The extension of tenure of the Niger Delta Development Commission’s (NDDC) Interim Management Committee (IMC) has come under attack with the Niger Delta Transparency and Accountability Watchdog describing it as continued disregard for law and due process.
In a statement signed by Mr Tombia Perekumo, National Coordinator, the group said it was unbecoming that an administration that swore to uphold the rule of law and due process “would continue to perpetuate an illegality.”
The group said it had hoped President Muhammadu Buhari “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,” insisting that the tenure extension was “unconscionable, unlawful and disdainful of the law and due process.”
Perekumo said the people of the Niger Delta had made it plain that the IMC was “an aberration that does not have the best interest of the people of the Niger Delta.”
He said the NDDC Act of 2000 (as amended) has no provision for an interim management, but only “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.”
The group said for IMC to continue in office “despite the provisions of the NDDC Act, is a slap on the law.”
On why it is speaking out, he said: “Our position is not driven by calumny but by the facts, which are indisputable, and the only conclusion we can draw from the continued stay of the illegal IMC, despite evidence of large scale fraud in the Commission, is that either there is collusion at the dizzying heights of this administration or the administration itself has been held captive by forces with sinister motives.”
Perekumo said the group had 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 the IMC paid over N4 billion for Lassa fever equipment and other medical supplies on February 22, and on 6th April awarded and paid upfront, yet another contract of over N4.8 billion for fresh medical supplies.
“The presidency has just informed us that it had granted an approval to the IMC for a further N6.25 billion 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 group said payments and disbursements made so far by the NDDC in the last three months “is over N40 billion and contracts have been awarded without detailed lot, quality and quantity specifications. 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.”
On the directive for some NDDC staff to proceed on compulsory leave the group said: “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.”
The Niger Delta group called on the National Assembly to act by “calling on the president to dissolve the IMC because its appointment and continued stay is illegal.”
It also urged President Buhari “to disband the IMC and put in place a substantive Board, in line with the NDDC Act without further delay.”