Barely a week after an indicting House of Representatives report and an unusual interest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has jumped into a furnace: it has been issued a stop-work order by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
A House of Reps committee had submitted a damning report on NDDC in which it questioned some financial dealings, and invited the EFCC to investigate some top management committee members and the supervising Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The suing party, Incorporated Trustees of Forum for Accountability and Good Governance (FAGG), also got leave
to apply for judicial review for an order of mandamus compelling the Independent Corrupt Practice and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate the Minister of the Niger Delta, Chief Godswill Akpabio and members of the Board over allegations of N3 billion contract fraud.
The applicant also got Justice Ahmed Mohammed to rule in its favour to apply for judicial review of the power of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or the Minister of the Niger Delta to appoint the Interim Management Committee.
FAGG expressed worry that despite the restraining order, the defendants, in total disobedience, still go to the office.
FAGG urged that the most senior civil servant or administrator in the Commission be appointed while praying that the suspended officers be stopped from accessing the Commission’s offices and files as they could tamper with evidence which could be used by the ICPC in its probe.
Recall that in a media report, the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC that probed the commission recommended that the acting Managing Director Daniel Pondei who fainted during the probe and other principal actors should face the long arm of the law.
The report specifically recommended that the EFCC should immediately start prosecuting the suspects once the financial infractions are not properly explained.
The panel also revealed that the Commission has become worse off since it moved under the supervision of the Sen. Godswill Akpabio-led Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, demanding the House to push for its return to the Presidency, under the supervision of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The committee also called for the immediate dissolution of the Prof. Daniel Bradikumo Pondei-led Interim Management Committee (IMC), in favour of a properly constituted Governing Board.
The lawmakers also queried the appointment of Dr Cairo Ojuogboh as Executive Director in charge of projects, saying that the former Deputy National Vice Chairman, South-South region of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is “grossly unqualified” and “unfit” to hold the office of Executive Director in the Commission.
These are contained in the report of the Committee which probed allegations of Financial Malfeasance and Other Activities in the NDDC in July, 2020.
The document contains 16 different recommendations which include the need to report the “gross violations of the nation’s Public Procurement Act to the anti graft agencies for further investigation, prosecution and recovery” of the alleged looted sums.
It also called on the NDDC Management to “seek a refund of N19.7m from Olumuyiwa Bashiru & Co and report back to the House with a proof of compliance latest 45 days from the adoption of this recommendation.”
“The Project Monitoring Department should carry out an appraisal of the extent of work done so far by Clear Point Communications Limited and quantify same in monetary value against the scale of fees (N641.14m) in the media industry and pro-rate the payment while the remainder should be refunded.
“Refer to the anti graft agencies to investigate the contract payments in order to ascertain the level of infractions and prosecute violators accordingly.
“A scrutiny of the medical treatment bills/insurance payments made by the commission to ascertain their appropriateness especially given that the commission has health insurance and referral partnership l, and it is still making payments for staff medical treatments. These cases should be referred to the anti graft agencies for diligent investigatiion, prosecution and possible recovery.
“The court proceedings and the court judgement (for which N400m was paid to Tigerhead Nigeria Limited in March) be made available to the House within 14 days and failure to do so, he (Acting MD) should be reported to the anti graft agencies for further investigation and possible recovery”, the panel recommends.
The panel’s finding as contained on page 11 revealed that the IMC under Daniel Pondei has been reckless in allocating funds to management staff ranging from covid-19 payment, medical check-up and other questionable payments of over N8.1bn outside of salaries, allowances and overhead in contravention of Section 80 of the Constitution
It found further on page 12 that “payments were made to the acting MD, the Executive Directors and other Directors of NDDC within the period of lockdown to attend overseas graduation ceremony of NDDC-funded post graduate students despite general and open protest by Niger Delta Scholars abroad over non-payment of tuition fees.”
The panel also revealed that Pondei and his IMC made “extra budgetary contract payments of over N28bn to 76 companies without due process and requisite technical expertise to handle road construction in contravention of section 80 of the constitution and sections 16(1)(b) and (16)(6)(a) of the Public Procurement Act”, adding that another N4.5bn was paid to Osmoserve Global to supply medical equipment and consumables during covid-19 lockdown without technical specifications, quantity and quality in violation of the PPA.
“NDDC contractors did not provide proof of contract performance and contract documents; we therefore recommend that the (N1.8 billion) payment made to AHR Global Standard Services be thoroughly investigated by the anti graft agencies to ascertain value for money and performance as they did not comply with the covid-19 emergency procurement guidelines of the BPP.
“Given that the NDDC did not provide all the requested contractual documents, it is difficult to determine contract performance and value for money. We therefore recommend that these contracts:
1. Coordinate Global Services – N551.08 million
2. PSI International Co Ltd – N427 8 million
3. Delta Pride and Gold Energy – N155. 5 million
Be referred to the anti graft agencies to investigate the violations of the extant laws, sanction and prosecute culpable officials and contractors”, the panel recommends.”
The report queried the capacity of the current Executive Director in charge of projects at the Commission, the Committee in its recommendation 15, on page 18 of the document, noted that Dr Cairo Ojuogboh’s appointment violated relevant sections of the NDDC Act with regards to qualification and competence to hold such a position.
It stated: “Based on section 12(1) and 12(1)(a) of the NDDC Act 2000, Dr Cairo Godson Ojuogboh is unqualified and unfit to occupy the office of Executive Director Projects of the NDDC and should be discharged forthwith from that position.”
Cairo, a medical doctor by training was appointed to oversee projects at the NDDC following the constitution of the current IMC.
The panel in the concluding part of the report also faulted the rationale behind the placement of the NDDC under the supervision of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs led by former Akwa Ibom State governor, Sen. Goodwill Akpabio.
“The NDDC by law is meant to be under the President that delegated the supervision to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). This arrangement demonstrates the high importance and priority that all previous governments attributed to the region in view of her economic contributions to the country. With the delegation of that supervisory function to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, things seem to be moving in the wrong direction with potential and visible negative impacts that will undermine the goals of the Commission. The interference of the Ministry as demonstrated in the procurement procedures of the Forensic Audit, the award of contracts (Covid-19, Head Office and several others) is condemnable…”
“The House being committed to good governance and respect for due process has lost faith in the IMC as presently constituted given the level of infraction perpetrated from January to May 25th, 2020(as exposed in this investigative report) and call for the dissolution of the IMC and constitution of a governing Board in line with the NDDC Act 2000 as amended. All infractions must be referred to the relevant anti graft agencies for diligent investigatiion”, the report added.
Laid since Wednesday, 22 July, 2020 before the House for consideration at the Committee of the Whole, the report which was dropped due to some members observations that they needed to be given copies before the consideration, has continued to remain in the “cooler”.
See partial part of the report below:
After two months of engagement with several stakeholders, four days of intense investigative hearing and deep review and analysis of several reports and testimonies, we have come up with sixteen key findings and recommendations for adoption by the House of Representatives. In line with the above, we hereby present our conclusions thus:
That the overall objectives of the Federal government through Act of Parliament in the establishment of the NDDC in the year 2000 are still relevant, laudable and critical for the developmental transformation and peace of the Niger Delta region
We note with disappointment the failures of the past necessitating the commissioning of the forensic audit from the inception of the commission and call for a speedy, committed and transparent completion of the audit exercise. A timeline of not more than 6 months should be set which by international best practice is best supervised and implemented by a properly constituted governing board.
Also, a review of the NDDC Act should be considered as recommended by several stakeholders.
The NDDC by law is meant to be under the President that delegated the supervision to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
This arrangement demonstrates the high importance and priority that all the previous governments attributed to the region in view of her economic contribution to the country. With the delegation of that supervisory function to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, things seem to be moving in the wrong direction with potential and visible negative impact that will undermine the goals of the commission. The interference of the ministry as demonstrated in the procurement procedures of the Forensic audit, the award of contracts (COVID-19, Head office and several others) is condemnable. The negative press and publicity negates the governments drive and posture of fighting corruption and the utterances of the minister have the potential to brew executive and legislative feud which the 9th assembly is committed to avoid. In the light of 19 Page
George: Refer to anti-graft agencies to investigate the contract payments in order to ascertain the level of infractions and prosecute violators accordingly.
The total sum made to the Acting Managing Director, the Executive Directors and other Directors of NDDC to attend overseas graduation be refunded and failure to do so immediately the anti-graft agencies should commence investigation, prosecution and recovery.
A scrutiny of the medical treatment bills/insurance payments made by the commission to ascertain their appropriateness especially given that the commission has health insurance and referral partnerships and it is still making payments for staff medical treatments. These cases should be referred to the anti-graft agency for diligent investigation, prosecution and possible recovery.
The court proceedings and the court judgement be made available to the House within 14 days and failure to do so, he should be reported to the anti-graft agencies for further investigation and possible recovery.
B. The advice of the Commission’s in-house estate valuers should be adhered to in line with the provisions of the NDDC corporate policy and sections 16(1)(b), and 57(4) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. Any amount standing in excess of 10.5 billion naira should be refunded and the anti-graft agency should immediately investigate the procurement processes for possible prosecution.
George: Some management staff were retired, placed on compulsory leave with pay and some were posted out of the head office. That some of the actions of management did not adhere to Public Service Rules, NDDC Board policies and staff handbook guide. That under the law and the NDDC conditions of service, only a legally constituted Governing Board has power to authorize and approve the discipline and disengagement of senior management staff and that the action of management was reckless and high handed.
1. We recommend that these gross violations should be reported to the anti-graft agencies for further investigation, prosecution and recovery.
2. NDDC management is requested to seek a refund of N19.7million from Olumuyiwa Bashiru & Co and report back to the House with a proof of compliance latest 45 days from the adoption of this recommendation.
3. The Project Monitoring Department should carry out an appraisal of the extent of work done so far by Clear Point Communications Limited and quantify same in monetary value against the scale of fees in the media industry and pro-rate the payment while the remainder should be refunded.
Additional reports by TNG.