NDDC says it’s under ambush


*As IMC pleads for breathing space to develop Niger Delta, carry out forensic audit

By Codratus Godson

The already embattled Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) says it has come under ceaseless ambush, a situation it says has made it impossible to work and develop the oil region as mandated by the Act setting the Commission up and as mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari that appointed the team.

A statement Monday, August 3, 2020, said fresh allegations of massive diversion of funds have arisen after tasking probes by both houses of the National Assembly (NASS) especially as the allegations were said to be a rehash of some of the ones that came up and were cleared at the recent probes. ‘

The statement issued by the head, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, suspects that the forensic audit expected to reveal proofs of contract scams is still the target of the detractors. “We suspect that after the scheming of the past four weeks failed to achieve the purpose of sacking the management and scuttling the work on the forensic audit exercise, the schemers are out again to heat up the polity. The point they miss is that the forensic audit exercise is a project of Mr President. Hounding and haunting an innocent academic who is merely on a national assignment will not scuttle the audit.

We appeal to those who are putting their personal interests over and above that of the people of the Niger Delta to have a rethink, pull back and allow the Commission the space to serve the people of the region.”

The IMC wondered why less than two weeks after exhaustive and exhausting public hearings by both chambers of the National |Assembly, another round of false reports have surfaced in the media alleging all manner of improprieties by the management of the IMC of the NDDC.

“One of the reports alleges that a fresh massive fraud has been uncovered in the Commission. Reading through the story, there is no evidence of fraud in the Commission. The report is merely a rehash of the allegations which led the National Assembly, on May 5, to order a probe of the 74-day administration of Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei at the Commission.

“Lest we forget, that probe was set up to uncover the sum of N40 billion alleged to be missing from the Commission. In order to allay the fears of our stakeholders, we took the unusual step of publishing the list of payments made by the Commission since Pondei came into office.

“With that publication, the rug was pulled from the feet of our accusers. When the hearings proper started, there was no talk of the missing N40 billion any more. It was now about financial recklessness. As we pointed out in an earlier release, the issue of missing money is one needing objective proof. The issue of financial recklessness is a matter of subjective judgment. The reports of the hearings have been submitted and it is clear there was no money missing at the Commission.

“The response of the Commission to the new reports is that there is no fraud at the Niger Delta Development Commission. Prof Pondei has run a very transparent administration and this transparency is now apparent after the searchlight put on his administration in the past one month.

“Another report rehashed the claim of the Contractors Association that the management demands between 20 per cent and 30 per cent kickback before paying contractors. We wish to state categorically that this is false. This allegation was made at the hearing of the Ad hoc Senate Committee which probed the affairs of the Commission. The management of NDDC was at the hearing when the allegation was made and challenged the man who did so for evidence. There was no single case that he could allude to. Without any evidence, the allegation became so outlandish that not even a single newspaper reported it the following day.

The IMC repeated the challenge by Pondei to any contractor who gave him money to step out and produce proof. “Four weeks since that challenge was thrown on July 9, no one has come out with any proof. It is instructive that the Senate report did not adopt the allegation as valid. It beats the imagination why any newspaper will report a baseless claim, four weeks after it was made and for which no one can prove.”