Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio to appear before it in respect to the ongoing probe of alleged N81.5 billion irregular expenditure by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The House Committee on NDDC, which issued the summon, at an investigative hearing, yesterday, said Akpabio, should appear before it unfailingly, on Monday. The committee also issued a fresh summon to the acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Kemerbrandikumo Pondei to appear before it on Monday.
The NDDC boss had walked out on the committee on Thursday, after raising objection against the chairman of the panel, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo presiding over the probe, saying that he “is an interested party” and should not be a judge in his own case . Thereafter, the committee resolved to issue a warrant of arrest against Pondei.
This is coming as the former acting managing director of the NDDC, Joi Nunieh, told the lawmakers that she only spent N8 billion during her tenure in the interventionist agency. Nunieh, who testified virtually, was managing director of the NDDC between October 29, 2019 and February 23,2020.
According to her, though the objective of the IMC was to supervise the forensic audit, there is no such going on at the interventionist agency at the mome nt. She further stated that none of the auditors shortlisted for the forensic audit of the NDDC is among the top auditing firms in the country.
According to her, “the issue is that everyone in Nigeria has been deceived that the forensic audit is going on. I want to say here that if Nigerians find out that the forensic audit is going on every testimony and allegations that I have made should be canceled and disregarded. There is no forensic audit going on. The nine companies on that list, none of our major auditing companies in Nigeria is on that list. “
The former acting managing director, who made several allegations against Akpabio, stated that one of the cases of insubordination preferred against her was refusing to follow the minister to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting to defend the issue of the forensic audit, as the 2020 budget of the commission has not been passed.
She accused Akpabio of exacting pressure on her to abuse processes as well as engage in financial recklessness. Nunieh stated that “to Senator Akpabio, he felt the President has delegated all the powers to him. He felt he also had the powers of the board. There must be a reorientation for the minister. We didn’t have this problem from the records I saw, when the NDDC was under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The NDDC, I will recommend should be taken back to the office of the SGF. “She added :” The President had written a letter to the National Assembly appointing the forensic audit and suspending the appointment of the board, in that letter the President said that he was appointing the IMC to supervise the forensic audit, that was the reason he was bringing in the IMC. What I met wasn’t exactly what was going on, the minister, Akpabio insisted that he will supervise the forensic audit. I reminded him and showed him a letter that the President had written, there’s no way that we can spend the money that’s in our budget.
“He requested in his memo to the President money for the funding of the forensic audit be gotten from the service wide votes. President Buhari in his wisdom refused that request and in writing said that it should be put in the NDDC appropriation budget, making NDDC the procuring entity.
“Can I now stand before this committee to say that the lead consultant has been procured , my answer will be no. Remember you cannot give any approval or procure any consultant, without the appropriation made by the National Assembly. 2020 budget hasn’t even been considered or discussed not to mention of being passed. They don’t have approval, which was one of the reasons I refused to go before FEC, which was one of the issues of the insubordination because the act states that if I commit any offence it’s five years imprisonment without an option of fine, so in going to FEC it will mean that I intentionally went there to obtain an approval under false pretences knowing that the 2020 budget has not been passed and also knowing that it was criminal and anticipatory.”
Earlier, Mr Johnson Kolawole, the Head, Directorate of Research and Programmes, Act for Positive Transformation Initiative, NGO, accused the NDDC IMC of gross abuse of budget implementation process. He stated that the IMC had expended over N80 billion between January 2020 and May 2020 as against the N22 billion repeatedly portrayed by the IMC.