At least N183 billion that was meant for the development of Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta, was diverted by those put in charge of the government development commission for the area, the Auditor General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura said Wednesday.
Mr. Ukura insisted on the veracity of his special audit report accusing the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, of diverting the money.
The Auditor General said his office stood by the report and directed those not satisfied to be prepared to defend their position before a special committee of the National Assembly.
“The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation stands by the Special Periodic Checks on the NDDC and its contents. Any person or corporate organization not satisfied has the opportunity to defend itself before the Public Accounts Committees (PACs) of the National Assembly,” said a statement by a spokesperson for the office, O.A.Ogunmosunle.
The auditor general had earlier made his findings about the money known to the National Assembly, as constitutionally required.
Following the reports, which urged the lawmakers to take immediate steps to recover the missing money, the NDDC took to the media to discredit the report, dismissing it as “very misleading and untrue”.
The Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Commission, Henry Ogiri, who described the report as “premature and misinforming”, said the report tended to accuse the current NDDC management of being responsible for the alleged missing money.
“I say without fear of contradiction that the Auditor-General’s report is premature,” Mr. Ogiri said. “I say this because we are already putting together the responses to the queries which were directed to a period we were not in the Commission.”
“I completely disagree with the Auditor-General on this issue. Some of the claims he made in his report are things that do not hold water as at today. I do not believe that there is any money missing.”
However, the Office of the Auditor-General said it took serious exception to attempts by the NDDC to not only deny the allegations, but also casting aspersions on the integrity of the Special Periodic audit submitted to the National Assembly.
In a strongly worded statement in Abuja, the OAuGF said the reaction was compelled by the negative sentiments occasioned by the NDDC’s condemnation of the Special report “calculated to demean the efficacy of the Constitutional mandate carried out by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation.”
“It is noteworthy to state that it took NDDC16 months to grant the Office permission to commence the periodic checks beginning from 9th December, 2011 to 6th May, 2013,” the statement said.
“Similarly, it took another 16 months and several reminders to the NDDC with effect from the 24th of April, 2014 to 12th August, 2015 before the final report was submitted to the National Assembly.
“It may interest the reading public to know that at the time of this Press Release (Wednesday), the NDDC is yet to respond to the Special Periodic Checks.”
Reminding the public of the constitutional mandate of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation to submit its reports to the National Assembly periodically, Mrs.Ogunmosunle said in doing so, due process is usually followed.
In the three special audit reports submitted to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, Mr. Ukura had noted that the N183.7 billion was discovered to be missing during the periodic checks carried out by his office on the activities and programmes of the Commission between 2008 and 2012.
While about N70.4 billion was paid as mobilization to various contractors that never showed up at to site to do the job, he said another N90.4 billion was discovered to be extra-budgetary expenditure “for Head and Sub-heads without approval by the legal authorities.”
Equally, the sum of N10 billion was recorded in the books as tax deductions without evidence of remittance to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), while about N5.8 billion was said to have been paid to contractors for projects not executed, stalled or abandoned, in addition to N1.2 billion as taxes not deducted from contractors.
Again, the report said about N3.1 billion consisted of transfers to some unauthorized accounts, while N1.7 billion was outstanding staff advances never accounted for.
Also, there was no evidence that about N785million out of N1.1 billion budgeted for the supply of furniture to various schools in Delta State was spent on the project, despite being certified as paid.