The Nigerian Senate has ordered the President, Muhammadu Buhari to sack the Professor Kemebradikumo Ponder the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Boss over alleged financial recklessness spending over N4.923bn fraud.
The Senate also recommended that the NDDC should be returned to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for proper supervision.
The agency which was formerly supervised by the SGF is now being oversight by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, under Senator Godswill Akpabio, following recent directives by the presidency.
The upper chamber also called on the current IMC to refund the N4.923billion it paid to staff and contractors in breach of the procurement process and approvals.
The resolutions of the Senate followed its consideration and adoption of the recommendations of its “Ad hoc Committee on the investigation of the alleged financial recklessness in the NDDC.”
The Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi (Ekiti North), presented the report.
Adetunmbi said: “the Committee noted that it is difficult to find a correlation between Niger Delta community development and cash invested in the zone.
“Continued cash injection in the Niger Delta challenge issue has not worked under the various IMCs.
“It may be useful at this juncture for the Government to intervene by stepping down the EIMC (Executive Interim Management Committee), thereby helping them leave the stage for a properly constituted board with the specific mandate to address the pains of the Niger Delta people.”
The Committee said that the IMC should be made to refund extra-budgetary expenditure of N4.923billion payment to staff and contractors in breach of the procurement process and approvals.
Monies to be refunded by the IMC include cost for overseas travel to the United Kingdom in the sum of N85.7million, Scholarships Grants – N105.5million, Union Members trip to Italy – N164.2million, Lassa Fever Kit – N1.96billon, Public Communication – N1.2billion and COVID-19 Relief -N1.49billon.
This means that the Nigeria Police is to refund the sum of N475million said to have been given to it by the IMC as COVID-19 palliative to purchase personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, in his concluding remarks, lamented that the resources of the NDDC have been pillaged by those appointed to manage them over the years.
Lawan said: “Almost all throughout this period, those that he really been given the responsibility to manage the resources of the NDDC and for the people of the Niger Delta have squandered the resources leaving the region poor and in a very difficult situation.
“It is our opinion in the National Assembly, particularly in the 9th Senate that this report has exposed the inefficiencies, the kind of corruption in the NDDC and in fact, the need to strengthen that organization.
“I want to agree completely that we should look at the Act establishing the Commission. Where are the lacunas or the inadequacies? We are on the same page on this that the outcome of the investigation by the National Assembly, from both chambers, will be considered by the executive arm of government in order to bring sanity in the NDDC and relief to people of the Niger Delta.”
Adetunmbi in his report lamented that budgeting is not entrenched in NDDC and said that the Committee discovered a “significant level of contract spitting by the management of the agency.
“This may have been done to lower the approval threshold, thereby avoiding control measures that would have queried the transaction,” he said.
He noted that the NDDC’s use of financial assets must be refocused and that its record of external audit appeared to be weak and insignificant.
He said that the NDDC’s financial report showed that staff may have been used as contractors for most of the agency’s engagement like the delivery of relief materials for COVID-19 and Lassa fever activities.
The Senate also adopted a recommendation of the Committee that the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions should investigate allegations of blackmail against members of the National Assembly by the NDDC.
“There are assertions of blackmail by the NDDC against members of the National Assembly on the subject of the procurement process, this must be investigated by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and report back in four weeks with a view to stopping the practice,” the report added.
The Adhoc Committee adopted by the Senate includes said: “All expenditures on historical contracts and obligation e.g. hotels, Court judgment, etc., should be refunded by the IMC as payments are not provided for in the budget.
“In retrospect, the original arrangement of putting this commission in the presidency should be carefully considered to allow for direct Presidential oversight in view of the huge resources allocated to them.
“The…Committee strongly recommends that the President should activate the statutory provisions in the Act and nominate fresh candidates for Senate approval.
“This new Board should be made to undertake a review of the existing governance framework, with attention to upgrading the way and manner the Board executes its mandates, with a view to re-establishing a new culture in the organization.
“The review must bring order to the workings of the management and their control of the organization.
“The monitoring Committee and the Advisory Councils should also be inaugurated.
“In order to ensure that the forensic audit achieves the purpose for which it is set up and inspire confidence in the operational and financial processes of NDDC oversight of the audit should be transferred to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
“This will guarantee independence, credibility, transparency, and professionalism in the output of the exercise.
“Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the President with advice from the Auditor-General should appoint a renowned, internationally recognized Forensic Auditor to carry out the exercise.”