The efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari, who out of concern for the people of the Niger Delta region, appointed an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to clean The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), conduct a forensic audit and make it more responsive to the people may have finally met a dead end after Nigerians on Sunday, 26th of April, 2020, witnessed a member of the Interim Management Committee on Channels Television struggling hard to defend grisly allegations of corruption steamrolled on the Commission with investigations into many of his claims pointing, at best, to dishonourable mendacities and unconcealed lies.
According to the NDDC Director of Projects, Dr Cairo Ojugboh, contract has not been awarded for any intervention on COVID-19. Reports, however, indicate that this is a falsehood as contracts were indeed awarded on the 6th of April, 2020.
Dr Cairo Ojugboh also claimed he was not familiar with any company called OSMOSERVE. This was also uncovered to be lies as the said company Osmoserve got the largest share of the self-serving COVID-19 intervention contract amounting to N4,861,354,250.00 and received mobilization more than one week before the TV program. Sadly, OSMOSERVE Global Ltd we learned, which should have been under the stern flashlight of the forensic probe, having benefitted more than any other company in recent years in numerous emergency projects that brought the commission to its knees, was yet used by the Interim Management as its looting agent.
After Osmoserve’s fraudulent contract award, Official documents show that about four other companies were awarded COVID-19 related contracts and payments approved the same date except for a company that objected to unofficial terms advanced by the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
The companies are: AHR GLOBAL STANDARD SERVICES LTD (Batch no: 13662 & Vat no: 13664), awarded emergency procurement of social relief packs. JULIUS DINGA NIG LTD (Batch no: 13656 & Vat no: 13658), an award for emergency consultancy for the provision of publicity on the prevention of spread of coronavirus across the Nine Niger Delta states. TABLES AND BUILDINGS NIG LTD (Batch no: 13659 & Vat no: 13660).
Like many other contracts, it was uncovered that these were not meant to be executed. Once payments are made, it is alleged that contractors change money to dollar and share accordingly. Little wonder why the Executive Director, Project, denied the existence of these awards on National Television.
Findings showed that for OSMOSERVE GLOBAL LTD, award was given for emergency supply and delivery of medical equipment and consumables to the NDDC warehouse. In the characteristic style of the present IMC, supply details and specifications are always not indicated in the award letter to frustrate the audit process. The letter of award claimed the medical equipment was meant for testing, treatment and care of COVID-19 cases.
The transaction we learned, was initiated by one Mr Effiong Henry, approved the same date by the Executive Director, Finance & Administration, Ibanga Basset Etang and got the final payment approval of the Acting MD, Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, within half an hour, precisely on the 15th of April, 2020. The transaction from the TSA account with Batch no: 13593, Vat no: 13595 and Withholding Tax no: 13594 had the sum of Seven Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million, Two Hundred and Three Thousand, One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Naira, Fifty Kobo (729,203,137.50) treated for payment.
Glaring evidence coupled by an open confession by Dr Cairo that Presidential approval for the COVID-19 intervention projects would be communicated officially to the commission on Monday, 27th, April 2020, also hinted that the fraudulent management of the commission acted illegally in flagrant defiance to Fiscal Responsibility Act, since contracts were awarded and money paid without lawful approval. This further exposes the level of desperation to loot as the purported request for approval was sent to the President in retrospect.
Sources within the commission also squealed that for every payment made, a topmost kingpin collects kickbacks ranging from 30 to 45 percent, depending on the status of the contract.
While the public space is swashed with several allegations of corruption against the management, it is also widely alleged that the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godwill Akpabio, has been using the forensic audit as a smokescreen to mop up the account of the agency for the past six months as the commission has squandered over Forty-Nine Billion Naira ( N49B) in illegal payments in the last two months, most of which are in defiance to Public Procurement Act despite claims by the NDDC Director of Projects, Dr Cairo that the present Interim Management Committee is yet to award any contract.
With growing concerns over the wanton looting in the commission not aligning with the President’s Anti-corruption war, there are calls from concerned civil rights groups to the relevant anti-corruption agencies, the National Assembly, the Ministry of Finance, CBN and the Accountant General Office to quickly swing into action and checkmate the activities of the assembly of thieves by making public all NDDC transactions from the TSA account in the last two months.
All efforts made to reach the NDDC Acting MD, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei for his reaction to the allegation proved abortive.