying, doubts and the smallest hesitation. This has become necessary because the stories coming out of NDDC in the last three months are very disheartening.
“The National Assembly should go a step further to determine the veracity or otherwise of the alleged reprisal and retaliation attacks on the staff of the commission who are being mandated to proceed on compulsory leave or retirement.”
The Global Centre for Good Governance said if the allegations turn out untrue, the minister and IMC should get “unreserved apology of the public.”
It said If, on the other hand, the allegations are proved to be true, “then our only demand would be that the guilty be severely punished and all the wrongs made right.”