The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Prof. Keme Pondei, on Tuesday explained how some National Assembly members made it difficult for the agency to achieve its mandate of developing the Niger Delta region.
Pondei told newsmen in Port Harcourt that at a point, the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC had to face pressure from the unnamed National Assembly members to pay for 132 jobs without any proof of execution.
He said, “We have also faced pressure from some members of the National Assembly to pay for 132 jobs, which have no proof of execution. We have refused to pay out N6.4bn for those jobs.
“We believe that an IMC set up as a cleansing structure cannot become part of the old story of rot. Since this IMC came to make NDDC better and has a limited mandate till December, we can as well summon the courage our predecessors did not summon to tell Nigerians the truth.
“Fifty per cent of NDDC’s inability to deliver its mandate is as a result of the stranglehold of the National Assembly on the commission.’’
Speaking further, Pondei pointed out that the National Assembly was in the habit of delaying the NDDCs budget, adding that at the end, the budgets were always bastardised and made useless.
He said, “The National Assembly delays passage of the commission’s budget until it is too late for it to be implemented. The 2019 budget of the NDDC was passed two months to the end of implementation period. In fact, the hard copy was received by the commission on April 10, 2020 when implementation period ends on May 31.
“Given the procurement rules, it is not enough time to call for tender and execution of the jobs. The statutory period for advertising tenders is six weeks.
“The budgets are bastardised by the National Assembly in a way that render them useless. A case will suffice. In the 2019 NDDC budget, we had a provision of N1.32bn to pay our counterpart funding to the International Fund for Agricultural Development for the $129.7m Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises Programme in the Niger Delta.
“The National Assembly cut the provision to N100m. Are we going to IFAD, a UN agency, to tell them to bring their $129.7m when our National Assembly says we can only pay N100m out of N1.32bn obligation?’’
He lamented that some items inserted into the NDDC budgets by some National Assembly members were usually not planned for.
NDDC’s IMC hiding financial records –Reps
Responding, the House of Representatives criticised the NDDC for accusing it of delaying consideration and passage of the commission’s 2019 budget, stating that the NDDC actually delayed submission of the estimates.
The House particularly condemned the Executive Director, Projects and member of the Interim Management Committee, NDDC, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, of wrongly accusing the parliament of budget padding, among other allegations.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, in a statement issued on Tuesday, dismissed the claims recently made by Ojougboh on Arise TV against the House as “spurious and defamatory”, saying they were “engineered to cast aspersions on its integrity and credibility.”
Kalu said, “The claims by Dr Ojougboh that the House delayed passage of the 2019 NDDC budget are simply untrue and indicate a concerning ineptitude, ignorance and/or deliberate mischief by the executive director to deceive Nigerians about the financial improprieties of the commission, when in reality, it has been the House (that is) pushing the commission to do the needful and render account to the Nigerian people.”
The House’ spokesman pointed out that Section 18(1) of the NDDC (Establishment) Act mandates the commission to, not later than September 30 of each year, submit to the National Assembly, its budget estimates for the following year.
He added, “…The House states that the negligence and/or deliberate mischief of the commission has also frustrated all efforts by the National Assembly to expeditiously approve the commission’s 2020 budget.”