Alleged corruption in NDDC: CSO demands probe, prosecution

As the world continue to lament and find a cure for the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, a Civil Society Organisation known as Act for Positive Transformation Initiative has called on President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly and the anti-corruption agencies to investigate and prosecute the alleged mismanagement of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) COVID-19 intervention project.

According to a statement signed by the organisation’s Head Directorate of Research & Programs, Kolawole Johnson, a member of NDDC’s Interim Management Committee, Dr Cairo Ojugboh, and others have been enmeshed in an alleged mismanagement of the funds meant for the people of Niger Delta.

The statement reads in part: “President Muhammadu Buhari, out of concern for the people of the Niger Delta region, appointed an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to clean the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), conduct forensic audit and make it more responsive to the people.

“Sunday, April 26, 2020, Nigerians watched a member of the Interim Management Committee, The Director of Project, Dr Cairo Ojugboh, on Channels Television struggling hard to defend grisly allegations of corruption steamrolled on the Commission.

“Our organisation, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, has fact checked many of his claims and found them to be, at best, dishonorable mendacities and unconcealed lies. First, Dr Cairo claimed contract has not been awarded for any intervention on COVID-19. This is falsehood. Contracts were indeed awarded on the 6th of April, 2020.

“Also, Cairo claimed he was not familiar with a company called Osmoserve, he lied. Osmoserve got the largest share of the self-serving COVID-19 intervention contract amounting to N4,861,354,250.00 and received mobilization more than one week prior to the TV program. Sadly, Osmoserve Global Ltd should be under a stern flashlight of the forensic probe, having benefitted more than any other company in recent years in numerous emergency projects that brought the commission to its knees, yet the Interim Management made same company its looting agent.

“After Osmoserve’s fraudulent contract award, official documents show that about four other companies were awarded COVID-19 related contracts and payments approved same date except for a company that objected to unofficially terms advanced by the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

“The companies are: AHR GLOBAL STANDARD SERVICES LTD (Batch no: 13662 & Vat no: 13664), awarded emergency procurement of social relief packs. JULIUS DINGA NIG LTD (Batch no: 13656 & Vat no: 13658), award for emergency consultancy for the provision of publicity on the prevention of spread of corona virus across the Nine Niger Delta states. TABLES AND BUILDINGS NIG LTD (Batch no: 13659 & Vat no: 13660).

“Like many other contracts, these ones were not meant to be executed. Once payments are made, it is alleged that contractors change money to dollar and share accordingly. Perhaps this is the underlying reason the Executive Director, Project, denied the existence of these awards on National Television.

“For Osmoserve Global LTD, award was given for emergency supply and delivery of medical equipment and consumables to the NDDC warehouse. In characteristic style of the present IMC, supply details and specification are always not indicated in the award letter in order to frustrate audit process. The letter of award claimed the medical equipment was meant for testing, treatment and care of COVID-19 cases.

“Transaction was initiated by Mr Effiong Henry, approved same date by the Executive Director, Finance & Administration, Ibanga Basset Etang and got the final payment approval of the Acting MD, Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, within half an hour, precisely on the 15th of April, 2020. The sum of Seven Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million, Two Hundred and Three Thousand, One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Naira, Fifty Kobo (729,203,137.50) was treated for payment. For verification, the details of transaction from the TSA account are as follow: Batch no: 13593, Vat no: 13595 and Withholding Tax no: 13594. This can be verified by anyone.”

The CSO also called for urgent action, saying, “We have made the job much easier by providing far reaching details. Of note is the open confession of Dr Cairo that Presidential approval for the COVID-19 intervention projects would be communicated officially to the commission on Monday, 27th, April, 2020. The implication is simple: the fraudulently management acted illegally in flagrant defiance to Fiscal Responsibility Act, since contracts were awarded and money paid without lawful approval.

“This further exposes the level of desperation to loot as the purported request for approval was sent to the President in retrospect. For every payment made, we have it on good authority that a topmost kingpin collects kickbacks ranging from 30 to 45 per cent, depending on the status of contract. For the past six months, it has been widely alleged that the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godwill Akpabio, has been using the forensic audit as smokescreen to mop up the account of the agency.

“Nigerians should also note, the commission has squandered over Fourty Nine Billion naira ( N49B) in illegal payments in the last two months, most of which are in defiance to Public Procurement Act yet Dr Cairo claimed the present Interim Management Committee is yet to award any contract.

“Today, dead fishes litter the Niger Delta coastline due to toxic releases of oil processing companies. The avenue for subsisting income for indigents has been wiped off which may lead to widespread hunger in the land. Shall we close our eyes to this mad fleece while people die in suffering?

“While the public space is swashed with several allegations of corruption against the management, the All Progressive Congress, through its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, rose in cover for the Commission. Whereas it irresponsibly shows the Party is not on the same page with Mr President on his anti-corruption war, it will, nonetheless, be criminal to find it as an active group player in the ongoing looting of the NDDC.

“We call on the anti-corruption agencies to rise to the occasion to save whatever is left in the account of the commission. This serves as a SOS call to the National Assembly to act in the interest of the people. The time is now. The commission, as presently constituted, is like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, it shines and stinks. We call on The Ministry of Finance, CBN and the Accountant General Office to make public all NDDC transactions from the TSA account in the last two months.”

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