NDDC: ALBNI Cautions Against Politicizing Fraud Allegations

The Accountable Leadership for Better Nigeria Initiative, ALBNI, has called on the anti-corruption agencies to ignore pressures from political actors while launching investigations into allegations of fraudulent transactions against the leadership of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

In a statement on Thursday in Abuja by its Executive Director, Remi Adebayo, the civil society group decried the consistent fingering of the Agency in corruption-related matters at a time the region that laid the proverbial ‘golden egg’ from which the nation is being developed is facing huge developmental deficits.

ALBNI said fraud allegations recently levelled against the Commission by environmental activist, Hosanna Jalogho-Williams that top NDDC officials have turned the agency into a cesspool of corruption is unfortunate and must be thoroughly investigated.

Jalogho-Williams while accusing the NDDC claimed that contracts were awarded without specifying an amount or contract sum thereby making it possible for officials in charge to “cook up any amount they deem fit” at the point of payment.

In the same vein, Godknows Sotonye, the national president of Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group likewise indicted the Commission of awarding two contracts estimated at over N10 billion to two companies for supply of medical equipment. The first, allegedly involving N4.8 billion for the award of contract for the emergency supply and delivery of medical equipment and consumables to the Commission’s warehouse in Port Harcourt and another valued at N5,474,647,125 for supplying Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers and Covid-19 awareness campaigns in the Niger Delta states.

The allegations were denied by a member of the Interim Management Committee, the Director of Project, Dr Cairo Ojugboh, on Channels Television, going further to disclaim prior existence of the contract for any intervention on Covid-19 and feigned knowledge about Osmoserve, the company through which the deals were transacted.

But while Ojugboh made those pointless efforts at confusing the public, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative punctured his claims to be dishonorable mendacities and unconcealed lies.

A statement by the Head, Directorate of Research & Programs of ACT, Kolawole Johnson, disclosed that Osmoserve got the largest share of the self-serving COVID-19 intervention contract amounting to N4,861,354,250.00 and received mobilization more than one week prior to the TV program.

He said Osmoserve Global Ltd should be under a stern flashlight of the forensic probe, having benefitted more than any other company in recent years in numerous emergency projects that brought the commission to its knees, yet the Interim Management made same company its looting agent.

“After Osmoserve’s fraudulent contract award, Official documents show that about four other companies were awarded COVID-19 related contracts and payments approved same date except for a company that objected to unofficially terms advanced by the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. The companies are: AHR Global Standard Services Ltd (Batch no: 13662 & Vat no: 13664), awarded emergency procurement of social relief packs. Julius Dinga Nig Ltd (Batch no: 13656 & Vat no: 13658), award for emergency consultancy for the provision of publicity on the prevention of spread of corona virus across the Nine Niger Delta states. Tables and Buildings Nig. Ltd (Batch no: 13659 & Vat no: 13660),” ACT revealed.

Kolawole went further to disclose that under the IMC, supply details and specifications of projects were always not indicated in the award letter in order to frustrate performance audit process and this applies to the Osmoserve deal.

“The letter of award claimed the medical equipment was meant for testing, treatment and care of COVID-19 cases. Transaction was initiated by Mr Effiong Henry, approved same date by the Executive Director, Finance & Administration, Ibanga Basset Etang and got the final payment approval of the Acting MD, Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, within half an hour, precisely on the 15th of April, 2020. The sum of Seven Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million, Two Hundred and Three Thousand, One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Naira, Fifty Kobo (729,203,137.50) was treated for payment. For verification, the details of transaction from the TSA account are as follow: Batch no: 13593, Vat no: 13595 and Withholding Tax no: 13594. This can be verified by anyone,” Kolawole explained.

At this point, it is instructive to note that no sane government or party hyping the corruption fight as its major feat should lose its moral strength by looking away from digging up matters to unravel the truth around these allegations; the anti-corruption agencies must on their honour commence investigations without any prompting.

“This must not warrant distracting plots by politicians and must not be treated like the proverbial storm in the teacup by the ruling party. While we agree with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in its lamentation that the NDDC has become an automated teller machine for corrupt political leaders and their cronies, we similarly believe that the PDP, under whose leadership the Commission was established but also laid the foundation for its pillaging has some moral burden to shoulder.

On its part, the ruling All Progressives Congress that quickly exonerated the Commission and dismissed the allegations must equally beat a retreat knowing it cannot be running at cross-purpose with the same enviable ideal to fight corruption through which Nigerians’ confidence have been twice reposed on President Muhammadu Buhari.

“As a matter of fact, the defense like this ridicules the anti-corruption posture of the Buhari Government and portends a serious mockery for the party that pronounced making corruption fight a policy priority to become the self-appointed mouthpiece of a Commission caught in the act and that must be scrutinized.

“This development further reinforced our belief that the good intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari when ordering the forensic audit of the NDDC could be fruitless unless he takes direct charge in the affairs of the NDDC in line with the law establishing it.

“The Covid-19 emergency has exposed the vulnerability of different sectors to corrupt practices, in that it has opened channels for unaccountable spending under the guise of health emergency; this why we join the call for immediate investigation of allegation that the Niger Delta people may have been swindled of resources meant for the development of the region and its people,” ALBNI said.

“Since its establishment in 2000 as an agency to fast-track the development of the oil-rich region by facilitating rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful, the Commission has failed in that mandate with attendant instances of corrupt practices without notable achievement that could be traced to the humongous resources that has gone into it in many years.

“We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to waste no moment in sanitizing, instilling financial discipline and enforcing compliance with the established rules in the Commission if he hopes to leave a legacy and engrave his name on the hearts of the people of the oil-rich region. The earlier this is achieved would be his pride, particularly at this time when global oil prices may negatively decide the fate of the people and the post-oil future.”

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