By Musa Sunusi Ahmad

A Civil Society Organization (CSO), Transparency and Accountability Advancement Group, has called on the Federal Governmemt to dissolve the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

According to the group, the management screened by the National Assembly should be inaugurated to work.

A statement issued by the National President of the group, Comrade Godknows Sotonye, commended the national Assembly for the probe of the NDDC IMC.

“We reiterate our position that the IMC be dissolved because it has no place in the NDDC Act and is a proxy for Akpabio’s fraudulent schemes, and call for the inauguration of a substantive Board for the NDDC because it is the proper thing to do,” the group said.

The group alleged that since Akpabio was appointed Minister of Niger Delta and got the IMC into place, he has wasted no opportunity in authorising payments for fraudulent contracts, including payments for jobs not yet done such that the bank balance of about N50 billion in the commission’s account at the beginning of this year has been depleted in just a few months.

“These questionable payments have been made for all kinds of payments, from the Clearing of Water Hyacinth, river De-silting, head office building, medical equipment and supplies, to huge administrative bills for both the minister and his IMC.

“The minister and the IMC have chosen to exploit the current Covid-19 pandemic to make dubious withdrawals for medical equipment and facilities, which have not been delivered on. Particularly worrisome is the approval and payment of billions of naira for the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers and publicity for an unspecified Covid-19 campaign in the Niger Delta states. While the minister and the IMC have sought to walk away from the contract award letter, the evidence shows that in a letter dated April 6th 2020 with Reference number NDDC/MD/HPU/20/4/EHSS/05 and signed by the Head of Procurement Unit on behalf of the Acting Managing Director, the IMC wrote to Signoria Concept Services Limited under the heading: ‘Award of Contract for the Emergency Procurement of Specialized Medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Health Workers and Provision of Community-Based Sensitization Campaign Against the Spread of Covid-19 and other Communicable Diseases in the Nine States of the Niger Delta Region’ at a sum of Five Billion Four Hundred and Seventy Four Million Six Hundred and Forty Seven Thousand One Hundred Twenty Five Naira(#5,474,647,125.00). On the same day, it awarded another contract with Reference Number NDDC/MD/HPU/20/4/EHSS/02 in the sum of N4.8 billion to Osmoserve Global Limited under the heading ‘Award of Contract for the Emergency Supply and delivery of Medical Equipment and consumables to the NDDC Warehouse, Oroworukwu in Port Harcourt City LGA of Rivers State’ and paid 55 per cent of the contract upfront to the supplier. Other sundry contracts were also made between March and early April in what is clearly a contract armada to fleece the NDDC. For instance, three companies: Tales and Buildings Limited; AHR Limited and Julius Dunga Limited received contracts and upfront payments of about N2 billion each, for the same purported Covid-19 contract Armada.

“The above is in addition to N1.045 billion spent in early March for what the Commission called support to the nine states of the zone and as part payment for the establishment of Covid-19 isolation centres in each of the 27 senatorial zones in the region. Yet there are no NDDC-funded isolation centres in all of the 27 senatorial districts across the region. What is clearly apparent is that the minister and the IMC are exploiting the current Covid-19 health pandemic to loot the lean resources of the NDDC,” the statement added.

The group said the Covid-19 withdrawals are the latest in a series of selective payments ordered by the minister and executed by the IMC without resort to due process.

“On his instruction, the IMC had also released the sum of Four Billion, Ninety Six Million Seven Hundred and Ninety Eight Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty Two Naira (N4, 096,798,332.50) for the supply of Lassa fever and other medical supplies. The payments made were for, among others, Maternal Delivery Kits at N1,128,750,000.00, Cholera Vaccines at N680,000,000.00, Lassa Fever Protective Kits at N1,092,283,500.00 and Outstanding Science Equipment at N292,764,832.50, all amounting to (N4,096,798,332.50). Yet, there is no indication that these items were delivered to public hospitals in the region as many still lack such basic supplies. Nigerians have also been inundated with the reckless manner in which payments have been made in full to Rodnab Construction Ltd for the uncompleted NDDC head office building. Rodnab, which is a company linked to Akpabio, received roughly N10.4b before he became the supervising Minister of the NDDC. Upon assumption of duty, Chief Akpabio hurriedly visited the project site and ordered the Commission to pay N2.6 billion to Rodnab, giving March 2020 as project completion dateline. Yet, in March, the current Interim Management Committee (IMC) paid Rodnab an additional N3 billion, bringing the total sum received by Rodnab to N16b, representing the full contract sum when the building has not been completed! Is it the practice of the federal government to make full payment of the contract sum for a job that is far from completed?

“It is without a doubt that the excuses by Akpabio for not having a Governing Board in line with the NDDC Act are more sinister than have been canvassed by him and this should be reversed also for a fully transparent management of the NDDC and its assets. The country cannot afford to have a thieving minister and management in place at the NDDC, not at this time when Government finances are low and the people of the region need state intervention. The government must restore accountability and transparency by immediately suspending the minister and disbanding the IMC,” the group added.

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