By Sanni Onogu, Abuja
The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) expended N81.5billion in eight months, The Nation learnt on Thursday.
The Chairman of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on the investigation of the alleged financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Adebunmi Adetunmbi gave this indication at an investigative public hearing of the panel at the National Assembly.
Adetunmbi disclosed the amount was contained in the submission of the IMC to the Ad hoc Committee.
According to him, the IMC (I) chaired by Mrs. Gbene Joi Nunieh between October 2019 to February 18, 2020 spent a total of N22.5billion out of the N81.5billion.
He added that the IMC (II) chaired by Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei between February 19, 2020 to May 31st 2020, spent N59.1billion.
According to him, community relations gulped N1.3billion; Condolences N122million; Consultancy N83.8million; COVID-19 intervention N3.14billion; Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) – N486million (N302million of the amount spent by IMC II); Imprest N790.9million; Lassa fever – N1.956billion; legal fees N906million; Logistics N61million; maintenance N61million and medicals – N2.6billion.
Others are: Overseas travel (to UK for graduation ceremony in May 2020) N85.6million; Payments for projects – N38.6billion; Public Communications N1.121billion; Security (IMC I and II) N744million; Staffing Related Payment (Salaries and Allowances) N20.9billion; Stakeholders Engagement (by IMC II from February 19 to May 31st 2020) N248.9million and General travels – N56.5million.
Adetunmbi sought to know why some of the payments, including those for projects were made to staff of the Commission.
He also asked the Acting Managing Director Pondei how a whooping N3.14billion was spent on COVID-19; N1.121billion for Public Communications; N744million for security; N248.9million for stakeholders engagement and N56.5million for General Travels.
Other expenditures the IMC of NDDC was asked to explain include Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) of N486million; (N302million of the amount spent by IMC II); Imprest of N790.9million; Lassa fever intervention to staff of N1.956billion.
Adetunmbi wondered how the N3.14billion allowance for COVID-19 was shared among the management and employees of the commission with one staff receiving N10million as “palliative”.
A further breakdown, according to the Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee, showed that NDDC paid N7million each to two other staff, N5 million to three staff each, N3 million each to 148 staff, N1.5 million each to 157 staff, and N1millon each to 497 staff.
The least staff who were mostly cleaners and security personnel in the commission got N600,000 each.
He also revealed that N475 million out of the amount was given to the “police for facemasks and hand sanitizers.”
READ ALSO: JUST IN: NDDC’s IMC spent N81.5bn in eight months, says Senate panel
He disclosed that N1.5billion in total was spent on NDDC staff as COVID-19 relief.
On the purpose of the COVID-19 payment to staff of NDDC, Professor Pondei said: “At the beginning of COVID-19, the NDDC as an intervention agency decided to intervene.
“The intervention came in this very form. We had challenges which triggered the intervention of a cash of N775 million to the nine states. They did not receive the same amount of money because in NDDC the states are treated according to the quantum of oil production.
“Now in addition to that there was N170 million. We have 27 Senatorial districts in the NDDC and because of pressure from our stakeholders we now budgeted and sought approval N5million for youth groups and, N5million for women and People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) in each Senatorial District of the nine states comprising the NDDC, which is the N270 million he was talking about.
“NDDC has over 4000 staff across the nine states each of these staff are also like representatives of their people. We were under a lot of pressure so we had to pay them too.
“It was to cushion the effect of the pandemic. Youths were idle and to avoid violence, they were paid as palliative,” Pondei said.
On why N475million was given to the police, Pondei said: “A request was made from the high command of Police and management took a look at it and approved it.”
Pondei requested that the Executive Director Projects of NDDC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, be allowed to make a presentation on behalf of the IMC which was granted by the Committee.
Ojougboh told the committee that no money is missing in the commission as all expenditures made where in accordance with due process.
He said that relevant approvals were sought from the board of the Commission.
He said that the IMC is grateful to the Senate for constituting an Ad hoc Committee to investigate allegations of recklessness against the IMC.
He later told reporters that the money given to its staff as COVID-19 palliative was for onward delivery to their community leaders to prevent restiveness.
He added that the chairmen of the Niger Delta Affairs committees in both chambers of the National Assembly have been a major stumbling block to the performance and progress of the NDDC over the years.
He said that the mission of the IMC at the hearing was to transparently account for its stewardship and address false allegations of financial recklessness and impropriety leveled against.
He said the IMC would also bring to the fore, myriad factors which have worked against the NDDC even before the IMC was constituted.
He added that the IMC was also there to seek new relationship with the National Assembly built on new fundamentals not driven by personal interests.
“In a way, there is a perception that the National Assembly has always been against this IMC. This arose from the position of the Assembly that the IMC should give way to a Governing Board despite the President’s position that the Forensic Audit should be completed before a new Board is appointed.
“Also, the hijacking of the National Assembly’s constitutional responsibilities by the leadership of the Committees on NDDC in pursuit of their personal interest have led to friction,” Ojougboh said.
He added: “In recent years, several allegations of corruption and unwholesome practices have been levelled against the Commission.
“The allegation that the EIMC has misapplied the sum of N40 Billion since inception is unfounded.
“Before responding to this issue, we will place it on record that the EIMC has not initiated any new projects that form the basis of any payments other than the Emergency Intervention on COVID-19 that was ordered and approved by the President C-in-C.”
He noted that since the President ordered a Forensic Audit of the activities of the Commission and the commencement of the exercise, “there has been an upswing in the barrage of attacks and spurious allegations against the commission.”
He added: “The Commission’s debt profile is well documented. The EIMC inherited a debt profile of about N3trillion out of which the sum of N156,986,545,802.68 had been processed and ready for payment by previous managements.
“There were several Interim Payment Certificates, (IPCs) which had been approved and revalidated for payment by as many as three past MD/CEOs of the Commission yet the contractors were not paid.
“Some of the contractors resorted to litigation. As at date, we have N573,059,686 judgement debts outstanding against the Commission.
“There are also 21 pending cases involving contracts with various sums claimed against the Commission.
“The EIMC inherited a total number of 12,384 projects at inception, made up of 9,840 regular/conventional projects and 2,544 emergency projects.
“Of the 9,840 regular projects, 2,669 were on-going, 1,783 had not started, 342 were stalled, 30 had been taken over by other agencies, 49 have been terminated while 4,325 were purportedly completed.
“Of the 2,544 emergency projects, a total of 1,502 were completed; 340 were on-going while 702 had not started.”
He insisted that the termination of the two consultancy contracts is one of reasons the Chairmen of the National Assembly Committees on NDDC have been hostile to EIMC and “why we are being probed on baseless allegations.”
On the Ajowa Akoko-Akunnu Akoko Road scandal, he said: “This emergency road repairs project was meant to be a single contract valued at less than N750 million.
“One of the National Assembly Committee on NDDC Chairmen coerced the then management to break it into four lots.
“This pushed the cost of the project to N2,931,655,712.69 (four times the project value).
“The contracts were awarded on 16 April 2019 to four companies nominated or linked to him.”
He added that no pensionable staff of the Commission has had his/her appointment terminated as being alleged.