By Ben Agande
The Presidency has ordered a probe into alleged N5 billion contract scams rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as the executive management members of the commission engaged themselves in dirty fights.
The probe followed a petition written to the Presidency by one of the executive directors in charge of Projects, Mr. Inibong Etteh, an architect.
In the petition, Etteh alleged that NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwuogha, unilaterally awarded 51 projects to cronies and associates without the authorisation of the approving bodies and against the commissionâ€™s standing financial regulations.
The managing director, it would be recalled, had earlier alleged that the Executive Director, Projects was engaging consultants for the commissionâ€™s contracts without due aapproval.
In the petition dated March 31, 2010 and addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, a copy which was made available to our correspondent, Etteh alleged that the NDDC CEO breached the provision of authorisation manual of the commission and, therefore, should be made to account for it.
The development, it was gathered, was the climax of a cold war between the MD and the Executive Director on projects over which the SGF had summoned them over times.
The decision of the Presidency to order the probe, it was learnt, was as a result of the confusion that has enveloped the commission over the incessant in-fighting among the executive management members bordering on unilateral decisions and breach of due process by the Managing Director.
The NDDC Managing Director has already been summoned to Abuja by the SGF. as at the time filing this report.
However, in his reaction to the petition, Special Assistant to the Managing Director on Media Matters, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, dismissed the petition, describing it as frivolous.
He said: â€œWhat are they saying? If the CEO does not have the power to award contracts who else will have the power. He is the chief accounting officer, what ever he cannot complete at NDDC is sent to theÂ Bureau of Public Procurement and whatever is beyond BPE goes to the Federal Executive Government CouncilÂ like the contract for the building of the NNDC headquarters.
â€œThere is a threshold set by the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Federal Executive Council and I donâ€™t think the MD has done anything wrong,â€ he stated, adding that the whole thing might be political after all â€œbecause they donâ€™t need to address the press over this.â€
On the no love-lost between his boss and the Executive Director, Ogbodo said they have been working together harmoniously and wouldnâ€™t know where the petition flew from.
Meanwhile, the Niger-Delta Stakeholders’ Forum has in Abuja called for the immediate arrest and investigation ofÂ the allegations, arguing that they are too significant to be swept under the carpet.
Briefing newsmen on the situation in NDDC, spokesman of the group, Dr. Emmanuel Ukpanam, who claimed his group is aware of the petition,Â said the role of NDDC in delivering on the much- needed sustainable development of the region is now being threatened by the avoidable internal wrangling between the MD and the EDP.