…Says move an attempt to cover up irregularities in project’s contract

Demand’s presidential, NASS probe

New hqtrs will help commission deliver on core mandate -IMC

By Egufe Yafugborhi

PORT HARCOURT – NIGER Delta Rights Advocates (NDRA) has described Thursday’s occupation of “uncompleted” permanent headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by top functionaries as “deliberate deception” to glorify Sen Godswill Akpabio and cover up irregularities in the project’s contract.

NDRA through its Spokesman, Darlington Nwauju, called for presidential and National Assembly probe of the development as Acting Managing Director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei and Acting Executive Director of Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) moved into the yet uncompleted Eastern Bypass Permanent Headquarters of NDDC in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.

Amidst the concern by the rights group, the commission has however expressed confidence in the vexed relocation as placing the commission in “better pedestal” to deliver on its core mandate.

Nwauju, the NDRA Spokesman recalled that, “Contract for this headquarters building was first awarded at N4Billion to Marshland Construction Coy before being taken over by Rodnab Construction Ltd for N16.2 Billion with full payments made on instruction of Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Sen Akpabio.

“Today, the pliable Acting MD of NDDC, Prof Pondei and Ag EDP Dr Ojugboh relocated to an uncompleted building in order to justify the boast by Sen Akpabio that the building will soon be commissioned by Mr President.

“Curiously, the contractor received full payment for a yet-to-be-completed building despite the disturbing report on same project by no less an authority than the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAGF) querying the mode of award.

“OAGF report on the said contract and sundry matters bothered on lack of due diligence in the award process and on furtherance to the execution of its mandate (i.e. OAGF’s) of auditing all government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“Practically remarking on the NDDC headquarters building under the heading ‘Issue 43’ in its report titled, ‘irregularities in contract for completion of NDDC headquarters building, Port Harcourt, Rivers State – N16,222,492,843.76’, the OAGF reported significant non-compliance with extant procurement and financial regulations.

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“OAGF findings noted there was no evidence of authorities and approvals like minutes of appropriate Tender Board meeting to back up these upward reviews. Also, there was no evidence of ratification/adoption of these actions by the NDDC Board or other appropriate boards.

“Also, observed and very important on the letter of award to Messrs Rodnab Construction Ltd was the reference made to the NDDC Management as the approving authority for this contract. However, these approvals were never produced for verification.

“The findings further reports that purported additional works with different values were added to the contract sum from time to time that finally jerked up the worth of N16,222,492,843.76 and no priced Bill or Quantities (BOQ) was presented.”

The group called on “President Buhari and the National Assembly to examine the Auditor General’s report against why Sen Akpabio approved full payment for an uncompleted project which in the first place did not obey procurement and standard engineering regulatory procedures.”

Meanwhile, Actg MD, Prof Pondei said the commission’s relocation to the new headquarters would ensure that the finishing touches were properly done and service delivery significantly improves with more automated systems being put in place.

Pondei said, “Project move faster when there are activities on continuous basis. As we have moved to this place, before you know it, one or two other floors would be completed. The movement will be in phases and our presence here means the commissioning would not be long in coming.”

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