By Tordue Salem
A Civil Society Organization, Act For Positive Transformation Initiative, has lambasted the leadership of the National Assembly over alleged indifference to allegations of graft against failure the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The group in separate letters, addressed to both the Senate President and the House of Representatives Speaker on Monday, called on the Legislature to as a matter of urgent public importance take necessary steps toward saving the Niger Delta region from going into developmental oblivion, occasioned by alleged unmitigated looting of funds meant to develop it.
The letters dated 28 September 2020, and which were signed by the Head, Directorate of Research, Strategy and Planning, Mr. Kolawole Johnson, was titled: ‘Save The Niger Delta Region Now’.
The group noted that several billions of Naira have been siphoned from the coffers of the Commission despite efforts by the National Assembly to investigate pending allegations of corruption by the IMC.
“Your Excellency, barely one month after the alarm was raised, new records show that over N27 billion was looted between June 29th and July 29th, 2020. This fact can be confirmed officially from relevant agencies of government.
“After the Commissions, many diatribes against the institution you lead and an open walk-out on your investigative committee, Mr Speaker, came out openly to tactically shield the acting MD of the Commission, Prof. Pondei, from interrogation after a poorly orchestrated fainting drama. While the hearing was going on, the management of the Commission has the effrontery to continue the looting of the people’s resources through extra-budgetary expenditures. Yet the National Assembly has looked away as though it is acting in connivance with the looters”, the letter said.
It alleged further that “over N8 billion has left the coffers of the NDDC the very day the Senate Ad-hoc Committee began its hearing on the allegations of malfeasance and financial recklessness in the Commission. During the hearing, a member of the Committee berated the officials of the Commission for halting payment on desilting. Later that day, over N6 billion was moved out of the NDDC account in the name of desilting”.
“This sudden movement for an item that has not been paid for more than 10 months prior to that day deserves a second look. Close to N20 billion has been looted via desilting since then. In summary, extra-budgetary expenditures in the three months are in excess of N35 billion as at today.
“July 29, while the country was on holiday, the management looted N5.8 billion via fraudulent emergency desilting. Note that the so-called desilting paid for were for non-existing waterways. The Olu of Igbakoda. Oba Afolabi Oladimeji Odidiomo has confirmed in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari that the river NDDC claimed to have desilted with billions of Naira in his domain does not exist. Similar stories abound across the region”, the letters alleged.
The group also wondered why despite the mudslinging against members of the National Assembly by the management of the Commission, the attitude and body language of the leadership is “awe-inspiring”, adding that “the standard of the institution has taken a north-ward dive, it may never recover again if nothing is done now”.
The group, therefore, urged the leadership.of the National Assembly to bring sanity back to the NDDC and halt the alleged free pillaging of the people’s resources.