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NDDC MD accuses National Assembly members of demanding N6.4billion for fake contracts

The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission,

NDDC, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, has accused the committees of the

National Assembly responsible for the oversight the Commission of

working against the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu

Buhari.

Addressing a press conference at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt

Tuesday, Professor Pondei said that the probe being embarked on by the

National Assembly was distracting the Commission from focusing on the

forensic audit which all stakeholders, including governors of the nine

Niger Delta States, agreed with Mr President as the way forward for the

Commission.

He declared: “We suspect that the probe being trumpeted by the National

Assembly is not for altruistic reason but an attempt by some members to

arm twist the Interim Management Committee.”

Pondei justified the claim, stating: “We have faced so much pressure

from some members of the National Assembly not to send certain files to

forensic auditors. We fear that this will compromise the integrity of

the exercise and have refused to do their bidding.

“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 N6.4 billion for those jobs. We believe that an IMC set up as a

cleansing structure cannot become part of the old story of rot.”

The NDDC Chief Executive Officer observed that since the IMC came to

make NDDC better and had a limited mandate till December, it had

summoned the courage its predecessors did not have to tell Nigerians the

truth.

He lamented: “50 per cent of NDDC’s inability to deliver on its mandate

is as a result of the stranglehold of the National Assembly on the

Commission.

“The National Assembly delays passage of the Commission’s budget until

it is too late for it to be implemented. The 2019 was passed two months

to the end of its implementation period. In fact, the hard copy was

received by the Commission on April 10, 2020 when the 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.

“Two, the budgets are bastardised by National Assembly in a way that

renders it useless. A case will suffice. In the 2019 budget, we had a

provision of N1.32 billion to pay our counterpart funding to the

International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, for the $129.7m

Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises Programme in the Niger Delta

(LIFE-ND). The National Assembly cut the provision to N100 million. 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 N1.32 billion

obligation?

“Three, the National Assembly members insert items we had no plans for.

These items are then forced on the Commission when it is not part of the

master plan. Rather than be a major intervention agency, the Commission

is busy erecting street lights and drainages, something local

governments should do.”

Pondei explained that at the time the expanded IMC took over on February

20, 2020, the 2019 and 2020 budget of the NDDC had already been

transmitted to the National Assembly, noting that the 2019 budget was

laid before the two chambers and it was approved.

He said, however, that the problem was in harmonization of the budget

which was to follow the approval. “For that to be done, we were told to

pay for some contracts. That was relayed to us through the Chairman of

the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC. We waited for the

meeting but it did not take place because we had not paid. On March 17,

2020 we managed to pay some and on March 19, 2020 we paid the others.

That was when approval was transmitted to us on March 20, 2020,” Pondei

said.

He added: “We understand that this had been the regular practice over

the years. You have to accede to the requests of the National Assembly

or you don’t have a budget. It was the lack of budget in 2016 and 2017

that led the past administrations in NDDC to device what is now called

the emergency projects. That was the only way they could get some

projects to be executed until it has now become a very big burden.”

Pondei stressed that until the NDDC returned to the drawing board to

work out a budgetary process that was transparent and free from the

stranglehold of the committees of the National Assembly, the problems of

the Commission would persist.

He stated: “Even if you bring somebody from outer space, if you don’t

remove the bottlenecks, the problems with the NDDC budget will persist.

I can come here with a vision to put water in every community but you

approve a budget without provision for water. How then can I contribute

to changing the Niger Delta?

“Those who are clamouring for the change of members of the IMC miss the

point. Without addressing the flaws of the system, changing people will

take us nowhere. The problem is not who is running the place now, it is

the underlying processes that are rotten and need to be sorted out.”

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