A serving senator is single-handedly handling about 300 contracts for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), an official was quoted as saying.
This was reportedly made known by the commission’s interim management committee on Sunday.
The Acting Executive Director of Projects, Cairo Ojougboh, said 120 of the contracts have been fully paid for. He, however, did not speak on the status of the contracts.
This comes barely a week after the federal government set up an interim management committee to run the NDDC.
The committee was mandated to help create an “enabling environment” for the forensic audit of the NDDC which was announced by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Although he did not name the senator, Ojougboh said the contracts were under investigation.
He also disclosed that the NDDC owes contractors about N3 trillion.
The acting director said the ongoing forensic audit would help uncover how the debt was accrued.
He also said those opposed to the audit have something to hide, “as they must have played a role in NDDC’s mismanagement”.
He accused the unnamed senator of sponsoring a smear campaign against the interim management, which he said would function for less than six months and hand over to the substantive board.
Ojougboh stated that he and other interim management team members would not be compromised. He said he had no ‘interest’ in NDDC.
Other members are Acting Managing Director, Gbene Nunieh and Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Ibanga Utang.
“I have never entered the NDDC building before. I have no contract there. The MD has no interest whatsoever in the NDDC. The Executive Director, Finance, also does not have any interest.
“Therefore, when given the opportunity that we have just been given, our job is to make sure that we avail the auditors all the necessary documents and information, all the necessary help they need because we are not protecting any interest but to help the auditors do their job as it is required,” he said.
Mr Ojougboh said the senator ought to have recused himself from screening the NDDC board nominees.
This statement is a hint that the said lawmaker was part of the Senate Committee on NDDC that screened the nominees sent by the president last Thursday.
Some of the lawmakers on the panel are Peter Nwabaoshi (chairman), Ike Ekweremadu, George Sekibo and Rochas Okorocha.
Others are James Manager, Uche Ekwunife, Matthew Urhoghide and Akon Eyakenyi.
Newsmen had reported how the screening was conducted as well as the ridiculous reasons lawmakers gave nominees to ‘take a bow and go.’
Ojougboh said it is obvious that the reason he (the senator) is behaving the way he is behaving is “that he wants the system, the looting in the NDDC to continue, and this is what the Interim Management Committee will not support. It is as simple as that.”
“The NDDC Interim Payment Certificates that are pending are worth over N3 trillion. That is what the NDDC owes these phantom contractors. It is these phantom contractors that are preaching and making noise to stop the probe. All they want is for the stealing to continue.
“All they want is to bring puppets to manage the forensic audit because they know that the members of the IMC will not compromise. If you look at the records at the NDDC, you will cry.
“Some genuine people that have done jobs for the board have not been paid for over 15 years and their families are suffering. Many of those who were paid are these phantom contractors,” he said.
He therefore appealed to Nigerians to support the position of the President, the committee and the people of the Niger Delta and the forensic audit.
Meanwhile, the Oil and Gas Host Communities of Nigeria (HOSCON) has urged the President to return the NDDC to the Presidency.
It expressed fears that the Niger Delta ministry may not effectively supervise the NDDC, which the President said was mismanaged despite huge allocations.
Mr Buhari had ordered the redeployment of the NDDC to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs – a move he said is meant to enhance the quality of life of people of the region.
The NDDC prior to the redeployment was being supervised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The crisis rocking the NDDC has lingered for a while.
While the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has lamented the corruption and political interference disrupting the original purpose of setting up the NDDC, the ruling All Progressive Congress state chairmen forum has demanded his removal accusing him of exhibiting an “overbearing behavior”.
They also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dismiss him.