Last week, the city of Port Harcourt was awash with rumours that topmost officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) had been invited to Abuja to answer to reports of financial bonanza in the Commission. Many said the new boys seemed in a mad hurry to ‘make their own’.
Soon, the Commission responded, putting the issues into clarity.
In the past five days, we have been inundated with reports, mostly online, of the invitation of the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to answer questions arising from petitions written by some groups. While some of the reports have stuck to the known facts that the management of the commission was invited to meet with EFCC officials, others have gone on the usual speculative trail to allege financial impropriety at the commission. Some have quoted figures of ridiculous cash withdrawals, which to knowledgeable minds are impossible given financial regulations on cash withdrawals, even by private organisations, not to talk of public entities. As a responsible public organisation, we owe our stakeholders and the Nigerian public a duty to set out the facts. Here they are:
1. The management of the commission was invited by the EFCC to answer questions arising from petitions by some groups.
2. The management of the commission led by the Acting Managing Director, Prof Nelson Braimbaifa, the Acting Executive Director, Finance, Dr Chris Amadi and the Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Samuel Adjogbe, responded to the invitation and met with EFCC officials in Abuja on Monday June 10 and Tuesday, June 11.
3. 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.
4. At no point was any of the management staff of the commission detained by the EFCC nor was any of them questioned under caution.
5. 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 Niger Delta Development Commission 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.