By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate yesterday accused the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) of sharing N3.14billion to staff of the agency, officers of the Nigerian police Force, youths, men and women to cushion the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and to avoid violence in the Niger Delta region.
But the NDDC disagreed with the Senate arguing that the funds were not misapplied or misappropriate as alleged.
The chairman of Senate ad-hoc committee probing the alleged N40billion fraud by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, senator Olubunmi Adetunbi (APC Ekiti North), said this while interrogating the officials of the agency yesterday in Abuja.
He said the figures were contained in documents submitted to the committee by the Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, Kemebradikumo Pondei.
He said Pondei had admitted before members of the Senate adhoc committee that N3.14 billion was spent by the NDDC on COVID-19. He said the money was paid to the police, NDDC staff, youths, men and women to cushion the negative effects of the pandemic and to avoid violence in the Niger Delta region.
However, Senator Adetunbi disclosed that from the records, out of the total sum of N3.14 billion the NDDC IMC spent on COVID-19, N1.5bn was shared among the police and staff of the commission across the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
Specifically, Adetunbi revealed that N475 million was paid to the police from the money to purchase facemasks and hand sanitizers.
Also, he said N10 million was paid to an unnamed top management staff of the commission, while N7million each was given to two other senior staff of the NDDC.
According to him, “148 NDDC staff got N3 million each, 157 staff received N1.5 million each, 497 staff were paid N1 million each, while 464 staff were also paid N500,000 each as COVID-19 relief.”
Reading further from the documents, Senator Adetunbi said: “the NDDC IMC expended on other issues, including COVID-19, to the total of N81.509 billion, from October 2019 to February 2020, and from February to May 30th, 2020, the reason of this investigation.”
He gave the breakdown of the N81.509bn as follows “Community relations: N1.3billion; condolences: N1.2 million; consultancy: N3.8 million; COVID-19: N3.14 million; duty tour allowances:N486 million.
“Impress (October to May, 2020): N790 million; Lassa fever: N1.956 billion; legal services: N900 million; logistics: N31 million; maintenance: N220 million; medicals:N2.6 billion; overseas travel (February to May,2020): N85.6 million; projects payment:N38.6 billion; public communication: N1.121 billion; security: N744 million; staffing related payment (October to May, 2020), including payment of salaries and other allowances: N20.9 billion; engagement of stakeholders (February to May, 2020):N248 million; and travels:N56.5 million” respectively.
Adetunbi further explained that out of the total N81.509 billion, “the first interim management committee (IMC) spent N22.5 billion from October,2019 to February, 2020 while the second IMC spent N59.1 billion between February and May 2020.”
He said: “It is on this expenditure that the Senate has called for this investigative public hearing.”
Meanwhile, the NDDC has insisted that the “commission has not misapplied any kobo” as being alleged by the National Assembly.
Cairo Ujoguh, NDDC Director of projects, while fielding questions from lawmakers stated that the IMC inherited a debt profile of N3 trillion.
“We have no problem with the NDDC but we have a problem with the chairman of the Senate committee on Niger Delta. No one Kobo has been misapplied since the coming NDDC IMC.
“The 2020 budget of NDDC has been hijacked by the two chairmen in the Reps and Senate. We submitted the budget since 2019 and nothing has been done on it.
“We have sacked no staff and all workers on leave have been paid their full salaries. So anyone who says he is sacked should bring a letter,” Ojugoh stated.
Earlier, Chairman of the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee investigating financial recklessness in the NDDC, Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi in his address explained that “the exercise is not aimed at witch-hunting any individual, groups, persons or institutions, but to rather get at the root of the matter, that will aid in repositioning the NDDC to effectively deliver on the mandate on which it was established, to block leakages of financial mismanagement as well as promote the effective utilization of its resources for the overall development of the people of the Niger Delta region.”
In his remarks, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan has said allegations of financial recklessness and misappropriation of funds leveled against the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are unacceptable hence the decision by the Senate to investigate the activities of the Commission.
“Financial recklessness is not an attribute that anyone can afford, whether rich or poor. It is even worse with the poor, or for the organisation or a country with limited resources.
“This is the reason we have always highlighted the need for prudence in the application of public resources. The time when a public resource is seen as nobody’s resources is long gone. We are in trying times, when we all have to be concerned about judicious use of scarce incomes,” Lawan stated.