Contributed by Ekeh Chidi Sam

It may not take the President much longer to realize that the well-intended forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, he ordered, has become a smokescreen for ripping off the 19-year old interventionist agency to its final death by the same persons he appointed to oversea its affairs.

Some eight months after the Presidential order to beam the revealing lights of integrity into the dark holes of the Commission, we are yet to see any genuine and definite action taken towards sincerely implementing the directives of Mr. President by those calling the shots at the agency. In fact, they only recently handpicked some forensic auditors without due process.

Ever since, the IMC has not failed to continually entertain the public and the Presidency with a deluge of comic and bogus revelations coming out from the agency. Most of these revelations are found to be either fabricated or at best exaggerated to feed the curiosity of the public and impress it on the President that they are doing a great job when in the real sense they are doing nothing but beating around the bush and amassing wealth.

The Forensic audit ordered by the President was welcomed, received with much applause and commendations by the people of the region. It was expected to do the magic; it stirred a flurry of expectations from the people and provided a new lease of hope and lifeline. Put more emphatically, the forensic audit was expected to midwife a new Niger Delta Development Commission, where the mandates of the Commission would become the major objective of the management and board.

Sad to say, the Forensic Audit is suffering another setback as it is now been choked up by political interests, personal gains and greed. Rather than dutifully carrying on with the forensic audit as ordered by Mr. President, the Management of the Commission has become a mere political tool acting out a script of the Niger Delta Affair Minister, Godswill Akpabio and playing to the gallery by making series of fictitious and spurious revelations about the activities of the Commission with the sole aim of tricking the public into believing that everyone else is the problem of NDDC but them.

The strategy is to release one phony revelation about the previous activities of the Commission, while the public is busy feasting on the fake and often catchy revelations which serve as perfect distraction, the drivers of the forensic fraud are busy perpetrating worse crimes against the Niger Delta region and its people.

A careful study of the activities of the Management of the Commission since the forensic audit was announced reveals a pretentious outlook and pattern  consistent with a particular strategy which is to continue to  churn out an avalanche of  deceptive revelations  to pull the wool over the eyes of the President and the watching public while carrying on with a different agenda of enriching themselves and perpetuate their control over the Commission under the pretext of supervising and overseeing the forensic audit.

Having noted some baffling inconsistencies in their over bloated NDDC revelations intended to gain public appeal, it has become necessary to draw the attention of the President and the Niger Delta people to the atrocious acts going on in the Commission under the cloak of forensic audit.

Ever wondered why all the revelations and claims of indictment by the Management of the agency since the forensic audit was ordered are yet to name any individual, contractor or firm as been responsible for a particular sleaze or the other as they have persistently claimed.? The answer is because they are mere fabrications spun to excite unsuspecting members of the public and portray themselves as saints, while covertly pillaging the Commission and enriching themselves lavishly.

Recall that when the previous Ag. MD of the Commission, Madam Joi Nunieh, came on board, she started by making startling and mind-boggling revelations about the previous activities of the Commission and how she and her team together with Godswill Akpabio, were determined to clean up the augean stable. While she was thrilling her audience with her sweet talks and dishing out these rather hallucinatory findings and entertaining Mr. President’s curiosity, she was busy paying several hundreds of Millions of naira to herself, awarding of cover up contracts including paying her company Cyrus and Jenny the sum of N300 Million without verification.

This was even at a time when she  announced a 50-man verification committee led by the Ag. Executive Director Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh, to audit, verify and document project/ contracts with a view to ascertain the authenticity of the Interim Payment Certificates issued contractors for payment. In fact, this move was praised to the high heavens but unknown to the unsuspecting public, it was just another fuss and cover up for more shady deals.

Next was the claim by the Commission’s Management that the sum of One Billion Naira was paid monthly to a certain agent (who they have refused to name till date) for collecting money for the Commission from International Oil Companies and they claimed to have suspended the said contract. Whereas available records at the Commission revealed that only the sum of N700 Million was paid to Starline Ltd as a follow fee with IOCs. So why didn’t they name the agent or firm being paid the N1 Billion monthly? Is there something they are yet to tell Nigerians? The plan is to go back, reconcile records and pocket the money after declaring it was spent when that is not true.

As if these lies were not enough, they were closely followed with another bogus one. We were told by Akpabio and his IMC  about a certain serving Senator who was awarded 300 contracts with a considerable number fully paid for and another individual with over 87 companies all waiting for payment.

In both cases, the general public was denied the opportunity to know specifically those who have the 300 contracts and 87 companies waiting for payment so that it would deter similar future occurrences. What importance do these revelations serve if the identities of the persons behind them are unknown? It only points to the fact that these may well be mere talks lacking in substance or intended to tickle the fancy of their audiences. It is only proper that if an instance of corruption is cited those who are masterminds of the corrupt act ought to be exposed as well.

If these revelations were true why was Joi Nunieh sacked, since she was doing such a great job? Obviously, something isn’t adding up. Some persons are cashing out heavily with this forensic audit story at the expense of the rest of us. After sacking Joi Nunieh, they brought Prof. Pondei but the strategy hasn’t changed as they have continued to churn out more bogus and fabricated revelations to keep thrilling the curious public while they pillage the Commission.

Again, we hear another of their imaginary story that the sum of N50 Billion was paid to NGOs in one day. This story is not any different from the previous ones they have been telling us. Its only intended to satisfy the curiosity of the public and impress it on Mr. President that they are working when in reality they are doing absolutely nothing but ripping off the agency.

Obviously, the main aim of this whole forensic audit thing has been defeated because of too much vested interest by Akpabio and his IMC. As for me, I think the right thing for the President to do is to order another forensic audit of Akpabio’s forensic audit if they can not provide factual information on their claims because  for, Akpabio, the forensic audit has turned into another fraud and means for building a war chest for his rumored 2023 Presidential ambition.

If not, Why is Akpabio and his rubber stamp IMC trying to cover up the N4.86 Billion sleaze on supply of Covid-19 health and PPE equipments? Why did Akpabio authorize the payment of a whopping sum of N740 Million Naira to a firm for mere consultation and awareness on Covid-19 in the Niger Delta?  Gosh! This is the height of pretence and criminality. It might interest you to know that the IMC has spent over N80 Billion Naira within the short period it has presided over the affairs of the NDDC.

It doesn’t end there, the  same IMC that is supposed to clean up the mess of previous years has constituted itself into a mess. How can Akpabio’s IMC claim that it spent a total of N5.5 billion on awareness campaign on communicable diseases. Awareness o, not treatment and they spent N5.5 billion naira. As if that was not enough they came out again to tell us they had spent N641 Million on media coverage of the forensic audit. Worse still, the Ag. MD allegedly paid himself the sum of N56 Million Naira for hotel and project inspection even during the Covid 19 lockdown. Isn’t this the height of corruption?

The National Assembly and the President must look critically into this IMC before they steal the Commission dry. The people can not continue to suffer while  a few, especially, those who are supposed to bring succour turn around to become the people’s worst nightmare.

(Ekeh Chidi Sam, JP, Onuma 1 of Ngor)