By Ignatius Chukwu
Some reputations snuff out any fire of suspicion and scandal being generated next door. Now, the NDDC says the attempt to create storm with allegations of kickbacks failed because of the strong policy introduced by the present MD/CEO, Dr Samuel Ogbuku.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has denied asking for or taking any 30 per cent kickback from contractors. This is as the Commission has reported how the managing director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku, has since abolished the role of middlemen and possibility of any kickback demand.
In a statement by the Commission’s director of corporate affairs, Ibitoye Abosode, the Commission said the allegation of 30 per cent kickback is engineered by some online reports which emanated from a petition by a group that calls itself “South-South Elders Progressive Forum’.
The statement insisted that the allegation must have been crafted by those not happy that the management was spared by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu when all boards were dissolved.
The statement said it did not have a copy of the petition nor did they know the existence of the petitioning group but that snippets in the online space showed that the Commission was being accused of asking for 30 per cent kickback.
The NDDC wondered why the petitioners picked issues with the FG for, in its wisdom, allowing the management team (sworn in January 4, 2023) to continue in office so as not to disrupt the operations of the Commission.
“We note that in dissolving the boards of federal parastatals, agencies and Commissions, the FG had in its wisdom asked the chief executives of such bodies to run the affairs pending the constitution of new boards.
“It beats one’s imagination why a ‘progressive elders forum’ would say that the NDDC would have been treated differently, given that the new management team came in a little over six months ago.”
The statement said it is clear that the grouse of the group is with the stability in management and operations.
On the 30 per cent kickback allegation, the management said since it assumed office, it has been bothered by the backlog of unpaid claims by contractors who the Commission said duly executed their contracts.
“The adverse impact of these unpaid debts on the contractors and the economy of the region is enormous.
“Most of the debts had been verified and were also scrutinised by the forensic auditors appointed by the federal government. In order to ease the economic pain on our people, the payment of the debts was provided for in the Commission’s budget.”
The statement said the present management took steps to stamp out all practices of payment of commission to middlemen. “It would be recalled that the managing director, Dr Ogbuku, had an interactive meeting with contractors in February 2023. At that session, he clearly stated that neither himself nor any of the executive directors has authorised any middleman to act on their behalf in the matter of payment to contractors.”
The statement further said Dr Ogbuku specifically declared as illegal the payment of percentages on contract sums and all forms of financial inducements to middlemen who claim to be fronting for the Commission’s officials.
“Following this meeting, the Commission set up a committee to streamline the payment of outstanding debts. That committee is verifying claims and working transparently to ensure every contractor is fairly treated. In doing so, we have followed a technical formula of first paying people owed N10 million and below and scaling up. There is no requirement by any contractor to pay any kickback before being paid. The payment system in the Commission is transparent and open to verification by stakeholders.”
The statement added that the Commission has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for corrupt practices. “Any member of the public who has any evidence of such practices should reach out to the managing director who has sworn to take prompt action against any erring official.
“We implore all stakeholders to ignore the false allegations from those who take delight in the frequent changes in management that has been the bane of the organisation in the past five years. The leadership of the Commission is the prerogative of the Federal Government. The Commission is currently being run by a very committed and transparent team.”