MD faints at hearing, Reps, Akpabio clash, exchange words over NDDC controversial probe

MD faints at hearing, Reps, Akpabio clash, exchange words over NDDC controversial probe

MD faints at hearing, Reps, Akpabio clash, exchange words over NDDC controversial probe
The Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC] acting Managing Director, Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei, slumped while being interrogated by the lawmakers. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs , Senator Godswill Akpabio, on Monday said most contracts of the NDDC  were awarded to members of the National Assembly. Akpabio said this in Abuja at the sitting of the House of Representatives committee investigating the NDDC .

Besides the forensic audit of the commission ordered by the President , Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd .), both the Senate and the House of Representatives are currently investigating alleged financial recklessness in the commission .

Pondei and other top officials of the NDDC had on Thursday walked out of the House of Representatives committee probing the commission after calling for the resignation of its Chairman, Mr Olubunmi Tunji - Ojo , accusing him of “ crime against the commission .”When the committee began its sitting on Monday, its chairman , withdrew from the probe and his Deputy Thomas Ereyitomi, presided over the hearing. Pondei was the first to make his presentation when the committee resumed its sitting at 12noon on Monday.

He said between January and May 31, N 34bn was given to the NDDC by the Federal Government . He said out of the expenditure from October 31, 2019 to May 31, 2020, the current interim management committee led by him spent N 59.1 bn out of the N81. 5bn spent by the NDDC within the period . He informed that he assumed office on February 20, 2020.

“ Out of the N 51.9 bn , it is also verifiable that N38. 6bn was spent on capital projects . The IMC published a list of contractors who have been paid up to May 5 (a total sum of ) N 35.3 bn and no contractor said he was not paid . In all this , the IMC did not award any of those contracts ; they are historical contracts that existed before we came.

“ On recurrent expenditure , N 20.5 bn was expended by the current IMC between February 20 and May 31, 2020. It is good to note that a large proportion of the payments were from a backlog of expenditure that the previous managements had incurred and did not pay .”

We spent N1. 32bn on COVID - 19 palliative, not N1.5bn – MD
The committee asked Pondei about the N 1 .5 bn spent on COVID - 19 palliatives by the NDDC . “ It was not N 1. 5 bn please. The figure is shown clearly . It is N 1 .32bn ,” he argued . The lawmakers also asked from which budget it was taken.

“ I will provide the answer . I don ’t want to lie under oath . I’ll provide the answer for you ,” Pondei said. While the lawmakers insisted that Pondei specified the budget , the NDDC boss insisted on providing his response later .

He also said the commission was preparing to pay students on scholarship . Responding to another question , Pondei said the IMC had so far received about N 72bn . The committee also asked him about another N641 m paid to a contractor , Clear Point Communications and if it was budgeted for in 2019.
Pondei said, “ This money was part of the N 2 .5 bn that was for the forensic audit in the 2019 budget , out of which N 1 .2 bn was approved. Out of that , N318 bn was approved for the lead forensic auditors, and only a small percentage has been paid out before the budget expired on the 31st (of May ).” Forty- five minutes into his presentation, a lawmaker , Mr Enwo Igariwey, asked Pondei whether the money being spent by the NDDC was budgeted for .
Igariwey asked the MD where the commission would get money to pay students on scholarship since the operation of the 2019 budget ended on May 31 and the 2020 budget had yet to be approved. While Pondei was trying to answer the question , another lawmaker , Mr Wole Oke, said the MD was not looking fine.

Oke had barely finished speaking when Pondei collapsed where he was sitting and he was carried by security agents and his aides out of the Conference Room 231 , venue of the hearing. At 1 :02pm, the committee went on a one - hour break after the NDDC boss collapsed. When the lawmakers resumed , the Speaker , Femi Gbajabiamila , asked the panel to adopt Pondei ’s written presentation .

National Assembly members get most NDDC contracts – Minister Akpabio, who was interrogated on the committee ’s resumption, accused members of the National Assembly of taking most of the NDDC ’ s contracts .

Defending the huge of expenses of the commission during the pandemic lockdown, Akpabio said , “ We cannot close down the Niger Delta because of the security implication in the region. We cannot close down the NDDC because of the fact that we are doing forensic audit . The NDDC plays a vital role in ensuring the peace and security of the region , and 90 per cent or more of the resources of the country , on a monthly basis , comes from there. If you close it in totality , all you will have will be chaos.

“ It is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs . For me , I am not against it . Who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people. If you look at your chairman , your chairman …” While the deputy chairman of the committee interrupted Akpabio , another lawmaker , Goodhead Boma , asked the minister to name the beneficiaries among the lawmakers .

Akpabio said, “ Are you asking me the beneficiaries in the National Assembly? I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given to members of the National Assembly but you (Boma) don’ t know about it . The two chairmen (Senate and House ) can explain to you . I was a member of the NDDC committee . I know what was going on.” Responding, Boma said , “ You were a member of the NDDC committee in the 8 th Assembly. Are you telling me that a lot of jobs were awarded to you as a member ?”

While Ereyitomi made efforts to stop Akpabio , the minister continued, “ That is why we have to change the modus operandi. You must not allow the two chairmen to hijack the budget every year. You are like me. I was a member like you . I did not know what was going on.”Another member , Shehu Koko , however , said, “ You were on air . You said they (NDDC ) gave contracts to the chairman of the committee (Tunji -Ojo) in April 2019. And the chairman was appointed in November. He was not a chairman of the committee . He was not even a member of the House .”

The minister responded “ I think I must correct myself. I was giving an example of a contract of N10. 9bn in the chairman ’s place. I am saying that contracts are split to a point where it comes below the threshold of the minister ’s approval . The contract is not for the chairman , but for the chairman ’s state (Ondo). ” Koko, however , insisted that Akpabio should state whether Tunji - Ojo was awarded contracts or not.