Pondei threatens to quit if corruption allegations are proven
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
On the last day of the investigative public hearing carried out by the Senate Ad- hoc committee on alleged N40billion financial recklessness by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) between January and March this year, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, charged the National Assembly to check against abuses of the budgeting procedures of the Commission.
This is as the immediate past Managing Director of NDDC, Dr Yimebe Nunieh declared that out of the entire N81billion spent by the Commission between October 29, 2019 to May 31, 2020, only N8billion was spent by IMC under her leadership between October 29, 2019 to February 28, 2020.
The incumbent Managing Director , Professor Keme Pondei however threatened to resign if allegations of corruptions levelled against his team of IMC, are proven .
Making submissions at the open hearing on Friday at the Senate wing of the National Assembly, Akpabio noted that instances abound where money budgeted had been drastically and illegally reduced by some members of the National Assembly against the originally approved fund.
According to him, the Niger Delta region can only get maximum benefit if we rejig the way we do budgets for the NDDC.
He pointed out that there has to be governance structure to regulate the way things are done at the Commission.
The Minister who insisted that the forensic audit of the NDDC was the best way of clearing the rot in the commission that had existed since its establishment, called on all stakeholders including the National Assembly to genuinely support the effort of President Muhammadu in ensuring that the money for the NDDC is used for the people of the Niger Delta.
“The reason why you hear so much hue and cry about the NDDC is because of President Buhari’s approval for a Forensic Audit”, he said.
He disclosed that in a particular instance, N10.billion was put in the budget but some people just went into one hotel in Abuja and reduced it to N100 million but added that the figure failed to achieve any result.
The Minister shocked the audience at the public hearing, that close to a year of superintending the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, that he had never awarded any contract since he assumed office except the contract for COVID-19 palliatives.
In his remarks, the chairman of the committee, Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi (APC Ekiti North ), declared that the essence of the investigation was to make sure the common wealth of Niger Delta works for the people of the Niger Delta.
According to him, the investigation is not about missing money but about ensuring that money gets into the right pocket to promote the best interests of the Niger Delta region and its people.
The committee also told Akpabio that at the end of the investigation, those who specialize hijacking Peoples money would be put out of business.
In her own submission, the former Managing Director of the Commission, Yimebe Nunieh, said out of the N81billion spent by the Commission between October last year to May this year, only N8billion was expended by IMC under her leadership for the months period (October 29, 2019 to February 18, 2020).
She alleged at the sideline of the event while fielding questions from journalists that Akpabio engineered her removal from office for failing to dance to his tunes as regards writing implicating Chairman , Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Peter Nwaoboshi on fraudulent contracts awards and executions.
“The Minister did all manner of dirty things to forcefully remove me out of office like sponsoring the vandalisation of Agip Trunk A pipeline in Bayelsa as a way of making the unsuspecting public to believe that the youths in the area are angry with NDDC under her leadership.
“He even made frantic attempts to force me to swear to fetish oath which I vehemently refused before he succeeded in getting me out of the place for sole purpose of having his way to run the place the way he likes under the present team of IMC.
But a member of the current IMC, Evangelist Caroline Nagbo, punctured Nunieh claim by declaring that there was no time the Minister invited her or any other member of the IMC to take any oath of secrecy.
“As far as I am concerned , as a member of the current Interim Management Committee of NDDC, I took oath of allegiance and not oath of fetishism from any body”, she said.
In defending the current IMC on spendings made so far, the incumbent Managing Director, Keme Pondei, threatened that he would resign if the allegations of corruption against him are proven by his critics.
Dismissing the allegations before the Senate Committee, Pondei said: “If anyone has any evidence that I collected even one percent from any contractor, let him present it and I will resign instantly. We need to be very careful in making spurious allegations that distract the NDDC”.