By Cletus Opukeme, Editor, Abuja
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over the years has been the cash cow for privileged Niger Delta leaders to divert the resources meant primarily for the development of the much neglected oil bearing communities in Niger Delta.
The NDDC was created by law under former President Olusegun Obasanjo through the bloody agitation of the Ijaw speaking tribe in Niger Delta as an intervention agency.
But the the commission has failed to meet with the yearnings and aspirations of developmental needs of the Niger Delta oil bearing communities since its creation in 2021 with it’s handlers becoming billionaire’s after leaving office.
After several years of the creation of commission, the region still remained abandoned, dejected and shattered like a war torn region with no meaningful development, despite the huge billions of nairas and dollars pumped or allocated into NDDC to develop the region.
Years after yerars there is no respite as the communities continue to pour their anger against multinational oil exploration/exploitative companies with the youths of the region attacking personnels of the companies and oil installations. In most cases, soldiers repelled the attacks in a counter shooting that led to the dead of several youths, communities bombed by aerial military planes.
In Buhari’s second tenure, a Niger Deltan and former governor of Akwa Ibon state, senator Godswill Akpabio was appointed minister of Niger Delta affairs to oversee and coordinate developmental affairs of the region.
As smart senator, Akpabio employed all strategies to pull his way and convinced President Muhammadu Buhari to submit Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC under his control as the supervision minister of all activities in NDDC to curb financial recklessness.
The sugar coated lip senator Akpabio also convinced the President how he would recover lost funds of the commission through an in-depth auditing code-named ‘ Forensic audut” which sounds very interesting to first timers. Mr. President gave Senator Akpabio unlimited power in NDDC.
To succeed in his plot to have complete access of the NDDC under his feet. Akpabio first fired Professor Brambaifa as Managing Director of NDDC. He appointed his foot soldiers who would help him to carry out the unperturbed looting in the commission. He chopped for a loyal party men Mr. Moses Odubu and Chief Benjamin Okumagba as Chairman/Managing director respectively from Edo and Delta state
But the choice of Moses Odubu and Benard Okumagba were gritted with vehement oppositions against Senator Akpabio by governors in South South region, including other stakeholders, especially the Delta Ijaw extraction who made a valid argument that the position of MD and chairman in NDDC is rotational by the NDDC act and that it is the turn of the Bayelsa State to produce the Managing Director while Delta Ijaw to produce the board chairman.
President Muhammadu Buhari listened to the sharp debate by various stakeholders and nullified Moses Odubu/ Benard Okumagba led NDDC board.
In what appeared like a NOOLYWOOD movie, smart senator Akpabio appointed another MD, this time a female, Barr. Joy Nunieh. Her stay was short-lived as the accusations and counter accusations, ranging from forged NYSC certificate which led to her sack by federal government.
Behold, what led to her sack as we confirmed on telephone chat by Daily Watch with Senator Godswill Akpabio is that she was fired not because of forged certificate but alleged sharp practices with payment of unverified contracts running into billions of naira
In another instance, insiders in NDDC confirmed that Senator Akpabio was blackmailing Barr. Joy Nunieh and that he was not truthful with the real reason she was fired. He said Dr. Nunieh was sacked over the scandalous NDDC Secretariat building which Senator Akpabio compelled her for a payment of 100% to the contractor Rodnao construction which belonged to Akpabio fronting his friend one Mr. Abu.
Immediately, the appointment of Professor Pondei Kemebradikumor was perfected by Mr. President in less than two weeks, Senator Akpabio succeeded in the 100% approval payment of the NDDC Secretariat building payment which Barr. Joy Nunieh refusal to pay led to her sack.
Why former NDDC MD refused making approval of N16 billiion for payment. Senator Akpabio immediately resumed duty who had taken over the job from the original contractor of the NDDC Secretariat contractor Marshland Construction, during the era of Nsima Ekere who gave out the project as a gift to Akpabio to support him for his governorship ambition in Cross Rivers state. Nsima Ekere paid off Marshland Construction compnay with N500million who had completed over 65% completion of the project with N4billion. Marchland pleaded that instead of paying him off with N500million, the commission should make additional increment of N2billion which could enable him to complete the project as a result of sky-rocketed price of building materials.
Akpabio, kicked Marshland N2billion plea and handed over the same contract to his personal construction company and inflated the project money to N16billion whereas the initial contractor demanded only N2billion making a total of N6billion to complete the project. These were the issues the ex-MD disagreed with Senator Akpabio that made him to fire her, using some presidency cabals who are readily available with Akpabio in the shady deals in NDDC to ruin and steal the commonwealth of the people of Niger Delta.
Senator Akpabio made President Buhari to understand that he wanted to sanitize NDDC of corruption and recover lost money using a forensic audit from 2001 till 2019. Ironically, the commission suffers under Godswill Akpabio with massive looting under frivolous phoney contract payments. While over several months, the much publicized forensic audit panel had not done anything .
One of such phoney Akpabio conduit pipes is the alleged purchase of N8.5 billion naira LASSA kits for treatment of LASSA fever in Niger Delta region.
Again, the purchase of CORO-19 PPE’s with a whooping sum of N5.5 billion to combat spread of the virus in Niger Delta region.
Funny enough, no carton of LASSA fever and COVID-19 kits were bought untill Daily Watch first blew the whistle of massive looting in NDDC under Senator Godswill Akpabio
The expose of financial recklessness by Daily Watch had attracted the Senate, National House of Assembly , including the EFCC and ICPC and other concerned stakehokders in the country that had necessitated the ongoing Senate probe of NDDC Interim management committee under the watchful eyes of Godswill Akpabio, the supervisory minister from Niger Delta ministry who becomes hunted as the ezar of forensic audit both under a high powered senate forensic audit to clean the mess in NDDC.
Already a report from the Auditor-General of the federation had indicted Akpabio’s Rodnab company, which the report says the company had been ordered to refund unauthorized N16bn to federal government treasury. The report added that Rodnab’s acts in clear breach of financial regulations
The controversy over alleged financial impropriety and unauthorized expenditure at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) continues to escalate as fresh revelations by the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF) have revealed that the N16.2bn worth contract purportedly awarded to RODNAB Construction Ltd was done illegally without authorization.
According to to the AGF, the contract award therefore amounts to a serious breach of government rules and financial regulations as it was never approved by the approving Board of NDDC. RODNAB is a firm reportedly believed to enjoy close relationship with Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
A detailed audit report authored by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation(AGF) came up with very damning findings about alleged illicit dealings by RODNAB at the NDDC, with serious reproach and censure, asking the said company to refund various sums to the coffers of the Federal government.
The report noted that the act of jerking up the contract sum to N16,222,492,843.76 amounted to a gross violation of government financial regulations including breach of Board approvals, violation of financial regulation 109(d), inflation of contract sum and massive payments for services not rendered by RODNAB.
The Office of the AGF consequently asked the NDDC to compel Messrs RODNAB to refund the allegedly unauthorized incremental payment of N16.2 bn to the treasury, and tender “recovery particulars to my office(AGF) for verification and confirmation.”
Recall that the NDDC’s Interim Management Committee(IMC) and the supervising Minister, Chief Akpabio have been enmeshed in controversy over alleged inappropriate disbursements of various sums to RODNAB construction Ltd, the firm handling the Commission’s head-quarter’s building project in Port- Harcourt, Rivers State.
Recall that some interest groups in the Niger Delta region had accused Akpabio of inappropriately jettisoning the audit report of the Auditor-General of the Federation because of his purported chummy relationship with RODNAB Construction Ltd.
According to the Niger Delta Professionals (NDP) the AGF’s revelations about NDDC’s reported unethical financial disbursements to Rodnab, coupled with Akpabio’s action in reportedly proceeding to effect further colossal payment approvals of N6bn to Rodnab notwithstanding a subsisting red flag from the AGF’s office, is the height of political recklessness and financial indiscretion.
This had fueled allegations by stakeholders that the well thought-out forensic audit envisaged by president Muhmmadu Buhari is being used as a smokescreen to purportedly cover-up RODNAB’s questionable deals at the NDDC.
The Auditor-General’s Report with the subtitle” Issue 43: Irregularities in the Contract for Completion of Niger Delta Development Commission Headquarters Building, Port Harcourt, Rivers State-N16,222,922,843.76” revealed that “ there was no evidence of authorities and approval like minutes of appropriate tender Board meeting to back up these upward approval review.
“Also there was no evidence of ratification| adoption of these actions by the NDDC Board. Also observed and very important that equally on the letter of award to Messrs RODNAB Construction that reference made to the NDDC management as the approving authority for these contract. However, the approval could not be produced for the team’s verification.”
The report queried what it called unauthorized jerking up of the contract worth to N16.2bn, censuring that despite these huge disbursements to RODNAB amount to clear violation of extant government rules and financial regulations.
According to the AGF “ the contract didn’t have priced Bill of Quantities(BOQ) for review” as required. Recall that a BOQ clearly states project quality in terms of specification and quality of materials and their cost in a project execution. The AGF says the failure to include a BOQ is a grave infraction which should not be tolerated.
The AGF lashed out at the Commission that there was no documentary evidence to justify the approved N16,222,492,843.76. He unveiled other reported inapplicable transactions as: “ The sum of N978,877,500.00 on contract administration could not be explained beyond their inclusion in the interim payment certificate No 02 but the valuation was reading valuation 04 as no detailed description or value of expenditure, receipts, and invoices was made available for audit examination.”
The AGF warned that this subsisting infractions gave rise to attendant risks such as abuse of due process, poor job execution or performance, non-execution of project to specification and loss of public funds.
The AGF’s team also queried what it called inflation of contract sum, and payment for services not rendered. The auditing team then ordered the NDDC to provide documentary evidence to proof some of its claims because as the AGF’s Office puts its” the team cannot accept the unauthorized increase as it is viewed as “an after thought aimed at siphoning public funds in which case managing director is requested to recover and refund to the treasury, the total amount of such increase, tendering recovery particulars to my office(AGF) for verification and confirmation.”
The report brimming with anger further asked RODNAB to refund additional N978.8m to the treasury. The AGF submitted: “ The preliminaries sum of N978,877,500.00 added to the contract sum should be deducted from the contract since the project is a continuation of phases. Outcome should be forwarded to my Office for verification.”
Similarly, the AGF ordered additional refund of N107,875,00 from RODNAB “ and forward the recovery particulars to this office(AGF’s office) for verification” or cause the contractor to produce the insurance policy it claimed to have obtained in respect of this project for verification.
Recall that some stakeholders had expressed concern that rather than address these weighty issues raised by the Auditor General of the Federation against RODNAB, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Akpabio proceeded to approve further humongous disbursement of about N6bn to an indicted Messrs RODNAB.
However, Akpabio has consistently denied any wrong doing, insisting that he is innocent of any allegations of fraud and corruption while directing the NDDC’s IMC to clear the air on these controversial subject matters.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Aniete Ekong, Chief Akpabio said he has nothing to do with Rodnab as his only commitment is to ensure the completion of the NDDC head-quarter’s building project. According to Akpabio, he has nothing to hide as his hands are clean stressing that the Commission has been paying only verified contracts since he came on board as Minister supervising the NDDC. According to the Minister, he has devised a good strategy for verifying contracts before approvals are processed for eventual payments.