NDDC Crisis: Concerns Escalate As Interim Mgt Plots To Expend N35.7bn

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.CBN blocks move, demands documentation

.By Hamilton Nwosa (Head Business Desk, The New Diplomat)

The crisis rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has reportedly escalated following increasing concerns about alleged moves by the interim management team led by Dr Gbene Joi Nunieh, acting Managing director,  to access to the accounts of the Commission domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN). The move, sources revealed, is to earmark about N30bn for payment of emergency contracts and another N5.7bn for the conduct of a forensic audit into the operations of the NDDC.

Top bureaucrats at both the NDDC and the CBN confided in The New Diplomat  that the move, followed a decision by the Nunieh-led Interim Management team  which was set up by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to effect changes in the account signatories of the NDDC at the CBN. According to insiders, the move was however, stalled by eagle-eyed top civil servants who expressed concerns in writing that the action would amount to a gross violation of due process and a breach of extant public service rules and protocols because “ there are no applicable documentations, including letters of appointment to from the SGF.”

A source at the CBN while confirming this development rationalized the apex bank’s decision to decline the request from the NDDC interim management team  on grounds that  the CBN as a national financial institution is guided by strict financial and policy rules and regulations and won’t accept “incorrect and inapplicable” documentations in its dealings with various institutions especially when it has to do with public funds.” He added: “The way the CBN works as a  financial  institution is that it  adheres strictly to the rules. All letters of appointment comes from the Office of the SGF and when the schedule officers sight them, they make copies, open files in addition to other internal documentations that should ordinarily from NDDC itself.  We didn’t see any of those documents. Tomorrow, we may not be here but the records in the file would speak for itself indicating that due process was followed. That is all we want.”

 Multiple sources at the NDDC confided in The New Diplomat that there has been desperate attempts by the Nunieh-led Interim Management to effect approvals for payment of emergency contracts amounting to about N30bn as well as  application of  additional N5.7Bn for forensic audit which hasn’t even taken-off. Said an insider in NDDC; “  The Minister was accused of mounting pressure on the then acting managing director to approve N30bn for some emergency contracts allegedly awarded under Prof Nelson Brambaifa-led management team. Don’t forget N1.9bn was paid for water hyacinth jobs to companies reportedly linked to the Minister as well. All the companies  names were published and their account details published. We understand the presidency is quietly investigating those accounts and those phony companies that  the Minister  approved payments running into N1.9bn  to for alleged  illicit water hyacinth jobs. Is that what Niger Delta needs? We want roads, bridges .  We want schools, etc. But our sons are our worse enemies. Let forensic audit start from the N1.9bn that the Minister allegedly approved for illicit water hyacinth. Let the forensic audit start from that dubious policy of illegally plotting to engage 300 staff with names of Akpabios among the names. That is the height of corruption. That is why we civil servants are even saying let Mr President move NDDC to the Presidency  to save the commission from total collapse.”

The New Diplomat investigations reveal that the out-gone acting managing director of the NDDC, Dr Akwagaga Enyia had tactically resisted alleged repeated pressures from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Akpabio to allocate a shocking N5.7bn for forensic audit and another N30bn for payment for emergency contracts. Checks indicate that upon receipt of Akpabio’s directive, she reportedly subjected it to an item of deliberation at a senior management meeting.  But upon examination of the ministerial directive, top directors at the NDDC who were part of Enyia’s management team  were said to have  expressed strong reservation about the staggering sums of N35.6bn. They were said to have premised their apprehension on three grounds. First, they argued that the sum of N5.7bn was far too atrocious given the fact that” a forensic audit of that nature shouldn’t exceed a maximum of N2bn because one of the top 10 leading accounting firms in the world that is represented in Nigeria did a similar audit a few years back for the NDDC at the sum of N300m. Secondly, the management felt it was unethical to draw from the funds of NDDC when it is NDDC that is being investigated because such a move would amount to attempts to  compromise the forensic auditing process. The directors argued that the Ministry of Niger Delta should draw from its funds to ensure independence and transparency of the forensic audit. And thirdly, there was no budgetary provision for that sum in the current NDDC budget year for a forensic audit.

Sources told The New Diplomat that the Nunieh-led interim management team decided,  notwithstanding  the previous management decision,  to discard the decision of the Enyia-led management team with a resolve to pursue the an alleged allocation of N35.7bn for emergency contracts and the forensic audit projects. Checks indicate that the interim management have not had things easy because of the absence of an official letter of appointment from the presidency. A senior director expressed apprehension that the Commission had to open T files (temporary files) for the Nunieh-led management team with the hope that in no time the shortcoming may be corrected.  According to the Director, “technically speaking, their entitlements and emoluments may be impeded in the coming days if there is no authorization letter from the office of the SGF”. He added: “  We who are civil servants, we follow the service rules because politicians come and go but we are here. It is the service rules we were trained to obey. We will draw politicians attention to the rules but if the politicians feel otherwise, then when the problem starts tomorrow or in future, we go down to the files and the records as our  supporting documents . That is what speak  for us and that is how we are trained. We are civil servants, not politicians. If we don’t see any letter of appointment, very soon, senior directors will shun any directive from this interim management especially now that the Senate has confirmed a substantive Board. There has to be proper documentation. If you are employed in a company,   you have got to have an appointment letter which the personnel department would work with. Is it not?” The NDDC has come under severe crisis in recent times. These crisis range from alleged scandalous recruitment racket of over 300 staff to payment of  about N1.9bn  for illicit water hyacinth deals.

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