A group, Niger Delta Transparency and Accountability Watchdog, has kicked against the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the tenure of Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
In a statement by the group’s National Coordinator, Mr Tombia Perekumo, it is said that an administration that swore to uphold the rule of law and due process would continue to perpetuate an illegality.
The statement reads, “We had hoped that the President would seize the opportunity afforded by the termination of the six-month illegal appointment of the IMC to reboot and follow the provisions of the law setting up the NDDC, especially as the appointment is the subject of no less than four actions in various divisions of the Federal High Court challenging its legality. To extend the tenure of the illegal IMC, therefore, is unconscionable, unlawful and disdainful of the law and due process.
“The announcement that, even in the face of the evidence of gross abuse of office and fraudulent payments, the illegal IMC will stay in place for another eight months, represents a gross disdain, also, for the people of the Niger Delta who have made it plain that the IMC is an aberration that does not have the best interest of the people of the region. For proper understanding and appreciation of our position, the NDDC Act of 2000 (as amended) has no provision for an interim management under whatever guise. It provides clearly for a Governing Board made up of persons nominated by the President in line with laid-down requirements and screened by the Senate. That the illegal IMC continues in office, despite the provisions of the NDDC Act, is a slap on the law and calls the National Assembly to its duty as representatives of the people.
“We alerted the nation to the disbursement of billions of naira as payments for opaque emergency contracts by the illegal IMC on the orders of the minister. We raised the alarm that Akpabio and the IMC paid over N4bn for Lassa fever equipment and other medical supplies on February 22, and on 6th April awarded and paid upfront yet another contract of over N4.8bn for fresh medical supplies. The presidency has just informed us that it had granted an approval to the IMC for a further N6.25bn for medical supplies for COVID-19. We have always wondered how the presidency became involved in contract awards at the NDDC and this should tell us why the people of the region have been shortchanged as resources meant for the development of physical infrastructure are disbursed for fraudulent and opaque contracts.
“The payments and disbursements made so far by the NDDC in the last three months is over N40bn and contracts have been awarded without detailed lot, quality and quantity specifications. Is this what President Buhari is endorsing? Was this why Akpabio was appointed minister of Niger Delta? While we agree that as an intervention agency the NDDC can augment the needs of the states, we have shown that these contracts are in no way transparent and are being executed to steal money from the Commission. Even before the IMC through Akpabio sought the president’s approval for the N6.25bn contract just announced, it had awarded and disbursed payments to the contractors! It is interesting that Dr Cairo Ojugboh, the IMC Acting Executive Director Projects, had said on a Channels TV program a few days ago that the President would approve these fraudulent contracts. What is now instructive is that the presidency has made itself available for the legitimization of fraudulent contracts, it has turned the high office into a rubber-stamp for fraud!
“We are also worried that the presidency saw nothing wrong that the IMC laid off senior staff and directors it suspected to be behind the exposure of its fraudulent contracts. Some of these staff are said not to be only experienced but very dedicated. Yet, that is not a quality that appeals to the minister and the managers of the NDDC at this time, and certainly not to the presidency; they want lackeys who would raise no finger as the looting of the agency goes on. What is going on at the NDDC is a negation of the anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari administration and speaks to the true motive of the administration to treat us with disdain.
“These allegations are grievous indeed and any attempt to sweep them under the carpet will have grave implications for the anti-corruption campaign of President Buhari. Across the region, people are watching to see what the administration will do with these evidences of corruption under Akpabio and his illegal IMC with bated breath.
“The President should not be promoting illegality at the NDDC as is clearly the case presently with the gross disregard for the law regulating the commission, it should not legitimise fraud.
“We call on the President to disband the IMC and put in place a substantive Board in line with the NDDC Act without further delay.”