The tussle between a number of state actors, legislators and government officials over the mismanagement of funds, amongst other drama at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has been on for some weeks.
The controversy, however, did not heat up until the erstwhile Managing Director of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh, began to hurl accusations at the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio. Akpabio too returned the attacks on him by Nunieh even in more vicious ways.
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A Senate Ad-hoc committee and the House Committee on Niger Delta was probing the alleged embezzlement of the sum of N40 billion, controversies over the forensic audit of the agency which the president ordered also remained in contention.
During the week, more individuals believed to be connected to the alleged NDDC heist appeared before a joint National Assembly committee investigating the matter.
The House committee on NDDC hearing witnessed a twist as the Chairman, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, had to recuse himself after he was accused by Acting Managing Director (MD) of the NDDC, Prof. Daniel Pondei of benefitting from the rot at the NDDC.
Later on, in the course of the hearing, Pondei caused more scenes as appeared to have feigned a collapse as soon as a question was posed to him.
Following the money:
News filtered into the media on Thursday that the FG has followed the recommendation of the Senate Ad-hoc committee to dissolve the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, but the FG through the president’s media aide has debunked the report.
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Also on Thursday, the Senate asked the embattled NDDC leadership to refund the mismanaged sum of N4.923 billion which was part of the alleged missing funds.
The refund breakdown as requested by the Senate included Overseas Travel to the United Kingdom – N85.7million, Scholarship grants – N105.5 million, Union Members’ trip to Italy – N164.2 million, payment for Lassa Fever Kit – N1.96 billion, payment for Public Communication – N1.12 billion, and COVID-19 fund – N1.49 billion.
The Senate also recommended that all expenditures on historical contracts and obligations not provided for in the 2019 NDDC budget such as hotels, court judgment and so on be returned immediately.
With the investigations and hearings of the NDDC saga having been summarily concluded, a more holistic figure of the financial hanky-panky which has been going on at the agency is now exposed to the public.
The entire nation, meanwhile, is yet to see any indication of severe disciplinary action to be taken by the FG against officials overseeing affairs of the NDDC. The Senate has recommended that the embezzled funds be returned while the House committee report is yet to be revealed.
The onus now falls on President Muhammadu Buhari and the entirety of the presidency to take decisive, corrective and punitive steps in sanitizing the NDDC.
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