by G9ija

As forensic auditing of the finances of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) gathers momentum, it has been revealed that the sacked acting managing director of the commission and his team awarded emergency contracts worth over one trillion naira in just seven months of 2019. This is said to be against an annual budget of about N400bn. The acting executive director, projects, Cairo Ojougboh, who declared this during a press briefing at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt Wednesday, said the emergency contracts system was aimed at attending to some urgent situations through some contracts.

In recent years, the presidency had discouraged the award of new contracts to enable the Commission focus on wiping out abandoned projects and sanitising the system. However, new MDs prefer to award fresh contracts. Some thus used the emergency contract system to give massive award of contracts.

“In 2017, the NDDC awarded a total of 201 emergency contracts valued at N100.39Bn; in 2018, total 1,057 emergency contracts valued at N162.68Bn were awarded; and in just seven months of 2019, it awarded a total of 1,921 emergency contracts valued at N1.07trn,” he said. “We are talking about a total of over N1.3trillion in less than three years. The yearly budget of the NDDC is hardly above N400Bn and a situation where contracts that do not qualify for emergencies were fraudulently awarded to over one trillion naira value in less than one year amounts to not only stealing from the pulpit but stealing the entire pulpit.” The ED said President Muhammadu Buhari saved the NDDC from being shut down due to over trading, bloated contracts, and other sharp practices in the Commission. He said the Commission was sinking and would have been “killed and buried” but for the President’s intervention.

He said Buhari had ordered a forensic audit of the Commission and appointed an interim management Committee (IMC), headed by Acting Managing Director, Joi Nunieh, with other members, including Ibanga Etang (Finance/Administration).

There have been claims and confirmed reports that many NDDC projects were left uncompleted in oil-rich states of the country due to non-release of funds by the then leadership of the commission. Godswill Apkabio, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, said that some firms, especially banks, who are scared of being indicted are now coming forward to make refunds to the NDDC. Akpabio specifically said: “I know of a bank that came to say they have $70 million from 2006, one also came to say N170 million had been abandoned, I’ve forgotten in which administrations in the last 11 years, they said they are ready to refund.