The Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC)
currently being probed by the National Assembly for jaw-breaking sleaze, at the weekend, said Nigeria will quake if it releases the real list of influential Nigerians actually involved in looting the commission dry, as opposed to general belief that it was culpable.
This is coming on the heels of the forensic audit just ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, in view of the ambiguity that National Assembly probe has generated. The interim management had alleged that the National Assembly members were only trying to make a scapegoat out of it by plotting to stall the presidential order on the forensic audit while insisting on legislative probe.
Speaking to the press during the week in Abuja, the Executive Director of the commission in charge of Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, said time has come for the commission to let the cat out of the bag, insisting that Nigeria would be shocked in disbelief if the management releases the names and calibre of persons involved in the contract scam in 2017 and 2019, particularly among members of the National Assembly.
Ojougboh alleged that the recent pressure by the National Assembly to probe the activities of the IMC was, in the main, borne out of fear of the forensic audit, maintaining that the mission of the IMC to the NDDC and the Niger Delta region was to ensure strict probity and accountability for every dime that had been put into the region through the commission, and vowed that the committee would brace all odds to ensure that the mission is accomplished, not minding the consequences.
He particularly pooh-poohed the National Assembly for condemning the N51 million monthly imprest for the office of the Acting Managing Director of the commission and the N18 million imprest for his office, saying that such monies are not personal allocation, but rather for the well functioning of the agency, especially in security.
He accused a highly placed member of the National Assembly from the South-South of clandestinely working against the IMC, even though his cumulative imprest was about N100 million monthly, without the kind of security challenges the NDDC management faces on daily basis.
Explaining further, he said, “My MD feeds 100 policemen every day, and in Port Harcourt, as an executive of NDDC, you need security more than anything. When they are sending these policemen, the instruction is ‘feed them properly and cater for them.’ That is what is in the letter from the police hierarchy.
“So when people are talking about N51 million of imprest for the MD, it is a security vote, it’s not for his personal pocket, the money does not go to the MD’s account. Myself, N18 million, it does not go to my account, it goes for security and other expenses and it is duly retired, and there is no fraud in it whatsoever.”
He noted that when President Buhari appointed them, and they arrived at NDDC office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, they were amazed the first thing noticed was that the two NASS committee chairmen on NDDC (of Senate and the House of Reps) were the “de facto management, managers and the executive of NDDC,” and in order to allow matters lie low, they took it with due equanimity, believing things will change in due course, which unfortunately did not. “So, at some point, we had to tell them it cannot be business as usual and were amazed when they said if we can no longer play along, we should leave.”
He said the sudden interest of the National Assembly in the activities of the IMC was the forensic audit being instituted by the President, consequent upon which they became jittery and rushed for a legislative probe. “At the end of the forensic audit, you will see members of the National Assembly involved and it will baffle you….,” he squealed.
“A Senator came and said that in the list of 2016 they brought, that he had only six contracts, I said no, that he had far more than that. What he didn’t know is that we did not release the list for 2017 and the one for 2019. If we release it, this country will quake,” saying time has come to let the cat out of the bag, and noting, “if it is the only thing I achieved in my life to make sure that things are put right for the people of the Niger Delta to enjoy the benefit of the NDDC, I’ll, indeed, be happy for it.”
It was on account of these, he further noted, that the National Assembly had planned to truncate the progress of the forensic audit through various means; first by using the probes by the committees and later by refusing to sign the budget, emphasizing that the refusal to sign the budget was an instrument of blackmail against the IMC.
“Mark you, the National Assembly sabotaged, through the instrumentality of the Chairmen of the House and Senate; they sabotaged … if you give them the report, they will say you did not bring performance report. We brought everything that they’ve asked us to bring, but they used the budget as the instrument of blackmail,” he further lamented.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari had, on Wednesday, last week, approved the forensic auditing of about 12,000 NDDC contracts seen to be controversial.