FG Is Repositioning NDDC, Amnesty Programme, Says Buhari

President Buhari Mourns Veteran Industrialist, Emmanuel Adesoye
File photo President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the Federal Government is repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Amnesty Programme to ensure that they deliver on their mandates to develop the Niger Delta region.

President Buhari stated this while declaring open the fourth Meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt.

Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, noted that the Niger Delta region had suffered so much deprivation and thus needed a new deal.

“We are committed to changing the fortunes of the region to give the people a new lease of life,” stating that “the government was addressing the challenges of under-development and insecurity in the region,” he was quoted as saying via a statement issued on Friday by NDDC’s spokesman.

To the President, the on-going forensic audit of the NDDC was expected to reposition the commission and galvanize it towards optimal development and provide the needed infrastructure for socio-economic development that the region so much requires.

“Due to the efforts and commitment of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the new headquarters building of the NDDC, which had been on-going in the last 24 years, has been completed and is awaiting commissioning by my administration.”

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On the East-West Road, Buhari said: “The completion of the East-West Road, which is a priority to this government, has been handed over to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and I assure you that it will be delivered by the end of 2021 or the early part of 2022.”

Speaking also, the Niger Delta Minister called for harmony between the NDDC and the state governments in the region for the benefit of the people.

According to him, the disharmony between these critical stakeholders was caused by many factors, including political differences.

Development should not be tied to any political party because what the people need is development, irrespective of political affiliation. Poverty and hunger have no political party,” Akpabio said.

We’ll Redeem NDDC Image, Says Interim Administration

 

A file photo of the NDDC logo.

 

The new Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Efiong Akwa, has reiterated the commission’s commitment to redeeming its image and fostering more collaboration with state governments in the Niger Delta region.

Speaking on Wednesday during the fourth meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, Akwa pledged that NDDC would do its best to strengthen the relationship between the commission and the governments of the Niger Delta States, to make them partners and not competitors.

The new NDDC boss also emphasised the need for collaboration with critical stakeholders to drive the process of development in the Niger Delta region.

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“The Niger Delta Development is ready; we have come up with a theme, ‘Redeeming the image of NDDC that will drive the commission.’ Gone are the days when you hear of supply of desks and chairs; we will engage the governors, the royal fathers and other stakeholders of the region, so that we can harmonise the needs assessment and set our priorities right and also get them tackled,” the boss said.

“Whatever we are going to do, will be a product of structured planning that will put all the energies of the Niger Delta states together. The Niger Delta states will be integrated, such that in the next few years, the Niger Delta region will be a force to reckon with. It will be a region that investors would run to.

Buhari Appoints Interim Administrator For NDDC

President Buhari ordered a forensic audit of NDDC operations in 2019.
President Buhari ordered a forensic audit of NDDC operations in 2019.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed an interim administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission, Mr Effiong Akwa, spokesman Femi Adesina said on Saturday.

Mr Akwa is the Commission’s Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration.

He is expected to assume leadership of the NDDC until the completion of the forensic audit ordered by the President.

 

Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the NDDC in October 2019 following persistent allegations of financial misappropriation within the development agency.

In February, the President appointed Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, as Acting Managing Director of the NDDC.

However, Pondei has also faced allegations of misconduct. He slumped in July during a House of Representatives committee hearing.

This month, a Federal High Court in Abuja granted an order to restrain Pondei and others from performing NDDC board functions.

Mr Akwa’s appointment is expected to fill in the gap created by the legal restrictions, Mr Adesina said.

The new interim NDDC chief is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

 

NDDC Interim Leadership: Court Grants Restraining Order On Pondei, Others

 

A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an order restraining Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, Mr Cairo Ojougboh, Dr Joi Nunieh and others from performing the functions of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC).

Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling on an application by a Civil Society Organization, Forum for Accountability and Good Governance, restrained them from parading themselves as Board members of the NDDC.

Justice Mohammed also granted leave to the applicant to apply for judicial review for an Order of Mandamus compelling the ICPC, sued as the 9th Defendant in the suit to investigate the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the five members of the Board over allegations of N3 billion contract fraud.

The court also granted leave to the applicant to apply for judicial review of the power of the President or the Minister of the Niger Delta to appoint Professor Pondei, Dr. Ojougboh and others in an interim capacity as members of the NDDC Board.

Read Also: NDDC MD, Pondei, Leaves Hospital

By the order of the court, members of the NDDC Board are restrained from performing the functions of the Board pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice which is fixed for December 8, 2020.

Parties joined in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Senate, Minister of the Niger Delta, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei and Dr Cairo Ojougboh.

Others are Dr. Joi Nunieh, Mrs. Caroline Nagbo, Cecilia Bukola Akintomide and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission.

Alleged N3.6bn Fraud: EFCC To Appeal Discharge Of Ex-NDDC Boss, Tuoyo Omatsuli

A file photo of the EFCC logo.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it will appeal the ruling discharging Tuoyo Omatsuli, a former Executive Director on Projects, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the alleged N3.6 billion fraud trial.

EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, made the position of the anti-graft agency known in a statement on Wednesday.

Tuoyo was facing trial alongside Francis Momoh, Don Parker Properties Limited, and Building Associates Limited on an amended 45-count bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N3.645 billion.

He was, however, discharged on Wednesday by Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.

One of the counts read, “That you, Engr Tuoyo Omatsuli, Don Parker Properties Limited, Francis Momoh, and Building Associates Limited, between August 2014 and September 2015 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired to disguise the illegal origin of N3,645,000,000 (Three Billion Six-Hundred and Forty-Five Million Naira), being proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: corruption and gratification; and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering Act 2011 as amended by Act No 1 of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”

Another count read, “That you, Engr Tuoyo Omatsuli, between August 2014 and September 2015 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did procure Francis Momoh and Building Associates Limited to use the total sum of N3,645,000,000 (Three Billion Six-Hundred and Forty-Five Million Naira) paid by Starline Consultancy Services into the Diamond Bank Plc Account No. 0023785116 operated by Building Associate Ltd, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said sum formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful activity to wit: Corruption and Gratification; and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering Act 2011 as amended by Act No 1 of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”

When the charges were read to the defendants, they pleaded not guilty to the counts.

In the course of the trial, the prosecuting counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, called 16 prosecution witnesses, the last being Segun Temitope, a staff of the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) who gave his testimony on July 7, 2020.

Rather than open their defence, the defendants filed a no-case submission, which was heard on October 12, 2020, while the ruling was reserved until November 11, 2020.

In his ruling on Wednesday, Justice Saidu discharged the first defendant, Tuoyo, saying, “I have gone through the charge preferred against the defendants, as well as the evidence of all the 16 prosecution witnesses and I found no reason for the first defendant to enter the defence.

“Accordingly, the first defendant is hereby discharged.”

The judge, however, held that the other defendants had cases to answer.

“But the prosecution has made a case against the second defendant, Francis Momoh, which warrants him to enter his defence as well as other defendants.

“Accordingly, I direct the second defendant to enter his defence,” he held.

The case was later adjourned until December 3, 2020.

NDDC Audit: Forensic Auditors Takeover Contract Files

 

As part of the on-going Forensic Audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the lead consultants, Olumuyiwa Basiru & Co. will tomorrow (Thursday) takeover all original contract files relating to projects and programmes awarded by the NDDC between 2001 and 2019, as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The takeover of the contract files by the Forensic Auditors will mark the commencement of the next stage of the exercise which started with the handover of contract documents covering projects captured during the verification exercise in April 2020.

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It is important to emphasize that the forensic audit is being carried out in phases and we are now ready to kick-off the Field Forensic Audit. To ensure the success of this exercise, we are making available all required documents needed by the field auditors to enable them to discharge their duties efficiently and effectively.

The NDDC management will meet with the forensic auditors to formally release the files which have been sorted into 16 lots as segmented for the forensic exercise.

We wish to inform the public that all contract files are no longer in the office of the Acting Executive Director Projects, as they are now in the custody of the auditors.

NDDC Scholars Protest Non-Payment Of Scholarship Fees At Nigerian Embassy UK

 

Nigerian students sponsored abroad in 2018 for further studies by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Monday held a fresh protest over the non-release of funds for their scholarship for two years after being verified twice.

The 94 scholars displayed placards with various inscriptions as they gathered in front of the Nigeria High Commission in London, United Kingdom.

The aggrieved students told Channels Television that the non-payment of their fees have exposed them to numerous dangers including the COVID-19 virus as some of them have to work in care homes to raise funds.

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“We are here to protest the non-payment of our school fees and allowance for the past two years. We have carried out a series of protests at this embassy but unfortunately, there was no positive response from the NDDC.

“They said our payment will be made by October 12th after the verification exercise has been concluded. From then till now, our tuition fees and upkeep have not been paid. They keep promising us on a weekly basis. We are tired of all these fake promises,” one of the scholars, Femi, told Channels Television.

The scholars lamented that due to the nonpayment of their fees, they live from hand to mouth and depend on menial jobs for funding.

The scholars appealed that the Federal Government use presidential authority to demand that the NDDC pay 2018 NDDC scholarship students as soon as possible.

They said the protest will continue till next week.

See more photos from the protest below…

NDDC Verifies, Evaluates Scholarship Beneficiaries At Coventry University

Buhari Appoints Nelson Braimbraifa As Acting NDDC MD

 

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.

READ ALSO: Former NDDC MD Forfeits N250 Million To Government – EFCC

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.

Former NDDC MD Forfeits N250 Million To Government – EFCC

A file photo of the EFCC logo.

 

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.

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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.”

NDDC Did Not Pay COVID-19 Palliatives To Senators, Says Ojougboh

A file photo of NDDC’s acting Executive Director (Projects), Dr Cairo Ojougboh.

 

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.

READ ALSO: No Senator Received N20m From NDDC’s COVID-19 Fund – Spokesman

Read the full statement from Ojougboh below:

RE: SENATE CHALLENGES NDDC OVER ALLEGED N20M PALLIATIVES

A CLARIFICATION

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.

DR CAIRO OJOUGBOH

Ag. Executive Director, Projects.

No Senator Received N20m From NDDC’s COVID-19 Fund – Spokesman

A file photo of lawmakers in the Senate.

 

The Senate, on Tuesday, said none of its members received the sum of N20 million or “any sum whatsoever” from the Niger Delta Development Commission’s (NDDC) COVID-19 fund.

The NDDC Executive Director of Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, had alleged that National Assembly members received varying sums of money as COVID-19 palliative, the Senate said.

According to Ojougboh, Senators got N20 million, while members of the House of Representatives received N15 million each.

However, in a disclaimed by Senate spokesperson, Senator Ajibola Basiru, the Senate distanced itself from the claims.

“The Senate categorically denies that any Senator collected the sum of N20 million or any sum whatsoever from NDDC as Covid relief fund for any purpose whatsoever,” Senator Basiru said.

“The Senate challenges Dr Ojougboh to publicly provide evidence of his claim and list the names of the Senators he allegedly gave the alleged sum.

“Failure to provide evidence of his claim, the Senate hereby demands an immediate retraction and a public apology from Dr Cairo Ojougboh.”

Alleged Fraud: ICPC Begins NDDC Probe, Interrogates Top Management Staff

 

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.

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“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.