The plot is episodic and the actions of the various dramatis personae are akin to the make-believe masterpieces of William Shakespeare. The shocking and messy details of how the immediate past Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) led by Mr Dan Abia, allegedly vandalized, (to borrow President Muhammadu Buhari’s word) the interventionist Agency into a state of massive haemorrhage is heart-rending. It allegedly involved controversial award of contracts and engagement in scandalous project deals amounting to about N271 billion, sums provided for in the 2015 NDDC Budget.
The New Diplomat investigations in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and London reveal that panic has gripped Abia and his team, including Dr Henry Ogiri (Executive Director, Finance and Administration), who allegedly spent a whopping N1.3billion to host Christmas parties; awarded a controversial retainer-ship contract of N10 billion Solar Water scheme to one company called Acogates, (a firm allegedly without any known professional credentials and profile) and allegedly appointed “unqualified consultants who go by the names of Eyo, Victor and Emma (Surnames withheld)” for all major contracts awarded… “The trio was paid 10% upfront. All in a bid to “rip off contractors and collect 10% kick-backs”. These among several alleged corrupt misdeeds, eventually lay the commission, mean to alleviate the sufferings of the Niger Delta People, prostrate. Sources within the NDDC confided in The New Diplomat Economic Intelligence Team that as soon as the National Assembly approved the 2015 NDDC budget amounting to N271,089,998,023.00 (N271.08billion) the erstwhile MD and his executive directors, especially Dan Abia and Henry Ogiri, went on a spending spree and contracts awards bazaar that shook the commission to its foundations.
It was gathered that through the alleged dubious upfront payments of the 10% so-called consultancy fee for all major contracts and jobs awarded, the trio of Audu, Eyo and Victor were able to amass about N10bilion in an Old Generation bank and two First Generation banks and lived “like kings while the party lasted.” Said an insider: “What happened in NDDC during this Jonathan’s era was terrible. Somebody like the former MD and the ED Finance and Administration obviously destroyed the whole place. As we speak, one Eyo has left for London under the guise of embarking on further studies. These were the people allegedly used for the various jobs. They should also verify from one lady called Tessy who is Emma’s Account Officer in one of the New Generation banks. The huge sums in those accounts, where did they get those monies from? There are petitions with EFCC and the Presidency says they are commencing probe soon. So, those of us who are stakeholders are happy that at last thos monies would be recovered. How did they do it? As soon as Dan Abia came in, in total disregard and abandonment of the Department responsible for the Design of Projects, Abia and Other EDs came up with a plot that is unknown and totally unacceptable in management processes that a firm be appointed as consultants to collect 10% of consultancy fees for contracts and projects. That approval did not go to the Presidency or the SGF for approval because sums amounting to over 10billion were raked in in some transactions — because any amount up to a billion naira goes to the board and if it is above that it goes to FEC through the SGF’s office. The MD could approve up to N250million. With this approval limit, the management perfected the art of splitting contracts and back-dating same. We want a forensic audit of the contracts and books of the commission to authenticate what I am saying now.’’
Investigations further show that a breakdown of the 2015 budgetary projects for which funds were appropriated and jobs awarded indicate that much of the people of the Niger Delta are yet to feel the “the real impact of these projects by the NDDC.’’ There are various sums budgeted for Head Office/ Regional Offices and the various states. For Head Office/Regional Office, the sums were over 100 billion while the following sums went to the constituent states of the Niger Delta region: Abia, N10,155,193,00; Akwa Ibom, N40,712,762,909; Bayelsa, N28,696,092,624; Cross River, N9,058,333,333; Delta, N30,481,173,139; Edo, N11,559,522,492; Imo, N10,075,925,015; Ondo, N13,143,026,930; Rivers, N29,178,057,821.
The total sums came to N271,089,998,023.00 .
A group which calls itself Concerned Niger Delta Professionals (CNDP) have renewed its call on the Presidency to carry out not just a probe but a forensic audit of the contracts and sums paid to determin among other things when they were awarded, who back-dated them, why due process was not followed and above all, why the scandalous splitting of contracts which is clearly against the law.
Presidency officials told The New Diplomat that the new Sole Administrator/Managing Director of the commission, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, a former Commissioner for Information and Communications in Rivers State has been given the full mandate to clean up the commission with a view to re-positioning it to deliver on its original mandate that the peoples of the Niger Delta. “She has been given the full mandate and we believe that as a thoroughbred professional and competent award-winning journalist, she will deliver on the job.” the Presidency source added. It
was also gathered that President Buhari would be looking in the direction of professionals and technocrats with auditable profiles and backgrounds to man various management positions in the NDDC at the appropriate time. “These people have fully embarrassed the Niger Delta region… The NDDC fared very well in the time of people like Timi Alaibe. Those are solid professionals who knew their onions. Not this one called Abia….under whose watch this massive corruption took place.’’
It would be recalled that the Presidency had fired the NDDC’s MD, Abia and its two executive directors, Dr. Henry Ogiri, Executive Director Finance and Administration and Mr Tuoyo Omatsuli, Executive Director Projects amidst widespread criticisms. Their appointments were made by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, whose office oversees the NDDC had said recently that the Federal
Government would beam its searchlight on the activities of the commission to make it serve the needs of the region better. Confirming that the commission was truly in bad shape, Lawal, had reportedly lamented that the debt profile of the agency, had risen to N300 billion, stressing that the commission had lost its original focus of a strategic development vehicle.
“Wewill do whatever is necessary to put the NDDC in a better shape for the overall development of the area. “I can tell you that the Federal Government is very sympathetic to the Niger Delta because of its peculiar terrain and we need to take urgent steps to put things right in the place,” the SGF had declared.
OUR STAR EDITORIAL…
The New Diplomat’s editorial last August which shocked a baffled Presidency and among others, ultimately led to the firing of Dan Abia and his management, is hereby reproduced. N1.3bn Xmas Parties: NDDC’s profligate Mgt must go now! Recent revelations of the wasteful way in which the resources of the otherwise interventionist agency, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, are being unscrupulously spent point to the critical imperative of relieving the present crop of the management and board of the commission of their jobs and positions and consequently carrying out a comprehensive audit of the development agency with a view to finding out the details of the rot that it is enmeshed in and completely revamping it to deliver rightfully, on its promise to the people of the region and the nation. The revelations are coming in the
wake of earlier news reports indicating that in disregard to specific extant laws, rules, regulations and general directives handed over to the board and management of the commission upon their inauguration and appointment by former President Goodluck Jonathan, the bodies have since gone ahead to not only approve the award of sundry new contracts, they have also done so in such a way as to suggest that they are indeed a law unto themselves. Underscoring the incredible nature of the malfeasance that has engulfed the agency, the board has reportedly been fingered as having perfected the uncanny art of contract splitting as a way of avoiding even greater scrutiny and accountability from agencies like the Bureau for
Public Procurement, BPP and the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in the course of its defying the presidential directives and engaging in the very brazen and unscrupulous award of contracts of dubious value and worth that generally fall short of all known laws and norms of due process, transparency and international best practices. There are reports in the public domain currently outlining that in one such dubious turn, N2.7billion worth of spurious contracts were awarded to some 30 nondescript companies. Of all of the allegations raised so far however, one involving the approval of a whopping sum of N1.3billion to host two parties during the 2014 Christmas festivities dwarfs others in terms of its monumental insensitivity. Also most alarming are recent reports that the current management are awarding mind-boggling contracts with reckless impunity and backdating same to cover up for their shameful misdeeds. This clearly calls for a comprehensive forensic audit of the books of the commission to identify the alleged dripping fingerprints of fraud and corrupt practices in the NDDC. There are equally cases of divided and rampant divisive political interests that have crippled effective functioning and operations of the NDDC. For illustrative purpose, though the MD, Mr Dan Abia was nominated for that position by Chief Godswill Akpabio, erstwhile Governor of Akwa Ibom State,(PDP) the Executive Director, Finance, Mr Henry Ogiri was nominated by Mr Nyeson Wike (PDP) and the latter allegedly bankrolled the governorship Campaigns of Wike substantially. To underscore the height of executive recklessness and feud within the top hierarchy of the NDDC, Ogiri and Abia have been at daggers- drawn . Ogiri accused Abia of outrageous misdeeds. Curiously, this is rather saddening. At a time where oil revenues were dropping and the nation had begun struggling with the task of sourcing resources to pay workers and pensioners, as well as continue to drive the overall national development agenda, it is indeed a most condemnable travesty. It is akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burnt.
To be sure, the NDDC is not the first interventionist agency that is fuelled by oil revenues that the world has known. The Dubai Media City to which scores of Nigerians throng daily is essentially the outcome of sound future planning that is fuelled by the oil wealth of the United Arab Emirates. In Norway, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, very huge sovereign wealth funds are the outcome of similar good sense investments of their oil-deriving patrimony. Nigeria’s NDDC is therefore a crying shame in this regard and one in need of urgent redemption. The Niger-Delta and Nigerian people must begin to see the dividends from their oil wealth as domiciled in the NDDC and not continue to be greeted with ear-splitting tales of graft and malfeasance.
The incumbent government has since publicly foresworn that it would go to every length to ensure that the Augean stables are thoroughly cleansed.
We therefore enjoin the administration to do the needful and ensure that all of the nation’s institutions, the NDDC included, are carefully and comprehensively straightened out.
The New Diplomat calls for a thorough probe and forensic audit to determine those contracts that have been illegally back-dated by an incredible management Team. The nation demands no less and now waits to see the exit of the present management and board of the NDDC.