The Interim Management of Committee of Niger Delta Development Commission said it had uncovered how the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta, Hon. Bunmi Tunji-Ojo, inserted a training cost of N6.4 billion into the 2019 Budget and vowed not to release the signed copy of the budget until 60 per cent (N3.8 billion) of the money was released.
The IMC also revealed how the same lawmakers inflated N750 million road repairs project to N2.9 billion in the 2019 Budget of the Commission.
Speaking on behalf of the Commission before a Senate adhoc Committee on Thursday, the Executive Director of Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, said Senator Peter Nwaboshi also collected 1,000 contracts to share it among lawmakers.
Ojougboh, who indicted all the previous chairmen of committees overseeing the Commission in the National Assembly, said the hands of Senator Nwaboshi are soiled from turning the NDDC into a “cookie jar” for him to be an objective investigator.
He said the Committee chairmen injected new projects into the budget without recourse to the Commission or to the need of intended communities.
He added that budget proposal submitted by the Commission and the budget approved were always at huge variance.
Ojougboh said: “For the budget, there was a training programme at the cost of N6.4 billion inserted in the budget by the House Chairman, Committee on NDDC, who insisted that the signed copy of the budget would not be released unless payment of 60 per cent of the sum was made.
“This is was a programme that has not been executed.”
On the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on the NDDC, Ojougboh said: “This emergency road repairs project was meant to be a single contract valued for Ajowa Akoko at less than N750 million.
“One of the National Assembly Committee on NDDC Chairmen coerced the then management to break it into four lots.
“This pushed the cost of the project to N2,931,655,712.69 (four times the project value)
“The contracts were awarded on 16 April, 2019 to four companies nominated or linked to him.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Adhoc Committee, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi, said the Panel was only saddled with probing the tenure of the IMC since October last year.
Adetumbi said the activities of NDDC before October 2019 was under forensic audit and the Committee will not look into it.
The forensic audit was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
(Meanwhile) The sum of N1.5bn was used as COVID-19 relief fund for staff of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Kemebradikumo Pondei, Acting Managing Director of the commission, said.
Pondei disclosed this at the investigative hearing on the N40bn corruption allegation against the commission.
The Senate had on May 5 set up a seven-man ad-hoc committee to investigate the financial recklessness of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC.
The MD and other delegates from the commission appeared before the committee on Thursday for the hearing.
The lawmakers raised concerns over the spending at the NDDC, noting that the commission spent N40bn last three months without due process.
However, Pondei when giving account of how money was spent, said staff of the agency had to be catered for, too.
He said, “We used it (N1.5bn) to take care of ourselves. We are NDDC, we need to take care of ourselves too.”
Part of the audit report read out by the Chairman of the committee, Olubunmi Adetunmbi, said N3.1bn was spent as COVID-19 funds between October 2019 and May 2020.
In the report, the lawmaker said, “N10m was paid to one person, N7m to two people, N5m to three people, 148 people took N3m each, 157 people got N1.5m each, 497 people got N1m each and 464 people were paid N600,000 each.”
Another N475m was given to the police to purchase face masks and hand sanitisers, he added.
▪︎ Reports by Eagle Online and Premium Times