• Stakeholders grumble over lingering board inauguration
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
AFTER more than a few botched attempts to live up to his promises, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, submitted the much-awaited forensic audit report on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, September 2, to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, instead of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Why Malami became a stand-in for President Muhammadu Buhari, who had earlier expressed his readiness to receive the audit report has not been clarified until date, but the failure of the Federal Government to inaugurate the substantive board of the interventionist agency, screened and cleared by the National Assembly more than a month after the audit report was submitted, has also remained a mystery.
Buhari had in 2019 directed a forensic audit exercise of NDDC’s projects and programmes covering the 19 years of its establishment in 2000 to 2019.
Akpabio stated while submitting the report to Malami that the auditors discovered about 13,700 abandoned projects in the region.
While stakeholders are waiting for government to take the right step by inaugurating the board and disbanding the interim contraption running the agency, suspicion has widened among them if there was, indeed, a forensic audit as claimed.
Inquiringly, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the regional body of the coastal states of Niger Delta is among the assemblages bothered about the development.
Many others, including the Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, a Niger-Delta rights group and Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy, VATLAD, have also expressed their reservations on what they alleged to be a sham
It is scam – Uduhie I
As far back as April when the audit report had not been submitted, the Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom, in Delta state, His Royal Majesty, King Obukohwo Whiskey Udurhie I, declared that the forensic audit of the commission was a scam.
“Nothing is going on there, as a major oil-producing region, nobody has come to my domain, Idjerhe, to say they want to verify the project of NDDC in the region.
“With over 50 communities in my domain, there are abandoned NDDC projects, so, if they are carrying out forensic auditing, they would have visited some of the projects, but they have not come here.
“So, I can boldly tell you that the NDDC forensic audit is a scam perpetuated by an individual to hold the whole region hostage. There is no probe of any kind that does not have a life span.
“The last time, the minister said he was going to inaugurate the board in April, this is past mid-April already and nothing seems to be happening. What they refer to as forensic audit is a scam,” the monarch declared.
Three months after, in July, former head of the Interim Management Committee, IMC, NDDC, Ms. Joi Nunieh, testifying before the House of Representatives Committee probing allegations of malfeasance in the commission, also claimed that that no forensic audit was ongoing.
N’Delta minister dismisses fears
Akpabio was to dismiss the claims later, assuring that the audit was on and in fact, the delay in inaugurating the board as demanded by stakeholders was because of the enormity of works and discoveries by the auditors.
No audit report anywhere, it is fabrication – Robinson
National Publicity Secretary, PANDEF, Hon Ken Robinson, confirmed that the major concern of stakeholders at the moment was if forensic audit was actually carried out or some people sat down somewhere to concoct figures, did some guess work and came up with a report.
Hon Robinson, who disclosed that PANDEF had carried out a discreet inquiry on the forensic audit report, asserted: “Because if it is true that the content of the audit report said that N6 trillion had been received by NDDC, then that is disastrous.
“If it is also true that the audit report recommended that appointees to the board should be on part time, then that will also be terrible because board members are already on part time.”
His words: “It is obvious that if those true facts were part of the audit report, then we should responsibly conclude that there was no audit report at all anywhere. It is just a concoction of hearsay and guess work.”
What’s holding board inauguration?
“The issue of constituting a substantive board for the NDDC should not have been tied to the audit report in the first place. They are not related.
“The audit report could be going on and then the board could be appointed. And if you say let the forensic audit be concluded before a board, the audit is supposedly concluded. What is the delay for the board?
“But our problem is with the forensic audit itself. PANDEF looked into the content as promised.
“We have not received the full report and document, but we have interrogated some statements made by the Attorney General of the Federation as to how much has been received by NDDC and how much spent and owed.
“We have documents at our disposal and which are also in public domain that contradicts those facts. That places question mark on the whole credibility of the forensic audit itself.
“PANDEF is not satisfied at this point. We have asked that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to apologize to the people of Nigeria, particularly the Niger Delta people, for the misleading information provided at the event.
“We await that apology from the ministers,” he said
“They are imaginary figures and we could conclude responsibly that the entire process of the forensic audit is a concoction of lies, hearsay or gossip.
“Some persons sat down in Port Harcourt or wherever, just wrote whatever they like, imagined and brought it up to submit to Mr. President?
“That is fraudulent, corruption in itself.
“We have also asked the president to interrogate and investigate the process of the forensic audit and subject it to thorough examination and correct the inaccuracies, because if they go ahead with what they have now, they will waste their time prosecuting people that are not even in any form of corruption,” he added.
Discard forensic audit report, inaugurate board – IPDI
National president of IPDI, Comrade Austin Ozobo, in a statement, said failure of the report to capture Senator Akpabio as one of the problems of NDDC, has rendered the forensic audit report useless and a scam because “Akpabio held sway in NDDC while he was senator, governor of Akwa-Ibom state and now, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.”
”The minister cannot be exonerated by the forensic audit report when he has mismanaged hundreds of billions of naira without a single project executed for a period under the three interim administrators.
”How can he vindicated by the forensic audit report when he is yet to give account of billions syphoned under his watch.
“The forensic audit report is a scam having not comprehensively captured Akpabio and his cohorts as part of the defaulters of NDDC.
”The failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the NDDC substantive board upon the completion of the audit report also has made the audit report questionable.
”No man can be a judge in his own case, but this is the first time in history where a man became a judge in his own case.
“Everything in this report is political, it is controversial and inconclusive for now.
”It is a great disservice to Niger Delta citizens that Akpabio who have involved in draining NDDC was made to spearhead an audit that should have indicted him.
”I am not trying to exonerate other people but Akpabio cannot be exempted from the NDDC saga with the latest developments in the commission,” Ozobo said.
The activist, urged Buhari to throw the fraudulent document into dust bin and go ahead to inaugurate the substantive NDDC board before it generates fresh crisis in Niger Delta region.
Audit report scandalous – Igbini, VATLAD
Like others, barely two weeks after submission of the audit report, national president of VATLAD, Comrade Emmanuel Igbini, faulted some recommendations in the forensic audit report.
He said: “We were hit with rude shock and disappointment to read that the lead forensic auditor, Alhaji Kabir Ahmed, recommended managerial as well as structural changes, chief of which is downsizing of the board and members of the board to be on part-time.”
“He was reported to have hinged his recommendations on the need to reduce cost of running NDDC.
“We would have ignored his recommendations and not react to same because they are not carefully thought out.
“However, we are compelled to react because the Attorney General of the Federation in his response on behalf of President Buhari, stated that President Buhari has promised to strategically implement all aspects of the audit exercise, which will include review of the NDDC Act vis-a-vis the recommendation for board members to be on part-time.
“At this point, it is incumbent on us, as patriots and indigenes of the Niger Delta region, to remind President Buhari and Nigerians that by virtue of section 2(3) of the NDDC Act, 2000, those positions of Governing Board of the Commission (NDDC) that our people of Niger Delta Region rightly demanded in year 2000 be placed on part-time are already on part-time and, therefore, need no further placing on part-time.
“Furthermore, it’s important to remind Nigerians that of every 19-member substantive governing board of NDDC confirmed by the Nigerian Senate, 16 are on part-time; only three of them, the Managing Director/CEO, Executive Director, Finance and Administration, and Executive Director, Projects, are on full-time, and rightly so.
“It was deliberate to differentiate them from the other 16 members on part-time that the NDDC Act, 2000 under section 12, classify them as members of NDDC Management Committee with responsibility to carry out the day-to-day administration of the Commission,” he said.