With the ongoing forensic audit by the Federal Government over the operations of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that was established since 2000 with the mission of facilitating the rapid, even, and sustainable development of the Niger-Delta region into an economically viable, socially stable and politically peaceful place, accusations and counter-accusations have been emanating with the removal of the head of the interim management committee Dr Yimebe Joy Nunieh, the stake for the game.
SecretReporters in its investigation learned that the interim boss of the NDDC addressed as the Gbene of Nyokhana Kingdom owing to her dogged fight for the interest of Ogoni people may have been singled out for daring the cartel that once held the commission to the jugular with her years as the National Coordinator of HYPREP another twist to the drama.
In 2012, Joi Nunieh was made the Acting Coordinator of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), an agency set up by the Federal Government to implement the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report towards the restoration of Ogoniland and other parts of the Niger Delta affected by years of oil pollution.
As a daughter of the first lawyer in Ogoniland, she was believed to be upright in running the affairs of HYPREP meant to serve her people, by employing only qualified and approved personnel, but this was not to be according to sources after she fell out with the supervising Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which was then superintended by Diezani Alison Madueke.
Joi Nunieh was accused of running the place like an emperor, which prompted the government to hire PriceWaterhouseCoopers Nigeria one year after setting up the agency to conduct a staff audit to know the identity of staff recruited for the scheme.
The terms of the audit included checking staff nominal roll, employment letters, salary schedules, bank statements and staff files. The audit allegedly uncovered a huge disparity from 2012 to 2013. In 2012, the sum of N188 million was the salary strength of HYPREP but astronomically reached N2.8 billion the next year.
This was revealed from the alleged list of 201 names submitted by Joi Nunieh, made up of 142 regular and 59 contract staff, who would draw a total of N2.8 billion as salary. It was also alleged that more than two-thirds of the 201 acclaimed staff were illegally imputed by the then HYPREP boss, which allegedly led to a query by the legal department of the Ministry of Petroleum, demanding information on the terms of their employment.
Same sources accused the erstwhile coordinator of HYPREP of stashing the place with ghost names since Shell Development Company was the one responsible for 80% of the project, as they released a whopping sum of N2.5 billion to pay backlogs of salaries owed from January to December 2013. This action led to the arrears of genuine employees not paid in time, due to the ghost names that were inputted by Joi Nunneh and her inability to provide a reasonable explanation for weeks for the salaries she claimed belonged to staffers.
She was forced to resign in 2014 and replaced with Jamila Shuara.
Joi Nuniah Reacts
Speaking exclusively in a telephone chat with SecretReporters in response to the forensic lies of the alleged indictment by a previous audit from an international company, Joi Nuniah, tasked with heading the forensic audit of the NDDC as its Acting Managing Director stated that the allegations were all a ploy by people hell-bent on disrupting the activities of the commission as she reiterated that the audit must go on.
“When I was in HYPREP they didn’t pay one dime…Fifty kobo was not released” she said.
In what could best be described as a rather confident tone amid the numerous accusations, the former HYPREP national coordinator boldly stated that the whole attack on HYPREP was because she did not want them to “wack” the money.
On the allegation of stashing HYPREP with ghost workers while she was coordinator, Joi Nuniah debunked the claims stating that there was no such thing. According to her, the discrepancy is a ruse as only names of those who duly received their appointment letters were included.
The letters of appointments were halted after she was involved in a fatal car accident which claimed the lives of three other occupants: Dr Zakki Labbo from Sokoto State, Dr Aloy Agunwa from Imo state, and the driver Mr David while she miraculously survived after her car plunged into a river and was submerged on 1 May 2013.
“The facts will speak for itself, so there is no ghost, we were not paid…How can there be ghosts when they didn’t pay us”.
The NDDC acting MD further disclosed that the former NNPC boss Mutiu Sunmonu who is still alive could be contacted to corroborate her assertion that no single amount was released to HYPREP. She, however, reiterated that the accusations are only arising because of the ongoing forensic audit in NDDC, which in her words must go on as anybody who has not done his work will not get paid.