Without doubt, Nigerians must have been thoroughly entertained by the ongoing probe of the alleged malfeasance in Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the agency established in 2000 to ameliorate the sufferings of the nine oil-bearing states of the Niger Delta region. But with the recent revelations emanating from the investigation, it has become obvious that the NDDC has invariably become a drainpipe through which public funds are siphoned.
Chief Ambrose Elofu-Dike,The Chairman of Umudike Farms Limited and Hotel De Espana on Saturday said no stone should be left unturned in the investigation of alleged misappropriation of over N81 billion by the Interim Management Committee of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Grassroots Publishers had reported that the Senate on Tuesday set up a seven-man ad-hoc committee to probe the financial transactions, which amounted to over N81 billion carried out by the IMC on behalf of the NDDC within the last three months and report back to the House in one month.
The call for an investigation is sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Thompson George Sekibo (PDP Rivers East). He added that aside from financial recklessness, the IMC also indulged in an alleged arbitrary sack of management staff of the commission.
Reacting, Chief Ambrose Elofu-Dike, called on the National Assembly to recommend to the appropriate authorities that the IMC and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, to rescue themselves from further administering the affairs of the commission.
The statement reads: It is common knowledge in the public sphere that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission has been accused by several persons and organizations of engaging in fraud, looting, pillaging and ransacking of the scarce resources belonging to the Niger Delta Region. The supervising Minister of the commission, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio has equally been severally accused of executing an agenda of grievous larceny, greed and revenge”. However, the lingering public outrage against the IMC and Senator Akpabio regarding their (mis) management of the affairs of NDDC has made it mandatory for us to speak up as stakeholders in the good governance project. Senator Akpabio and the IMC are alleged to be running the commission in secrecy while running away with money belonging to the region. It is our duty to seek clarifications and that’s why we are here.
“It is, however, germane that we raise concern regarding the loud murmuring in the public space that the Minister has been boasting that he will be cleared of all allegations and commended for a job well done not because he and the IMC would not be found wanting, but because he is said to have perfected a scheme to compromise the entire process.
“The Minister is said to have as his chief talent the uncanny ability to throw money and more money at challenges until they give way. He is said to be bragging that he will deploy his wide contacts in the innermost recesses of Aso Rock power base to call the National Assembly to order since according to him politicians are sworn companions of the wind. The members of the IMC are said to have assured their collaborators not to worry because the Minister has already “settled” the matter hence his statement that he would like the proceedings to be beamed on live television.
“Another source of worry is the claim by those with insider knowledge that since the COVID-19 contract scandal broke out, the IMC has been engaged in massive destruction of contract documents, displacement of files, alteration of payment schedules and persuasion/intimidation of some of their collaborators to disappear from the scene during the pendency of the probe so as to frustrate any evidential value they may offer. This is absolutely very disturbing.
“We salute both chambers of the National Assembly for rising up to the challenges of exercising its oversight functions on the NDDC. The crime at NDDC is accumulating at an alarming rate. 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. The National Assembly should deploy all tools available to it to “follow the money”. This can be easily achieved by collaborating 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 Minister assumed his supervisory role over NDDC and where such money ultimately ended.
“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 powers of the IMC to issue such a sweeping order must be reviewed in accordance with the provisions of the law. If the IMC lacks such powers, the order should be rescinded immediately and the IMC officially reprimanded. If this is the case, then, there would be a need to review the engagement of the lead auditors on whose purported advice the IMC acted as they would have shown themselves as puppets in the hands of an unseen conductor.
“It is my recommendation that only accomplished facts not speculations should be investigated and decisions reached on the basis of probable confirmations and possible contradictions. If the maelstrom of allegations against the Minister and the IMC turn out to be irresponsible and callous attempts to smear and tar them, then, the unreserved apology of the public should be extended to them.
“If, however, at the end of the investigation it is discovered that something terrible and powerful, something that is beyond our ken has surreptitiously taken over the levers of power at NDDC at the expense of our collective interest simply because its money tastes like the nectar of the gods, then our only demand would be that the guilty be severely punished and all the wrongs made right.
” In that case, I call on the National Assembly to recommend to the appropriate authorities that the IMC and the Minister rescue themselves from further administering the affairs of the commission, the Minister instructed to restrict himself to his ministry instead of ignoring the area of his primary assignment and fixing his gaze on NDDC with the burning eyes of a falcon and the original mistake of the IMC corrected by immediately inaugurating the statutory Board as recognized under the law to manage the affairs of the commission.”