Flags-off physical verification phase
By Chioma Onuegbu – Uyo
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has set July 2021 ending as the deadline for the conclusion of the ongoing forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Akpabio, who spoke weekend at the Ibom Icon Hotels and Golf Resort Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, at the sideline of the inauguration of the physical verification phase of the forensic audit of the NDDC, said that the audit involves the internal reforms of the NDDC.
He explained that the 16 field auditors selected for the field audit would now begin to identify and verify the projects across the Niger Delta region, noting that budgetary delays affected the progress of the forensic exercise, prompting President Buhari to intervene to save the situation.
He said it was, however, surprising that some people were peddling rumour which has left many concerned citizens of the region wondering if the forensic audit exercise has been aborted.
His words, “It is the considered position of President Muhammadu Buhari that for us to have a properly constituted board for the NDDC, we should first take a look at what has happened to the Commission since inception.
“There was nothing our detractors have not done to stop the forensic audit and this has led some people to be left wondering if the forensic audit has been aborted.
“The President is resolute that he cannot leave the Niger Delta and the NDDC the way he met it. As a demonstration of this commitment, he is funding the forensic audit from the budget of the Presidency. The security component of the audit exercise is very important because of the safety issues in the Niger Delta region.
“We decided to start the audit exercise from the NDDC headquarters, while security arrangements were being firmed up. The field visit is a critical next step, after which we go into the office to produce the reports”.
Akpabio who is the supervising minister of the NDDC added that the physical verification was a very serious exercise because the results of the exercise may lead to the prosecution of the affected contractors, some of whom, he said, abandoned their contracts without completing them.
In his remarks, the Interim Administrator of NDDC, Mr. Efiong Akwa, emphasised that the forensic audit was a serious and deliberate exercise, stressing that wherever the over 12,000 projects were located, the committee had been mandated to visit them.
Akwa noted that they have the capacity to move around and ensure that the verification was done properly, stressing that, ” a formidable security team had been put together to escort the committee members and ensure their security”
Throwing more light on the exercise, the Lead Forensic Auditor, Mr. Joshua Basiru, explained that President Buhari ordered the Forensic Audit in 2019 as a result of the huge gap between resources invested and the infrastructural, human, and economic development recorded by the Commission.
He stressed that despite some challenges they encountered during the first phase of documentation and data extraction, they were however able to make appreciable progress in line with the forensic audit terms of reference.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that this forensic audit exercise is successfully executed, in a bid to re-position the Commission in terms of effectively delivering on its mandate, as well as improving transparency and accountability in NDDC.
“We must not allow this project to be scuttled by those who have benefited in the past, or those who are currently benefiting unjustly from the current loopholes in the Commission’s policies and operating procedures as well as the profligacy exhibited by its previous management teams to the detriment of the vast majority of the Niger Delta people, and therefore do not like to see change coming to NDDC.”
On his part, the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr Babayo Ardo, said that the flag-off of the physical verification phase of the forensic audit marks a milestone in the quest to reposition the NDDC for effective service delivery.
“The audit of the headquarters has been completed. So, we are now starting the second phase of the exercise. We will go round all the nine states to inspect the over 12,000 projects that have been identified by the NDDC”, he stressed.