* But NDDC denies any impropriety so far, calls it ‘recycled allegations’
* Amaechi says smear campaign has been flagged off against him
By Codratus Godson
As attention beams on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and its billions of naira allocations, a faceless but militant group in the oil region, which over the years goes by the name, Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC), has demanded for the dissolution of the Commission on account of huge sleaze.
This comes as the ex-minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who is believed to be behind the installation of the present leadership of the Commission, has raised alarm that a smear campaign to rubbish him has been secretly flagged off.
JRC, which was launched in the hot days of militancy, said in a statement it sent online as usual, that the increasing reports of brazen corruption, grand theft, reckless embezzlement and large scale mismanagement across the various interventionist agencies that are supposed to cater to the challenges of the Niger Delta have become intensely mind-boggling in recent months. The JRC is one of the brainy militant groups that have a knack for articulating its position on issues with a lot of logic.
The Nelson Brambaifa-led management was appointed in January 2019 when Nsima Ekere left to contest election in Akwa Ibom, but the JRC says the NDDC has been hit with sleaze.
The statement said: “Earlier in the month, top members of the Board of the Commission were invited to the offices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to answer to the growing number of petitions accusing members of the board and top staff of large scale corruption, grand theft, reckless embezzlement and outright mismanagement of the resources of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
“From contract racketeering (where are contractors are forced to pay upfront sums in dollars), grim nepotism to outright diversion of funds, hundreds of billions of naira has been looted from the coffers of the Niger Delta Development Commission aided and abetted by an incompetent board.
“NDDC has become a conduit pipe through which billions of naira meant for the development of the Niger Delta is being channeled to the pockets of disgruntled politicians and their cronies.
“While we note the current and ongoing investigation by the EFCC and its memos to several Nigerian banks requesting that transactions from NDDC be contained and questioned, we believe that that is not enough. Those who are robbing the Niger Delta and its people must be identified, shamed and punished.
In furtherance thereof, the JRC demanded for an immediate and total overhaul of the Niger Delta Development Commission and a complete removal of the current acting board members. “An intervention agency set up to cater to peculiar challenges of the people of the Niger Delta should not be converted to an opportunity centre for hungry politicians and desperate cronies.
“Any re-constituted board must be made up of tested, trusted and competent technocrats who understand the challenges of the people of the Niger Delta and will not be subject to the whims of political masters and players. A word is enough for the wise.”
Sources in the Commission however described the latest salva of accusations as recycled allegations by those who wrote the petitions. The NDDC had on May 17, 2019, made it clear that there is no financial impropriety in the Commission warranting the kind of uproar in the air or jubilation in enemy quarters, but admitted that its top management was invited to Abuja by the Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to answer questions arising from petitions written by some groups.
The Commission offered what they called the facts: “The management of the commission was invited by the EFCC to answer questions arising from petitions by some groups; The management of the commission led by the Acting Managing Director, Prof Nelson Braimbaifa, the Acting Executive Director, Finance, Chris Amadi and the Acting Executive Director Projects, Samuel Adjogbe, responded to the invitation and met with EFCC officials in Abuja on Monday June 10 and Tuesday, June 11; The management of the commission addressed the issues raised by EFCC and were asked to go.
“The team returned to their desks in Port Harcourt by June 12; At no point was any of the management staff of the commission detained by the EFCC nor was any of them questioned under caution; As a matter of fact, there has been no improper cash withdrawal or financial impropriety at the commission. If anything, the current administration has robustly implemented strict financial regulations and channeled the Commission’s scarce resources to deliver on its core mandate of intervening in the development of the Niger Delta.”
“We would also like to state the following: Under financial regulations implemented by the current government, certain infractions are simply not possible. For example, no entity, individual, private or public, can withdraw more than N10 million from the bank at any point. To withdraw N2. 8 billion as alleged in the publications would have meant someone going to the bank 280 times in one day to do so! Given that the commission’s funds are warehoused with the Central Bank of Nigeria under the Treasury Single Account (TSA), such withdrawals would not have been allowed.
“All over the world, law enforcement agencies seek answers whenever there are petitions or complaints against public organisations. In the case of our commission, with a critical mandate touching on the lives of people across nine states, those petitions would always come. The EFCC search for such answers in the commission is not out of place. This search in no way implies guilt on the part of the commission’s officials or impropriety.
The NDDC as a responsible public organisation stands ready to respond to enquiries by relevant government agencies and stakeholders in the Niger Delta on its operations.
The current management restates its unalloyed commitment to the prudent management of the commission’s resources and the implementation of robust financial regulations to safeguard public funds in its custody.”