The Nigeria Senate has ordered the NDDC’s Interim Management Committee (IMC), Staff and the Police to immediately refund of N4.923 billion which it was spent questionably between April and May, 2020.
The resolution was part of Thursday’s legislative debate on the investigative report on alleged financial recklessness in the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Before taking a far reaching decision on the report that was laid by the Committee Chairman, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, the Upper legislative chamber said the NDDC, an agency of government has been turned into a cesspool of corruption.
The Committee report pushed for 17- point recommendations which were adopted by the Senate.
The report identified three major sources of revenue into NDDC viz: monetary contributions 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. 5 billion 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 identified, was the N4.923 billion 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 .
The breakdown of the N4.923billion to be refunded are N1.49billion spent as relief fund for COVID-19, N1.12billion for Public Communication , N1 .96billion for procurement of Lassa Fever Kits, N164.2million claimed to have been expended on Union Members Trip to Italy , N105.5million said to have been spent on Scholarships Grants and N85.7million claimed to have been spent on Overseas Travel to the United Kingdom during total lockdown against the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically on the COVID-19 relief funds, the Acting MD of the Commission , Pondei, will refund N10million , Executive Director ( Project) Dr Cairo Ojougboh , will refund N7million along with one other executive director ,
Others are 157 staffers of the Commission who collected N3million as relief fund , 148 others who collected N1.5 million each , another set of 157 others who collected N1million each and the remaining 497 staffers claimed to have been given N600,000.00 each as relief funds for COVID-19.
Out of the N1.5billion claimed to have been expended on relief funds , the balance of N475million is to be refunded by the Police High Command for allegedly collecting the sum for procurement of face masks and hand sanitizers .
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 .
The upper legislative Chamber kicked against the idea of self appointed forensic auditor by the Commission , saying such a practice cannot expose fraud let alone , ensure transparency and accountability .
It consequently recommended that the Office of Auditor General of the Federation , should by constitutionality , be saddled with such responsibility .
” In order to ensure that the forensic audit achieves the purpose for which it is set up and inspire confidence in the operational and financial processes of NDDC oversight of the audit should be transferred to the office of the Auditor General of the Federation .
“This will guarantee independence , credibility, transparency and professionalism in the output of the exercise.
“Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the President with advice from the Auditor General should appoint a renowned , internationally recognised Forensic Auditor to carry out the exercise” , the report states .
The Upper legislative Chamber however mandated its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate alleged meddlesomeness of its members in the operations of the commission .
“There are assertions of blackmail by NDDC against members of the National Assembly on the the subject of procurement process , this must be investigated and if found true, the practice must stop ” , the report states .
Virtually all the Senators who contributed, insisted that the NDDC ‘s IMC must be immediately dissolved to have way for Board of Directors .
According to them, what the IMC members were doing at the Commission ,was nothing but day light robbery .
“People in the Niger Delta Area , are suffering , and billions of Naira are being looted on daily basis by those ordinarily saddled with the development of the area “, they lamented.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate , Ahmad Lawan, assured his colleagues , that the report would be acted upon by President Muhamnadu Buhari.
“This report has exposed inefficiency and large scale corruption going on in NDDC.
“It has revealed that over the years , those charged with the responsibility of running the Commission and by extension, facilitating development of the Niger Delta Area , have squandered the resources given to them for that purpose.
“We are on the same page with the executive in getting the agency sanitized and I can assure you that the report will receive the required attention it deserves from Mr President”, he said .
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