The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has commenced the verification, monitoring, and evaluation of beneficiaries of its Foreign Post Graduate Scholarship program in the United Kingdom, with a visit to Coventry University.
Speaking at a meeting with representatives of the university at the Coventry campus, the NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojoughoh, assured that the Commission would pay all outstanding fees and claims once the verification exercise was concluded.
Dr Ojougboh stressed that the visit to Coventry University was necessary to verify the number of scholars, examine their performance, and check on their wellbeing, especially in the light of the Corona Virus, Covid-19 pandemic.
The Executive Director said he was impressed by the way the university had treated the NDDC scholars and their swift response in providing a list of the Commission’s scholarship beneficiaries at the institution for the verification process. He advised that in order to track progress in the future, there should be a more comprehensive reporting structure.
Dr. Ojuogboh explains that the NDDC needed to verify the scholarship awards because of discrepancies in the number of students and the fact that some of those awarded the scholarships in 2019 did not leave Nigeria for studies in the UK.
The Coventry University Regional Manager Africa, Mr. Amit Bhatnagar, confirmed that many NDDC scholars had passed through the institution over the years and that a good number of them were still with them.
The NDDC team, which included an Assistant Director in Education, Health and Social Services, Mrs. Idara Akpabio and the Managing Director of Marg Education International Limited, the Commission’s consultants, Mr. Godson Ideozu, was given a comprehensive list of its scholars in Coventry University by the institution’s Sponsored Student Manager, Laura Munoz Delgado.
A former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission ( NDDC), has forfeited a sum of N250,000,000 to the Federal Government.
This is according to a statement released by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Friday.
However, the EFCC did not reveal the name of the former Managing Director in the statement.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, recently granted the final forfeiture of the money, based on an application for final forfeiture of the fund by the Lagos zonal office of the EFCC, the statement, signed by spokesman Dele Oyewale, said.
The EFCC had approached the court, seeking the forfeiture of the fund, arguing that it was traced, recovered, and reasonably suspected to be part of the proceeds of unlawful activities.
An investigation by the Commission revealed that a contractor with the NDDC received funds for a purported contract and transferred N250 million, suspected as kickbacks, to a real estate company, for the acquisition of a property in favour of the former MD of the NDDC.
The EFCC, “armed with enough facts and figures involved in the transaction, approached the court for the forfeiture of the money to the government.
“Justice Aikawa granted the order of final forfeiture accordingly.”
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has faulted a report that it paid various sums of money as COVID-19 palliatives to members of the Senate.
NDDC’s acting Executive Director (Projects), Dr Cairo Ojougboh, condemned the claim in a statement on Tuesday.
Ojougboh who clarified the controversy sparked by the claim also denied issuing any statement as purported in the report.
He stressed that there was no way the agency could have made such payments as there was no provision for such in the NDDC’s budget.
While stating that he would have resisted such a payment if it was brought up, the executive director said the Interim Management Committee (IMC) has championed a campaign to cleanse the NDDC of obvious corruption and frivolous payments.
According to him, the IMC has a mandate to restore the agency to its core mandate of facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.
Ojougboh, however, urged the Senate and the National Assembly to discountenance the report and assured them of the IMC’s cooperation to strengthen the NDDC and make it worthy to meet its obligations to the region.
RE: SENATE CHALLENGES NDDC OVER ALLEGED N20M PALLIATIVES
I read with utter dismay and surprise the report in the Tuesday edition of The Nation newspaper, titled “Senate Challenges NDDC over alleged N20m Palliatives”, stating that I issued a statement alleging that the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC paid “varying sums of money as COVID-19 palliative” to members of the National Assembly.
I want to state without equivocation, without any hint of doubt, that I neither issued, nor made, such a statement. Indeed, there is no provision in the Commission’s budget for such a payment.
Let me make it clear, with all due respect to the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly, as well as to the entire Nigeria public, that I would have resisted such a payment if it were ever brought up in the Commission.
In the past few months, the Interim Management Committee, IMC has championed a campaign to cleanse the Commission of obvious corruption and frivolous payments and restore it to its core mandate of facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region. A pillar of this campaign is instituting due process and plugging every dubious hole through which the funds of the Commission are diverted and frittered away.
In the course of this campaign, it bears to emphasise once more that I and the IMC, as well as the Commission, have been clear to state that the National Assembly, as a distinguished body, as well as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, are absolved of blame. The main body of the National Assembly is unaware of the happenings in the NDDC.
To concoct this dubious, malicious and infantile lie against me, therefore, shows the extent, and how low, people can go to bring harm to individuals and cause disaffection among people and between institutions.
My service to my fatherland and the zeal of my patriotism, as well as unwavering love for the wellbeing of the Niger Delta region and our people, will not allow me to denigrate the lofty institution such as the National Assembly, an important beacon of our collective democratic journey. As a former member of the National Assembly, I hold that institution in the highest esteem and will not undermine nor denigrate its integrity.
I have always stated that I am a man of peace and a soldier of truth. I have enough integrity and honour to stand by my statements. And let it be affirmed here that I do not issue statements on behalf of the Commission. I do this because it is important, as a man of honour, to speak up when my purpose is questioned and my integrity and character are challenged.
Consequently, I respectfully call on the Senate and the entire National Assembly to discountenance that report. Let me reiterate that I and the IMC, as well as the Commission, will continue to work with the National Assembly to strengthen the Commission and make it worthy to meet its Mandate and obligations to the Niger Delta region.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says it has commenced an investigation into various allegations of corruption and misappropriation of COVID-19 funds in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Spokesperson of the ICPC, Mrs. Azuka Ogugua, disclosed in a statement on Saturday that some top directors and staff of the agency have been quizzed after months of intelligence gathering.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in July, ordered a speedy and coordinated investigation into the corruption scandal in the agency following a series of drama, blames, and counter-accusations among others.
According to the ICPC spokesperson, top officials are being interrogated in the alleged diversion of N5.47 billion meant for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the nine states of NDDC.
“The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has quizzed top management staff of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), over allegations of various acts of corruption such as diversion of funds, procurement fraud and misappropriation of the agency’s Covid-19 funds.
“Some directors of NDDC were interrogated at the Commission’s headquarters recently, after months of intelligence gathering, following the receipt of petitions from Nigerians on the alleged illegalities and contracts fraud by some officials of the agency,” it added.
“Top officials of the agency are being investigated for their complicity in an alleged diversion of N5.474 billion meant for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the nine states of NDDC,” the statement read in part.
Mrs Ogugua said that the commission is also investigating the payment of monies for some staff training abroad, which was never attended due to the global lockdown measures enforced to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The Commission is also investigating the payments of millions of naira to the staff of the agency for foreign training during the Covid-19 full lockdown which were never attended, as well as the non-payment of entitlements to students on foreign scholarships.
“Other allegations being investigated by ICPC include the selling of back-dated contract award letters for projects and awards of contracts that were not captured in the budget of the NDDC,” she stated.
The ICPC spokesperson added that the Commission has retrieved relevant documents that will help in uncovering the truth, recover diverted funds and prosecute anyone found to have breached the law.
The NDDC Saga
The NDDC has been a subject of controversy in the last few months over allegations of corruption in the award of contracts and the non-payment of Nigerian scholars under the payroll of the commission.
This prompted the National Assembly to invite the Minister of Niger Delta, Mr Godwill Akpabio, and the former Interim Management Committee head, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei.
Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council approved N722.3 million for eight field forensic auditors to audit the NDDC in a bid to unravel the level of corruption in the agency in charge of the development of the Niger Delta region.
In a statement issued on July 28, the spokesman for the House and Committee Chairman on Media Affairs and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu, said that the minister had alleged that 60 percent of all the NDDC projects were awarded to members of the lawmakers between the months of January and May 2020.
Kalu explained that following the claim, the leadership of the 9th House issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Akpabio to publish a list of the lawmakers.
The House spokesman revealed that the lawmakers evaluated the minister’s letter and the directive to press charges against him have not been lifted.
Also, President Buhari reacted to the controversy trailing both the commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The President who spoke after the Sallah service on July 31, said some people trusted by his administration have abused the privilege.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) says its Interim Management Committee (IMC) has saved N35 billion from its verified payments to contractors.
NDDC’s acting Executive Director (Projects), Dr Cairo Ojougboh, revealed this on Friday while addressing reporters in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State headquarters.
He made the revelation shortly after the inauguration of the Committee for the completion and commissioning of NDDC’s new permanent headquarters at the Eastern By-Pass in the state.
Ojougboh, who is the Chairman of the committee, disclosed that the commission has also verified the payments for N1.5 trillion for other projects.
He affirmed that work on the office complex was at 98 per cent completion.
“As you can see, the lifts and escalators are working, the lights and the central air conditioners are functioning.
“You have seen the external works, so I want to tell you that what is left is the ancillary building, the windows are already in place. You have also seen the asphalts, so we are good to go,” the NDDC executive director was quoted as telling reporters in a statement by the commission’s spokesman, Charles Odili.
He added, “There were lots of booby-traps which made it impossible for this building to be ready before now, but we thank God for the successes we have recorded.”
No More Distraction
According to Ojougboh, change has come to the NDDC and things will no longer remain the way they used to be.
He stated that President Muhammadu Buhari has worked for the change in NDDC, noting that even when the IMC leaves, those coming in would be more careful.
On the corruption allegations in the commission, the NDDC executive director said they have compiled the lists of those who benefitted from the agency’s contracts for another three years.
He said, “As for the list of contractors we published, that was for 2018 alone; by the time we publish that of 2019, a lot of things will come out to the open.
“Some persons claim they did not benefit from NDDC but we have documents linking them to those contracts. The forensic audit is unearthing a lot of things; 2016, 2017 and 2019 lists are ready but we have decided we would not be distracted again.”
Ojougboh alleged that the NDDC budget for 2019 was distorted to the detriment of regional projects, citing the example of regional hospital projects that were starved of funds.
“We made provision for hospitals in all Niger Delta states as our regional projects, but it was removed and replaced with the supply of chairs to schools in the region,” he said.
He, however, said that the NDDC had written letters to the National Assembly to explain why N11.6 billion budgeted for the completion of hospitals was removed and replaced with the supply of chairs and desks.
“Is that what we deserve in Niger Delta?” Ojougboh questioned.
A petition has been addressed to the Senate alleging that the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission mismanaged N6.25bn set aside for COVID-19 palliatives.
In a letter dated August 3, 2020, Chairman of the NDDC COVID-19 Palliatives Committee, Sobamabo Jackrich, described the management of the funds as “a show of shame and a scam.”
Jackrich said the money was “misappropriated and embezzled by the IMC of the NDDC and their Co-conspirators.”
“My findings is not only that the money cannot be accounted for,” he added, “but there is nothing on ground to show that the 6.2 billion naira of our hard-earned taxpayers money was invested for its original purpose which the President approved.”
Jackrich asked the National Assembly to probe and investigate the IMC, which is led by Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei.
“The IMC should be made to explain the hijack of the Palliatives Distribution process and the sidelining of the inaugurated Palliatives Distribution Committee which was saddled with the task of Distribution of the palliatives in the nine Niger Delta states as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari,” Jackrich said.
The NDDC is currently under scrutiny for alleged financial misappropriation.
Prof. Pondei, who was appointed by President Buhari in February 2020, has publicly appeared before a House of Representatives investigative committee on NCDC along with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to pay the fees and stipends of scholars of the commission who are facing hardships abroad.
The Director of Corporate Affairs at the NDDC, Charles Odili, disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday.
This followed a protest by the students recently in the United Kingdom who called on the President to intervene in the matter.
“Senator Akpabio, the Honourable Minister, said President Buhari who has been briefed on the protest by students at the Nigerian High Commission in London, has ordered that all stops be pulled to pay the students by the end of this week,” Odili said in the statement.
He also has explained the rationale behind the delay in remittance of the fees of the scholars, saying their fees and stipends would be paid by the end of the week.
Odili revealed that the delay was caused by the sudden death of the then acting Executive Director of Finance and Administration (EDFA), Ibanga Etang, in May.
He said, “Under the commission’s finance protocol, only the Executive Director (Finance) and the Executive Director (Projects) can sign for the release of funds from the commission’s domiciliary accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“With the death of Chief Etang, the remittance has to await the appointment of a new EDFA. We expect a new EDFA to be appointed this week. As soon as that is done, they would all be paid.”
Controversial NDDC Contracts
On the list of NDDC contracts handled by members of the National Assembly, Odili claimed that the one submitted by Akpabio was not compiled by the minister but came from the files in the Commission.
He alleged that the list submitted to the National Assembly was actually compiled by the then management of the commission in 2018.
The NDDC spokesman noted that there was another set of lists for emergency project contracts awarded in 2017 and 2019, but they were not submitted to the lawmakers.
“The Interim Management Committee, IMC, of the Commission stands by the list, which came from files already in the possession of the forensic auditors.
“It is not an Akpabio list but the NDDC’s list. The list is part of the volume of 8,000 documents already handed over to the forensic auditors,” he said.
Odili insisted that the list did not include the “unique case of 250 contracts” which were signed for and collected in one day by one person allegedly for members of the National Assembly.
The recent revelations on the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may have come as a surprise to many Nigerians, but it is not a shocking development for Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Governor Wike believes the agency has since deviated from its original mandate and has become a source of wealth for some corrupt politicians.
“I have said before and it is very clear; my concern is everybody knows that NDDC was set up for the development of the region,” he told Channels Television on Tuesday during an interview on Sunrise Daily in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
He added, “Unfortunately, they have turned it to a different thing; NDDC is a cash cow for politicians. In my own election, NDDC brought N10 billion cash to fight against me.”
The governor’s reaction is the latest among several others following the probe of the agency by lawmakers in the National Assembly in Abuja.
The lawmakers had launched a probe into the fraud running into billions of naira said to have been perpetrated by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC between February and May 2020.
This led to the discovery of more scam in the agency which sparked a series of drama and blame games between government officials and lawmakers.
During one of the investigative hearings organised by the National Assembly, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, alleged that about 60 per cent of the NDDC projects were awarded to lawmakers – a claim that sparked more reactions from some members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
They Have Not Invited Us
Amid various responses to the minister’s claim, Governor Wike accused the agency of embarking on projects in Rivers without the consent of the state government.
He also reacted to the probe of the NDDC by the lawmakers, saying it was one-sided as the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the agency led by Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei ought to be investigated as well.
“When they are talking about probing IMC, I said what are you doing only with IMC, what about the other committees? Professor Kemebradikumo and the rest of them. They (the lawmakers) have not invited us and why I don’t want to go is that what am I doing with the IMC?” the governor asked.
He stated, “I am one governor who challenged the NDDC; we went to the Federal High Court, the Federal High Court returned the matter to the State High Court. NDDC went to appeal and we won them and at the State High Court, we have won them.
“You cannot go to a state and begin to carry out projects without the permission of the state government, you don’t know what their plans are. You can’t come into my state to disturb my development plan, you must let me know.”
Governor Wike believes that in order to reverse the fortune of the agency, technocrats and not politicians should be placed in charge of the commission to enable it function effectively.
Explaining the role of governors in the South-South, he said, “Under the NDDC Act, there should be a governing board made up of the governors.
“Since 2015 we have been asking for that board, but it was only last year that the President was able to … constitute a governing board. But that is just theory.”
Former Niger-Delta states Governors, Orji Kalu and Emmanuel Uduaghan on Monday denied any wrongdoing regarding their involvement in Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) contracts.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, had reportedly mentioned both former Governors as beneficiaries of NDDC contracts.
However, Kalu, who was Abia State Governor between 1999 to 2007, said his involvement in NDDC contracting had been based on community interest.
“Between 2016- 2018 during my tour to several communities; leaders and welfare unions of most communities pleaded for urgent intervention on some dilapidated roads,” he said, in a statement signed by one of his aides, Emeka Nwala, “I wrote to the NDDC informing the body of the conditions of these roads and the need for their attention since Abia is an NDDC state.
“The NDDC in their consideration which I am very grateful to awarded the roads to companies that duly tendered for the projects and not myself. Whatever link I have with the projects is because it was considered due to my intervention.”
Meanwhile, former Delta State Governor, Uduaghan, described reports linking him to an NDDC contract as “mischievous” and a “falsehood.”
“In the said publication, it was stated that ‘Uduaghan was linked to the emergency repairs of Close B, Alhaji Estate & Environs, Rumuodomaya, Port Harcourt at a cost of N429m’,” a statement signed by Uduaghan’s spokesman, Monoyo Edon, said.
“We want to state very clearly that the said accusation is FALSE. Dr. Uduaghan has never approached the NDDC for any contract whatsoever. It is even more ridiculous that the said contract is a road inside Port Harcourt town.”
In his statement on Monday, Kalu, who is now the Chief Whip of the Senate, alleged that the NDDC is yet to pay contractors who built the roads he facilitated for the commission.
“The roads I requested for intervention as mentioned by the Honourable Minister were repairs of Ezere-Acha-Ndiokoukwu Road; Amaubiri-Eluama-Uru Ring Road, Lokpaukwu, Umuchieze; Ndi Oji Abam-Atan Road; the Okafia-Ozuitem-Bende road and Ozu-Amuru-Abam Road,” he said.
“The contractors have completed and delivered these roads a long time ago except Abam-Atani road which I learned from the contractors was slowed down due to rain but still ongoing.
“Meanwhile, it would interest Nigerians to know that the contractors who built these roads have not been paid any dime. It has not been easy with the contractors but because it’s a community project they have only but kept hope alive on the NDDC.”
A Troubled Commission
The NDDC is currently undergoing a forensic audit over allegations of financial misappropriation within the agency.
Supervising Minister for the Commission, Akpabio, had appeared before a House of Representatives Committee in July where he said lawmakers were the major beneficiaries of NDDC contracts.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila then challenged Akpabio to provide a list of lawmakers who have benefited from the agency’s contract.
Kalu, on Monday, said the linking of his name to the contracts will not push him to stop his interventions on roads in NDDC states.
“Good roads help to drive the economy,” he said. “Therefore, I believe the NDDC forensic audit should focus on the missing funds and not works done.
“They should focus on paying contractors that delivered their jobs and not using my name indiscriminately to sell newspapers.
“The Honourable Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio is my good old friend. We have been friends even before I became a governor.
“I hope he doesn’t expect me to stop seeking road interventions in our communities.
“It is his civic responsibility to support the communities and I am very confident he will oblige our future requests especially in areas of good roads.”