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 petitioner called for an urgent investigation into the activities of the NDDC.
Ojeh accused the Interim Management Committee which he alleged came on board and confidently accused the past leadership of the NDDC of lacklustre performance, abandoned projects, poor project delivery and other sundry misadventure of now being enmeshed in acts of pervasive corruption, blatant illegality, flagrant abuse of power and of statutory procedure and due process.
“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 with which the erstwhile leadership of the Commission were alleged,” he said.
The Benin, Edo State-based legal practitioner 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.
“It is saddening that Gbene Joi Nunieh, Ag EDP of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission; Cairo Ojougboh, the Ag. 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 space 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 dorn 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, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Ibanga Bassey and other members of the management team approved the sums of money to the tune of over N4billion on spurious contracts in the name of supplying ‘Maternity Delivery Kits’, ‘Cholera Vaccines’, ‘Lassa Fever Kits’ and ‘Outstanding Science Equipment’.”
Accusing the Nunieh-led management committee of dispensing funds not captured under any budgetary allocation/appropriation, the petitioner said:
“It is pertinent to state at the outset that Gbene Dr Joi Nunieh, Ag. EDP of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, the Ag EDFA of the Interim Management Committee, Mr. 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”.
He further said: “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”.