*** Indicts Self, FG, Akpabio, Asks Presidency To Take Over NDDC, Not Minister
***Calls on IMC to Refund Extra Budgetary Expenditure of N4.923 Billion
*** As Senate Vows to Review the Act establishing the NDDC
*** Probes alleged blackmail by NDDC against some members of the National Assembly
*** As Senate Adjourns till September 15
By Henry Umoru
THE Senate Thursday indicted itself as an institution for not carrying out an effective oversight function on the activities of the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC that led to the rot and high level of corruption in the interventionist agency.
The Senate has also indicted the Federal Government, the IMC for the problems, saying that with the way and manner money meant for the Agency have been squandered by some individuals in the Niger Delta Region without commensurate development, it has become imperative for a holistic review of the Act establishing the Commission, with a view to finding out where the lacuna is and where corrections must be made.
Consequently, the Upper Chamber asked President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency, sack the Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over alleged financial recklessness and constitute a new board for the NDDC.
According to the Senate, the absence of a substantive Board of Directors at NDDC had created ample opportunity for all manners of infractions in the finances of the agency.
The Senate also approved that the NDDC should be returned to the Presidency for proper supervision and oversight and not to be under the supervision and control of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
The NDDC which was hitherto in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF is now being oversighted by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, under Senator Godswill Akpabio, following recent directives by the presidency.
The report further indicted the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs under the leadership of Senator Godswill Akpabio; accusing it of ” negligent supervision and could not function as effectively as a board would have done.”
The Senate asked President Buhari to activate the statutory provisions in the NDDC Act to reconstitute a substantive board.
It said, “For the purpose of consistency and equality of policy, there is a need to review the inconsistencies and differences in the apex control of these development commissions. In retrospect, the original arrangement of putting these commissions in the Presidency should be carefully reconsidered to allow for direct Presidential oversight in view of the huge public resources allocated to them. Section 7 (3) of the NDDC Act already provides for this President supervision.
“The absence of a Board of Directors at NDDC created a major lacuna of oversight. The Ministry of Niger Delta is culpable of negligent supervision and could not function as effectively as a board would have done. Therefore, the committee strongly recommends that the President should activate the statutory provisions in the Act and the Board of Directors and nominate for confirmation by the Senate and should be inaugurated immediately.”
The resolutions of the Senate were sequel to the consideration of the report of the Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, APC, Ekiti North led Ad-hoc Committee on Investigation of the alleged Financial Reckelessness to the tune of N40 billion in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC by the IMC.
Senator Adetunmbi in the 17- point recommendations he presented and adopted by the Senate , said the Interim Management Committee of the commission spent monies recklessly as made available from the three major sources.
The sources he explained, are monetary contributions into the agency by oil companies mostly in dollars, budgetary provisions and Internally Generated Revenues ( IGR).
From the three sources according to the report, the Commission got a total of N81.5billion between October 29, 2019, and May 31, 2020, and expended all.
Though two different IMCs, the report stated, held the Commission during the period under review but the current one headed by Professor Daniel Pondei which assumed office on the 19th February this year spent about 90% of the monies on items that were very questionable.
The most frivolous of the spendings, the report stated, was the N4.923billion spent between March and May this year, which it declared, must be refunded by the beneficiaries who were mostly members of the NDDC IMC, the entire staff of the Commission and the Police High Command.
In his presentation, Adetunmbi said: “In conclusion, the Committee noted that it is difficult to find a correlation between Niger Delta community development and cash invested in the zone.
Adopting the recommendations of the Committee, the Senate also asked the Keme Pondei led Interim Management Committee to vomit the sum of N4.923 billion allegedly spent on items not captured in the budget and in breach of procurement process, just as it said that the money should be returned immediately to the NDDC account against the backdrop that the payments were not provided for in the budget, adding that “all expenditures on historical contracts and obligation e.g Hotels, court judgement etc should be refunded as payments are not provided for in the budget.”
The monies to be refunded to the coffers of NDDC include payment of N85.7 million for overseas travel to the United Kingdom, N105.5 million for Scholarship Grants and N164.2 million for Union members Trip to Italy.
Others include N1.96 billion for Lassa Fever kit, N1.12 billion on Public Communication.
The IMC is to also to refund another N1.49 billion it spent on Covid-19 relief including the N1.3 billion the management said it spent on taking care of itself and staff.
It also included the sum of N475 million made available to the police to purchase hand Sanitizers and Facemasks for its commands in all the 9 states of the NDDC.
For effective performance of the agency, the Senate has called for the inauguration of the Monitoring Committee and Advisory Council to ensure sufficient check and balances in the internal affairs of the NDDC, just as it called for a review of the financial and accounting process of NDDC.
The Senate said, “The Monitoring Committee and the Advisory Councils should also be inaugurated along with the Board of Directors as provided in Sections 20 and 21 of the NDDC Act. This is necessary to ensure that there are sufficient checks and balances in the internal affairs of the NDDC.
“The new Board should be made to undertake a review of the existing governance framework, with attention to upgrading the way and manner the board executes its mandates, with a view to re-establishing a new culture in the organization. The review must bring order to the workings of the management and their control of the organization.This is necessary for the improvement of the structures and processes of the NDDC especially having witnessed two interim managements with seemingly loss of control on project and staff expenditure.”
To sanitize NDDC books, the Senate asked that the Auditor- General of the Federation take over the forensic auditing of the NDDC.y
Senate also resolved to revisit the Act establishing the Commission, in getting it repositioned for execution of projects that would develop the Niger Delta Area and not engaging on all manner of operations not correlated to the Niger Delta Master Plan.