A serving senator is single-handedly handling about 300 contracts for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the commission’s interim management committee has said.
The Acting Executive Director of Projects for the NDDC, Cairo Ojougboh, said 120 of the contracts have been fully paid for. He, however, did not say if the contracts were executed, the Nations newspaper reported Sunday.
The revelation came barely a week after the federal government set up an interim management committee to run the NDDC.
The committee was mandated to help create an “enabling environment” for the forensic audit of the NDDC that was announced by President Muhammadu Buhari.
There have been concerns about the NDDC’s failure to achieve its mandate to quicken the development of the oil-rich Niger Delta, despite its huge budget over the years.
Although he did name the senator, Mr Ojougboh said the contracts were under investigation.
He also disclosed that the NDDC owes contractors about N3 trillion.
The acting director said the ongoing forensic audit would help uncover how the debt was accrued. He also said those opposed to the audit have something to hide, as they must have played a role in NDDC’s mismanagement.
He accused the unnamed senator of sponsoring a smear campaign against the interim management, which he said would function for less than six months and hand over to the substantive board.
Mr Ojougboh said he and other interim management team members would not be compromised and that they have no interest in NDDC.
Other members of the team are Acting Managing Director Gbene Nunieh and the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Utang.
“I have never entered the NDDC building before. I have no contract there. The MD has no interest whatsoever in the NDDC. The Executive Director, Finance, also does not have any interest,” he was quoted by the paper as saying.
“Therefore, when given the opportunity that we have just been given, our job is to make sure that we avail the auditors all the necessary documents and information, all the necessary help they need because we are not protecting any interest but to help the auditors do their job as it is required,”
Mr Ojougboh further said the senator ought to have recused himself from screening the NDDC board nominees.
This statement is a hint that the said lawmaker was part of the Senate Committee on NDDC that screened the nominees sent by the president last Thursday.
Some of the lawmakers on the panel are Peter Nwabaoshi (Delta, chairman), Ike Ekweremadu (Enugu), George Sekibo (Rivers) and Rochas Okorocha(Imo).
Others are James Manager (Delta), Uche Ekwunife (Anambra), Matthew Urhoghide(Edo) and Akon Eyakenyi(Akwa Ibom).
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how carelessly the screening was conducted as well as the ridiculous reasons lawmakers gave nominees to ‘take a bow and go.’
Mr Ojougboh said it was obvious that the reason the senator behaved the way he did was “that he wants the system, the looting in the NDDC to continue, and this is what the Interim Management Committee will not support. It is as simple as that.”
“The NDDC Interim Payment Certificates that are pending are worth over N3 trillion. That is what the NDDC owes these phantom contractors. It is these phantom contractors that are preaching and making noise to stop the probe. All they want is for the stealing to continue.
“All they want is to bring puppets to manage the forensic audit because they know that the members of the IMC will not compromise. If you look at the records at the NDDC, you will cry.
“Some genuine people that have done jobs for the board have not been paid for over 15 years and their families are suffering. Many of those who were paid are these phantom contractors,” he said.
He, therefore, appealed to Nigerians to support the position of the president, the committee and the people of the Niger Delta and the forensic audit.
Meanwhile, a group known as the Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria has urged the president to return the NDDC to the Presidency.
It expressed fears that the Niger Delta ministry may not effectively supervise the NDDC.
Mr Buhari had ordered the redeployment of the NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
The NDDC prior to the redeployment was supervised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.