The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has said that if it releases the list of those involved in looting the commission, the country will break.
The IMC has also accused members of the National Assembly of plotting to stall the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Executive Director in charge of Projects at the NDDC, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, who made the allegation while speaking to Vanguard in Abuja, said that Nigeria would be shocked if the commission releases the names and calibre of persons involved in contract scam in 2017 and 2019 especially among members of the National Assembly.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday last week approved the forensic auditing of about 12 thousand NDDC contracts. But Dr. Ojougboh alleged that the recent pressure by the National Assembly to probe the activities of the IMC was instigated by the fear of the forensic audit. He said that the mission of the IMC to the NDDC and the Niger Delta region is to ensure that every naira that had been put into the region through the commission is accounted for and vowed that the committee would dare every odd to ensure that the mission is accomplished; not minding whose ox is gored.
The NDDC Executive Director on Projects took a swipe at the National Assembly for condemning the N51 million monthly imprest for the office of the Acting Managing Director of the Commission and the N18 million imprest for his office, saying that such monies are not personal money but for the upkeep of the place especially in security. He alleged that a highly placed member of the National Assembly from the South-South whom he accused working against the IMC has a cumulative imprest of about N100 million monthly without the kind of security challenges the NDDC management faces on daily basis. According to him, “My MD feeds 100 policemen every day and in Port Harcourt as an executive of NDDC, you need security more than anything, till tomorrow, you know of it. When they are sending these policemen, the instruction is fed them, cater for them, that is what is in the letter the police hierarchy sent. “So people are talking about 51 million of imprest for the MD, it is a security vote, it’s not for his personal pocket, the money does not go to the MD’s account. Myself, N18 million, it does not go to my account, it goes for security and other expenses and it is retired, there is no fraud in it.”
He said when President Buhari nominated them, and they arrived at NDDC office Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, the first thing they noticed was that the two Chairmen (NDDC Committee) in the National Assembly, were the “De Facto management, managers and the executive of NDDC.” He said as a former member of the National Assembly and a former liaison officer to the President, he has been in the Chambers and in all his life he has been in government since 1999 till date. “So I know what time of the day it is in politics and in governance. So we told them it cannot be business as usual, then they said we must leave.”
Asked what was responsible for the sudden interest of the National Assembly in the activities of the IMC, he said,” God bless you. It’s the forensic audit that the President has instituted because the National Assembly is culpable. At the end of the forensic audit, you will see members of the National Assembly… “A Senator came and said that in the list of 2016 they brought, that he had only six contracts, I said no, that he had more. What he didn’t know is that we did not release the list for 2017 and the one for 2019. If we release it this country will break.”
Also asked why the country should break, he said, ” Oh because of the people looting, the calibre, the names and people looting the NDDC. And who engineers it? The Chairmen of the NDDC in the senate and House of Representatives in the National Assembly. “So, when I explained, I told Mr. President to look, my job here is very simple. Mr. President looks, even if it is the only thing I achieve in my life to make sure that things are put right for the people of the Niger Delta to have the benefit of the NDDC. You can call me any name, you can do anything, you can say anything, I don’t care but I must do the right thing and the right thing is that no one penny will be missing.”
He further alleged that the National Assembly had planned to truncate the progress of the forensic audit through various means; first by using the probes by the committees and later by refusing to sign the budget, saying the refusal to sign the budget is an instrument of blackmail against the IMC. He said, “Mark you, the National Assembly sabotaged, through the instrumentality of the Chairmen of the House and Senate, they sabotaged … if you give them to report, they will say you did not bring performance report. We brought everything that they’ve asked us to bring, but they used the budget as the instrument of blackmail. “So they have blackmailed the nation and the Niger Delta in the last 20 years, that is why you see that you cannot go to the Niger Delta today and see ten kilometres of dualised roads done by the NDDC, no. What do you see, 500 meters here, 200 meters there and all of them one billion each”, he said.
He, however, said despite efforts of the National Assembly to muzzle the IMC and frustrate the forensic audit, the audit process had progressed as the first leg of the job had already been concluded and the second and final leg would soon kick-off. He said, “It has started. Why are we here if it has not? The National Assembly wanted to truncate it, they said they will not pass our budget. You know the forensic audit is in two stages; we have procured the lead auditors and they are at work, they have all the files of all the contracts at the NDDC from inception till date. “The second stage is to send the various auditors to each of the states, the National Assembly people know that’s where they are culpable so they stopped our budget, but the President said the forensic audit must continue that he will fund it. “The lead auditors have finished their initial job, they have written their report, now each of the states will have one auditor looking at all the contracts and projects in it. That’s what we came here for today. These auditors will now go back to the states tomorrow, once we finish here today and the Council approves it.”
On the allegations of misappropriation against the IMC by the National Assembly committees, Ojougboh said the allegations were just another attempt at blackmail, explaining that the IMC had not awarded a single contract, but had been sorting out what he described as obligatory debts of the NDDC to its contractors. “That’s the problem. The reason they are touting those multiple billions is just to give us a bad name, the multiple billions that are payments for obligatory debts. The payment is not for me, every year the NDDC spends as much as four to five hundred billion, it is the debt we met on ground. “People have done their jobs, are we going to say they should not be paid? We have not awarded one contract, people are taking us to court every day. So we look at the projects, we clear them and we pay. They said we spent, but we didn’t spend, rather we paid historic debts”, he explained. He further said, “They are talking about COVID-19 payment, the federal government is given every citizen N30,000 each, do you know how much federal government has spent? The CBN and many other corporations have been giving COVID-19 allowances, which are within their purview, just like NDDC did. “In the National Assembly, each of the senators got N20 million, while the House of Representatives members got N15 million for COVID-19 from the National Assembly. They all received COVID19 allowances.” Asked if the money spent by the commission on COVID-19 palliatives was budgeted for, he said the money was spent under emergency.
He said, “It was not budgeted for because it was an emergency, it’s allowed. It comes under emergency. The N30,000 per person that the federal government is giving to the citizen, was it budgeted for? Did anybody budget for COVID-19? Nobody budgeted for COVID-19. The SGF is the Chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force in Nigeria, was that task force budgeted for? It’s an emergency and it’s allowed. “What we are saying is that Nigerians must appreciate Mr. President. Like when we got to the headquarter building, no one thought that building could be completed. Today we have completed it, we are inside it, but they will come to tell you that we are inside an uncompleted building, which is a very huge lie. “We are inside the building that is where I go to work every day. It’s all propaganda by Omo-Agege (Deputy Senate President) and his cohorts just because they want to throw us out of the place because of politics and if we didn’t go there that headquarters building would not be completed.”