The House of Representatives appears to have consigned the corruption file of Professor Daniel Pondei, former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to the depths of bureaucratic obscurity. This revelation comes three years after Pondei’s dramatic collapse during a House of Representatives probe into alleged financial misconduct.
The saga began on July 20, 2020, when Pondei slumped during a heated interrogation by the House Committee on Niger Delta, investigating the purported misuse of N81 billion. The incident raised eyebrows, with some committee members questioning the authenticity of the collapse, speculating whether it was a deliberate attempt to derail the probe.
While responding to inquiries from lawmakers, Pondei suddenly collapsed.
The unfortunate incident involving Mr. Pondei was anticipated to result in an extension of the probe, originally scheduled for two days but now stretching into its third year.
Lawmaker Shehu Koko directed questions at Mr. Pondei, seeking explanations for the N642 million payment to Clear Point Communication. Additionally, the legislator inquired about the N536 million disbursed to the Save Life Campaign in the oil-rich region, pressing for proof that these expenditures were duly budgeted for in the 2019 Appropriation Act.
In response, Mr. Pondei informed the lawmakers that the N642 million paid to Clear Point Communication was intended for training locals and aiding in the identification of NDDC projects in the area. However, he could not definitively confirm that these payments were aligned with the budget, requesting additional time to provide the necessary budgetary information.
During this process, he collapsed, exhibiting profuse sweating, and was promptly escorted out of the hearing venue.
Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned for a 30-minute break. Upon resumption, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and Majority Leader Alhassan Doguwa joined committee members in continuing with the proceedings.
Pondei, a Professor of Medicine, assumed the role of Acting Managing Director on February 19, 2020, succeeding Joi Nunieh. His tenure was marked by controversy, including allegations of extra-budgetary expenditures and irregularities amounting to billions of Naira. Pondei’s academic achievements, including a PhD in Microbiology, did little to shield him from the storm of accusations.
Pondei’s career, spanning from his early days as a lecturer to his roles as the acting head of the department of medical microbiology and parasitology, painted a picture of a seasoned professional. However, the cloud of suspicion hanging over him intensified on that fateful day in the House of Representatives.
Despite the serious nature of the allegations against Pondei, the House of Representatives’ recent decision to bury his corruption file raises questions about the commitment to transparency and accountability. Efforts to ascertain the truth about the financial improprieties during Pondei’s tenure might have now been buried in the bureaucratic rubble.
The public is left to ponder whether justice has truly been served or if the former MD’s alleged transgressions will be forever hidden in the shadows of bureaucratic complexities as nothing else has been heard about the case aside from his replacement, even though he returned home from the hospital a day after the dramatic collapse.