By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Henry Umoru & Chioma Onuegbu
The Senate has revealed that the head of the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, and other members of the committee collected between 20 and 30 pe rcent of contract sums before contractors were paid.
This is contained in a report by the Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (APC, Ekiti North) led Ad-hoc Committee that investigated alleged financial recklessness to the tune of N40 billion in the NDDC by the IMC.
But the NDDC in a swift reaction, said no such thing happened, stressing that Pondei collected no kickbacks from any contractor before awarding them contracts.
However, the report obtained by Vanguard indicated that claims by the IMC and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, that the headquarters of the commission is 95 per cent completed is false.
The report showed that the NDDC got a total sum of N74.655billion in eight months between October 29, 2019, and May 31, 2020.
According to the report, the NDDC got the revenue from oil companies, the Federal Government’s statutory allocation to the interventionist agency, and tender-bidding fees.
The Senate Committee report said the revelations were made by the Chairman, Contractors Association of NDDC, Mr Joe Adia, in a written submission to it.
The report read: “The claim of IMC of the NDDC of paying contractors with less than N50 million is totally untrue as there are over 500 transformer installations with payments of less than N4.5 million that had not been made for eight years.
“That the new head of IMC, Prof Pondei and other members of IMC are now collecting 20 per cent to 30 per cent of contract sums before contractors are paid.”
According to Adia in his submission, the immediate past acting Managing Director of the Commission, Mrs Joi Nunieh, had stopped all contractors from accessing the commission till the completion of the forensic audit and this made it difficult for contractors to seek payment for projects they executed.
The report also stated: “The contractors that were paid are those that have access to the IMC and known to them and the real contractors that did their jobs judiciously were not paid.”
‘Engineering firm got sensitization contract’
In another development, the committee was told through a written submission by a civil society organisation, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, that an engineering company was awarded the contract of consultancy by the IMC on awareness campaign on the prevention of the spread of coronavirus in the NDDC state which it said, was in contravention of the public procurement law. According to the report, the claim by the IMC of awarding the COVID-19 intervention contract after the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari was not also true.
“The IMC had awarded the contracts prior to the Presidential approval which is in total disregard of laid-down procedure as the contract sum is above the board threshold.
“That the presidential approval for the procurement of COVID-19 emergency contract was granted on May 30, 2020, whereas, the contract was given by the IMC long before the approval.
“That most of the contract approvals were done in shady manner and that some of the benefiting companies got 15 per cent and above mobilization instantly after the approval of their contracts in less than 24 hours,” the report added.
Also in its written submission, Centre for Social Justice told the Senate Committee that the NDDC had never published a budget proposal in hard or electronic copy to be made available to the public as well as its budget implementation report either on a quarterly, half-yearly or on annual basis and made same available to Nigerians.
‘NDDC raked N75bn in 8 months from FG, oil companies’
The report further revealed that the Federal Government allocated the sum of N44.759 billion to the NDDC between October 2019 and May 2020.
The breakdown of the statutory allocation from the Federal Government showed that in October 2019, the commission got N5,932,918,627; same amount of N5,932,918,627 in November and December respectively.
In January, February, March and April, the allocation increased to N6,740,134,173 as the commission received same amount in those four months.
For the period under review, according to the document, NDDC got a total sum of N29,885,610,267 as contribution from oil companies. The breakdown of purpose or service type showed that oil companies’ contribution was N9,970,986,380; Oil Companies Contribution- Third Party notification not required was N11,024,302,998; Oil Companies Statutory Contribution was N6,448,204,489; and Oil Companies Statutory Contribution- Third Party notification not required was N2,442,116,400.
In the report, the NDDC got a total sum of N5,301,500 from tender-bidding fees, just as the breakdown showed that the commission got N4,669,000 from registration fees; N631,500 from tender-bidding fees and N10,000 from Tender- Bidding Fees- Third Party notification not required.
The report equally indicated that NDDC finance had grown in the last five years under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and that the NDDC annual payment profile for its operations rose from N149 billion in 2016 to N320 billion in 2019.
It will be recalled that the Senate on July 23, 2020, considered the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on Investigation of the alleged financial recklessness, led by Senator Adetunmbi, where it indicted itself as an institution for not carrying out effective oversight function on the activities of the IMC of the NDDC that led to the rot and high level of corruption in the interventionist agency. The Senate had also asked President Buhari to as a matter of urgency, sack the Pondei-led IMC of the NDDC over alleged financial recklessness and constitute a new board for the commission.
Recall that the Senate had on May 5, 2020, begun a probe into alleged financial recklessness to the tune of N40 billion by the IMC of NDDC.
Consequently, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, set up a six-member Ad hoc Committee to carry out an holistic investigation on all issues relating to but not limited to the alleged misapplication and misappropriation of the sum of N40billion by the commission.
Pondei not collecting kickback from contractors – NDDC
Meanwhile, the NDDC, yesterday, rebutted the allegation that the acting Managing Director of the IMC, Prof Pondei, was collecting 30 per cent kickback from contractors, saying Mr Joe Adia, who made the allegation was not the President of Contractors Association.
A top official of the interventionist agency, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said: “The allegation by Joe Adia is false. He is not even the President of NDDC Contractors Association as he tried to claim. There are about five different contractors associations and he is not their leader.
“You see, all these allegations are coming up again because the outcome of the National Assembly probe has not led to the intended plans of those who want to rubbish the IMC and have it removed, they are now raking up mud.
“Some of the lawmakers and those supporting their game plan want the IMC dissolved, but their plan is not working out, that is why they have embarked on this leg of their smear campaign.
“How can they be talking about Senate report after the Ag. MD had earlier dispelled the wicked allegation when he appeared before the Senate Ad-hoc Committee in July? Adia raised the matter and Pondei told the Senate that if he could be associated with even one per cent kickback, he would resign.
From where are they bringing up the matter again? Why is the Senate choosing to spread lies in the guise of allegation by a bogus contractor?
“Have they traced any kickback, even one per cent paid by any contractor to NDDC MD? Why are they then believing and helping to spread the lie that he is involved in contract splitting and kickbacks of 20-30 per cent?
“ Pondei told the Senate Committee that he would resign his appointment immediately, if anyone showed any evidence that he collected even one percent from any contractor, let the committee and the contractor show proof instead of maligning him,” the official stated.
Joe Adia had in his oral submission after submitting a memo to the investigative panel, explained that contractors, who agreed to pay 20-30 per cent were those the commission paid.
These are eye-openers, says PANDEF boss
Reacting to the Senate report, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, said the facts coming out in the ongoing probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, should be an eye-opener to President Muhammadu Buhari to correct the wrongs of putting in place the Interim Management Committee, IMC.
National Chairman of PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, retd, who made the assertion, stressed that PANDEF, from the beginning, supported the forensic audit when it discovered that IMC was doing the same thing as the old NDDC.
He said: “What the whole thing shows is that there had been rot in the old NDDC, in the new IMC, every where. Some people are even accusing some members of the National Assembly of complicity. So, whether the IMC is taking 30 per cent from contractors or not it is still the same style of doing things.
“From the beginning we had said that the place (NDDC) is rotten when we found out that the current IMC is not doing anything different from what the old NDDC is doing; whether present or former managers they are just doing basically the same thing.
“So what is coming out now is to confirm to President Buhari that putting in place the IMC was not even the right thing in the first instance; it should be an eye opener for him to correct what he did which was not right. But that is not something of our interest now.
“We had agreed with the forensic audit because that one will bring out the truth. We had also said please publish the names of those who got the contract. This report now if they got 30percent who are the contractors?, publish their names instead of dramatising the whole thing.”
Nkanga said what President Buhari ought to do now was to allow the forensic auditors to do their job independently without any influence from anybody, adding that PANDEF was interested in getting the probe finished as soon as possible.
“The sooner we get this forensic auditors to finish their , the better for us, otherwise this drama, blackmail will continue forever, and we are not amused. We were told that it will be done in six months, now six months have passed and they have extended it to December
“This drama they are doing drama back and forth will not help, Niger Delta people are suffering. Let the President have sympathy on us and allow this thing to be done properly. For one and half years now, Niger Delta people have not benefited from the NDDC,’’ he added.