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OPINION: NDDC, looters on self exoneration of corrupt allegations

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Senator Godswill Akpabio (Middle) Prof. Pondei Kemebradijunor and Dr. Cairo Ojougboh

By Isaac Asabor

The leadership of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has in its latest reaction to another round of reports on financial sleaze leveled against its management exonerated itself from corrupt practices, and has in the same vein restated its commitment to serve the people of the Niger Delta Region.

According to a Statement issued on Monday, precisely on August 3, 2020, by the Commission’s Director, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Charles Obi Odili, “One of the reports alleges that a fresh massive fraud has been uncovered in the Commission. Reading through the story, there is no evidence of fraud in the Commission. The report is merely a rehash of the allegations which led the National Assembly, on May 5, to order a probe of the 74-day administration of Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei at the Commission.

Odili explained that in “Less than two weeks after an exhaustive and exhausting public hearings by both chambers of the National Assembly, another round of false reports have surfaced in the media alleging all manners of improprieties by the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.

“Lest we forget, that probe was set up to uncover the sum of N40 billion alleged to be missing from the Commission. In order to allay the fears of our stakeholders, we took the unusual step of publishing the list of payments made by the Commission since Pondei came into office.

Ostensibly resorting to self-exoneration, he stated, “With that publication, the rug was pulled from the feet of our accusers. When the hearings proper started, there was no talk of the missing N40 billion any more. It was now about financial recklessness. As we pointed out in an earlier release, the issue of missing money is one needing objective proof. The issue of financial recklessness is a matter of subjective judgment. The reports of the hearings have been submitted and it is clear there was no money missing at the Commission.

He explained that the response of the Commission to the new reports is that there is no fraud at the NDDC, and added that Prof Pondei has run a very transparent administration and that the level of transparency that his administration is known for is now apparent after the searchlight put on his administration in the past one month.

In his response to another Report, he said “Rehashed the claim of the Contractors Association that the management demands between 20 per cent and 30 per cent kickback before paying contractors, was also debunked.  He stated, “We wish to state categorically that this is false. This allegation was made at the hearing of the Ad hoc Senate Committee which probed the affairs of the Commission. The management of NDDC was at the hearing when the allegation was made and challenged the man who did so for evidence. There was no single case that he could allude to. Without any evidence, the allegation became so outlandish that not even a single newspaper reported it the following day.

He disclosed that Prof. Pondei has said that if any contractor can prove he paid him any money, he would resign.  He noted that four weeks since that challenge was thrown on July 9, no one has come out with any proof, and that it is instructive that the Senate report did not adopt the allegation as valid. He added that it beats the imagination why any newspaper will report a baseless claim, four weeks after it was made and for which no one can prove.  He said the Reporter that broke the news claimed that the story was lifted from the report of the Senate Committee, and demanded, “We need to know why he did not report it four weeks ago when he was at the hearing”.

He added that the leadership of the commission suspects that after the scheming of the past four weeks failed to achieve the purpose of sacking the management and scuttling the work on the forensic audit exercise, the schemers are out again to heat up the polity. The point they miss is that the forensic audit exercise is a project of Mr. President. He stated that hounding and haunting innocent academic who is merely on a national assignment will not scuttle the audit.

Against the foregoing background he said the management of the commission would want to appeal to those who are putting their personal interests over and above that of the people of the Niger Delta to have a rethink in order to allow the Commission the opportunity to serve the people of the region.

To me, given all the rebuttals which the commission has been dishing out to exonerate itself from various allegations leveled against its management, it would be nice if concerned NDDC officials appear on Camera at the National Assembly to further convince Nigerians that all is well with NDDC.

To my personal view, by virtue of the responsibilities vested on its spokesman, Mr. Charles Obi Odili, the commission can go the whole hog by ensuring that it appears before our lawmakers whenever called upon to do so. To me, when answering questions from the lawmakers, any of its representatives that would be probed by the lawmakers should refrain from hearkening to any voice that would say, “It is okay, it is okay” and in the same vein refrain from developing a mutual relationship with any lawmaker that would be screaming “Off the mic, off the mic.” In the absence of the foregoing, I will continue to disagree from whatever form of rebuttal that the organization has issued or about to issue. Simply put, I beg to disagree from all NDDC’s rebuttal exonerating itself from corrupt allegations.

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