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Further crisis rocks NDDC over corruption charges

The crisis of confidence rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may have taken a turn for the worse, as a legal practitioner, Ojeh Godwin, has written a petition to the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over what he described as the flagrant abuse of statutory procedure and due process in the commission.

In the petition, copies of which were sent to President Muhammadu Buhari through the Chief of Staff, Minister of Niger Delta; Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta; Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), among others, the petition called for an urgent investigation into the activities of the NDDC.

The petition against the interim management committee and other management members of NDDC is demanding they be investigated for fraudulent misappropriation of public funds, contract splitting, payment of money for non-existing contract, unauthorised payment beyond official capacity.

Godwin Ojeh, who wrote the petition, accused the Interim Management Committee for being enmeshed in acts of pervasive corruption, blatant illegality, flagrant abuse of power and of statutory procedure and due process; similar of allegations — of lacklustre performance, abandoned projects, poor project delivery and other sundry misadventure for — brought up against the past leadership of the agency which it replaced.

“It is disheartening that the leadership of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which was supposedly set up to restore sanity and rescue the body has taken over the same acts of corruption and fraudulent transactions” of which the erstwhile managements of the Commission were accused, he said.

The Edo State-based lawyer particularly accused the former Acting Managing Director of the Commission, Gbene Joi Nunieh of throwing caution to the winds in his involvement in corrupt activities in the NDDC.

According to him, “It is saddening that Gbene Joi Nunieh, acting EDP of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Cairo Ojougboh, the acting EDFA of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, Ibanga Bassey and other members of the Management Team of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC who are to oversee the forensic audit of the NDDC as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, in a spate of few months in office have done nothing but to betray the trust reposed in them.

“Rather than stemming or exposing the corruption they had accused their predecessors of, they had thrown caution to the winds and don the toga of corruption to perpetrate fraudulent acts and abuse of laid down statutory procedure under the NDDC Act and Public Procurement Act.

“The so much acclaimed contract verification committee led then by Gbene Joi Nunieh, Cairo Ojougboh, Ibanga Bassey and other members of the management team approved the sums of money to the tune of over N4 billion on spurious contracts in the name of supplying maternity delivery kits, cholera vaccines, Lassa fever kits, and outstanding science equipment.”

The petition accused the Nunieh-led management committee of dispensing funds not captured under any budgetary allocation/appropriation.

“It is pertinent to state at the outset that Gbene Joi Nunieh, acting EDP of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Cairo Ojougboh, the acting EDFA of the Interim Management Committee, Ibanga Bassey and other members of the Management Team unilaterally approved huge sums of payments without any prior budgetary appropriation.

“This is reflected in the memo dated January 17, 2020 where they directed the approval and also directed that the summarised information on the Health and Education Projects listed in a memo dated 3rd December, 2019 and January 10, 2020 be treated for payment.

“They did this despite the fact that the memo dated January 17, 2020 clearly stated that “The programmes have already been awarded and supplied”, and that “some of the items have already been distributed”.

“In fact, they overruled the professional advice of a top official (the DPRS) of the NDDC, who stated on the memo that “The request is for inclusion in 2020 budget and not for payment”.

“This singular act of theirs was in direct conflict with the provisions of section 16(1) (b) of the Public Procurement Act which provides as follows: “(1) Subject to any exemption allowed by this Act, all public procurement shall be conducted: (b) based only on procurement plans supported by prior budgetary appropriations and no procurement proceedings shall be formalised until the procuring entity has ensured that funds are available to meet the obligations and subject to the threshold in the regulations made by the Bureau, has obtained a ”Certificate of No Objection to contract Award “from the Bureau”

“In the instant case, there was no budgetary appropriation and there was no Certificate of No Objection to back up the payments made. All the payments so made are detailed below. The Memos referred to above which speak for themselves are annexed herewith as ANNEXURE A, B and C’’.

According to Ojeh, “Gbene Joi Nunieh, Cairo Ojougboh, Ibanga Bassey and other members of the management team of the Interim management Committee had carried out several surreptitious and selective payments on spurious/ non-existence emergency contracts which are in direct conflict with and antithetical to the campaign against corrupt practices in public offices by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“This is so in that, there was no time that any public announcement was made to allow for bidding for the said “contracts”.

“This is a contravention of the provisions of section 16(1) (c) and (d) of the Public Procurement Act which provides as follows: “Subject to any exception allowed by this Act, all public procurement shall be conducted: (c) by open competitive bidding. (d) In a manner which is transparent, timely, equitable,”.

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