Senate joins Buhari, vows to probe NDDC

SENATE PRESIDENT
SENATE PRESIDENT: Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan

On the day President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the investigation of an agency, a Senate committee has also vowed to investigate the same agency.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Buhari ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from 2001 to 2019.

On the same Thursday, the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee also vowed to investigate alleged over-spending by the NDDC.

Unlike the president’s holistic probe, however, the Senate said it is interested in only some areas of expenditure of the NDDC.

The chairman of the Senate, Matthew Urhoghide, made this known during the planned budget defence of the commission on Thursday.

His comment came after members of the committee were told that the Acting Managing Director of the commission, Enyia Akwagaga, was unable to attend the meeting.

The Director of Special Duties Office of the managing director, Nosakhare Agbongiasede, conveyed the message.

Mr Agbongiasede had read a letter from the Acting MD stating the reason for her absence.

“I regret to inform you that I will be unable to attend the hearing because I am indisposed. I could have appeared but I’m sending the director, Special Duties in the office of the MD to represent me.

“Therefore, humbly appeal for another date that is convenient to the honourable senate committee for the hearing and I am ready to cooperate with the committee on this task,” the letter read.

The director also admitted that the commission is yet to submit necessary documents one week after the committee’s request. He, however, said it will be sent before the new date and pleaded with the committee to give the NDDC till Monday to make available necessary documents.

Mr Urhoghide, who expressed his disappointment, explained that the Senate would, ordinarily, not allow the director to testify before it or its committees.

He, thereafter, ordered the commission to make available, the necessary documents on or before next Monday.

“We have invited the NDDC and its management to come and testify before this committee on the award of contracts that has to do with the clearing of water hyacinth in the Niger Delta region and the desilting contracts awarded by the NDDC under their emergency programme.

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“We cannot talk about the details now. We want to be able to ascertain if due process was followed in the award of these contracts – particularly the information that we have at our disposal that they exceeded budget limit, of course, that is a serious offence.

“What we know is that N2.5 billion was budgeted for this activity (that is the silting and clearing of water hyacinth), my hearing is that the commission has spent over N65 billion. It is an accusation until they come to clear the air for us. This is why the Senate is interested and has mandated this committee to carry out this investigation,” he explained.

While asking the Acting MD to appear before it on Tuesday with all the necessary documents between 2017 and 2019, he said the invitation of the official is not a witch-hunt.

“We are aware that the acting MD Assumed office only a few weeks ago. It’s not a case of whether she was in the office or not. The committee is not out to witch hunt anyone. We just want to ensure that there is transparency and credibility in issues regarding public accounts,” he said.

Buhari’s Audit

In ordering the audit of the NDDC, President Buhari said what is presently on the ground in the South-south region does not justify the huge resources that have been made available to the agency.

Since its creation in 2008 by former President Umaru Yar’adua, the NDDC has little to show for the billions of naira it has received.

Many Nigerians believe the NDDC has largely failed in its mandate and has since become a platform for compensating loyal politicians. Former heads of the agency have gone on to contest for political offices amid allegations they used the agency to raise political war chest.

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