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NDDC: Senate seeks dissolution of IMC, refund of N4.923bn

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NDDC: Senate seeks dissolution of IMC, refund of N4.923bn

Senate has called for immediate disbandment of the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC for allegedly turning the intervention body into cesspool of corruption.

Specifically, the upper legislative chamber ordered for immediate refund of N4.923billion expended by the IMC on questionable items between April and June this year.

Board of Directors, it added is the statutory body that should run the agency at anytime and not IMC.

These and other far reaching recommendations were taken by the Senate on the strength of report presented to that effect by its ad- hoc committee on alleged financial recklessness in the NDDC.

Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (APC Ekiti North), in the 17-point recommendations he presented and adopted by the Senate, said the IMC of the commission spent monies recklessly as made available from the three major sources.

The sources, he explained, are monetary contributions into the agency by oil companies mostly in dollars, budgetary provisions and Internally Generated Revenues, IGR.

From the three sources, according to the report, the commission got a total of N81.5billion between October 29, 2019 and May 31, 2020 and expended all.

Though two different IMCs, the report stated, held the Commission during the period under review but the current one headed by Professor Daniel Pondei which assumed office on the 19th February this year, spent about 90 per cent of the monies on items that were very questionable.

The most frivolous of the spendings, the report stated was the N4.923billion spent between March and May this year , which it declared, must be refunded by the beneficiaries who were mostly members of the NDDC IMC, the entire staff of the Commission and the Police High Command.

The breakdown of the N4.923billion to be refunded are N1.49billion spent as relief fund for COVID-19, N1.12billion for Public Communication, N1.96billion for procurement of Lassa fever kits, N164.2million claimed to have been expended on union members trip to Italy, N105.5million said to have been spent on scholarships grants and N85.7million claimed to have been spent on overseas travel to the United Kingdom during total lockdown against the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically on the COVID-19 relief funds, the Acting MD of the commission, Pondei, will refund N10million, Executive Director (Project), Dr. Cairo Ojuigboh, will refund N7million along with one other executive director.

Others are 157 staffers of the commission who collected N3million as relief fund, 148 others who collected N1.5 million each, another set of 157 others who collected N1million each and the remaining 497 staffers claimed to have been given N600,000.00 each as relief funds for COVID-19.

Out of the N1.5billion claimed to have been expended on relief funds, the balance of N475million is to be refunded by the Police High Command for allegedly collecting the sum for procurement of face masks and hand sanitizers.

Senate also resolved to revisit the Act establishing the commission, in getting it repositioned for execution of projects that would develop the Niger Delta region and not engaging on all manner of operations not correlated to the Niger Delta master plan.

The upper legislative chamber kicked against the idea of self appointed forensic auditor by the commission saying such a practice cannot expose fraud let alone, ensure transparency and accountability.

It consequently recommended that the Office of Auditor General of the Federation, should by constitutionality, be saddled with such responsibility.

“In order to ensure that the forensic audit achieves the purpose for which it is set up and inspire confidence in the operational and financial processes of NDDC oversight of the audit should be transferred to the office of the Auditor General of the Federation .

“This will guarantee independence, credibility, transparency and professionalism in the output of the exercise.

“Furthermore, the committee recommends that the President with advice from the Auditor General should appoint a renowned internationally recognised forensic auditor to carry out the exercise,” the report states.

The upper legislative chamber however mandated its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate alleged meddlesome of its members in the operations of the commission.

“There are assertions of blackmail by NDDC against members of the National Assembly on the the subject of procurement process , this must be investigated and if found true, the practice must stop ” , the report states .

Virtually all the senators who contributed, insisted that the NDDC ‘s IMC must be immediately dissolved to have way for Board of Directors.

According to them, what the IMC members were doing at the commission was nothing but day light robbery.

“People in the Niger Delta Area are suffering, and billions of Naira are being looted on daily basis by those ordinarily saddled with the development of the area “, they lamented.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, assured his colleagues that the report would be acted upon by President Muhamnadu Buhari.

“This report has exposed inefficiency and large scale corruption going on in NDDC.

“It has revealed that over the years, those charged with the responsibility of running the commission and by extension, facilitating development of the Niger Delta Area have squandered the resources given to them for that purpose.

“We are on the same page with the executive in getting the agency sanitized and I can assure you that the report will receive the required attention it deserves from Mr. President,” he said.

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NDDC: Senate seeks dissolution of IMC, refund of N4.923bn

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