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NDDC forensic audit report will be concocted – Jalogho-Williams 

Jalogho-Williams

Though the NDDC is regarded as nucleus of corruption, a Niger Delta environmental activist, Mr. Hosanna Jalogho-Williams, said it was an aberration for Interim Management Committee (IMC) that was appointed to oversee the forensic audit of the NDDC to be enmeshed in contract racketeering. He told KELVIN EBIRI, that unfolding events in the NDDC is a pointer that the forensic audit report will be concocted, just as he wants the board that had been screened to be inaugurated.

Why the hue and cry about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC’s) award of COVID-19-related contracts?
What is the business of Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with COVID-19? Don’t we have the Ministry of Health in the states? I am so shocked and stunned that the Presidency is even coming out to say that they have been given the power to expend about N6.25b after the series of allegations and complaints. And information in the public space shows that they do not have the right to spend our money unreasonably. It is still baffling that all of a sudden the Presidency is coming out to say that it is in charge when we are still talking about N5.4b that was wrongfully used. The illegality in it is that since the Presidency did not investigate the N5.4b that we are talking about, now N6.25b has been approved for them. What is happening now in the NDDC is just like using a raincoat to cover the filth on an edifice in order for rain now to fall on it.

But the IMC has denied not awarding contracts?
What are they denying when we have the memos that are supposed to be very classified documents. The reason they are denying is because they are not aware that the public is aware of those memos and the payment schedule, but we have them and that is the truth.

Are you implying the contracts did not follow due process?
It did not follow due process at all. To start with, the IMC does not have the locus to even award a contract. The IMC was requested to go and audit forensically, the account of the NDDC. It does not have the power to award contracts. By law, IMC awarding contract is an ultra vires activity because it is not within the purview of their operation.

But the President just extended the tenure of the IMC amid these allegations of financial impropriety?
First and foremost, that act on its own is an aberration because of the fact that the IMC was given a specific time to complete its job – the forensic auditing. So, what happened to all the time that it was given?

Two, the job of the Interim Management Committee was to look at what has been happening from 2001 to 2019 in the NDDC. So, what bothers Niger Deltans is what is now their business in the award of contracts and all of those things to the extent of utilising some amounts of money without due process, that is, not passing through the procurement process. All of these things contravene the terms for which the Interim Management Committee was asked to go there. The IMC was charged with the duty of finding out what irregularities were going on in that place; whether contractors have been paid or not; why is there underdevelopment in the Niger Delta taking into cognisance, so much money that have been poured into the NDDC? That was their job.

But all of a sudden, they changed the template and started spending money the way they like. As far as I am concerned, the IMC has acted ultra vires beyond the powers given to it, or the powers conferred on it, or the duty that it was asked to perform. If a tenure is elongated, does it mean that within the six months or the number of months it has been in place it didn’t do anything considering the fact that the volume of work to be done was taken into consideration before the time frame given it was given to perform was arrived at? So, the IMC is using a kind of kangaroo operation to get its tenure elongated. This, to me, could be so that that it could cover up its questionable activities.

Now, I also understand that directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, and some other people who know the story of whatever must have transpired in the NDDC were sent away so that they will be able to concoct and regulate the book of the commission to suit their whims and caprices.

What is the implication of alleged corruption in NDDC on President Buhari’s anti-corruption mantra?
It is a complete antithesis of what he told us that made us throng to the polling boots to vote for him. If you are looking for the nucleus of corruption, it is in the NDDC. I would have thought that that revered man that I know who has zero tolerance for corruption would have taken a stance against the rot going on in NDDC. But he is now the now saying that there has to be an IMC. The IMC’s tenure has expired and you are elongating it. It is a complete antithesis. It is like speaking from two sides of the mouth.

Do you trust this IMC to oversee a credible forensic audit process?
We don’t have any confidence in the IMC because there are several documents in which the committee is awarding contracts and paying upfront. We don’t have confidence in its ability to come up with a good report; the truth will not come out, just watch and see.

You think the NDDC will not emerge from the forensic audit stronger?
Just watch out, the truth of the audit will never come out because all the people that are supposed to expose them during the audit have all been expunged from the commission. If you are removing a director, deputy director, assistant director that are custodians of classified documents, who runs a commission like that? They did this so that they will come out with concocted information that will look like the truth.

The NDDC has accused contractors and political foes of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs of sponsoring those opposed to the IMC. How true is this allegation?
It is unfortunate that whosoever is saying such does not even understand the structure of the brains of the people of the Niger Delta. Niger Deltans are people who have passed through a lot of agitations; they are people who have been deprived of their rights for a long time and they study everything that happens in the Niger Delta. So it is a complete assumption for somebody to make that kind of statement.

Would a substantive board have been able to avert the crisis plaguing the NDDC?
The absence of a substantive board is impacting the NDDC. First and foremost, the substantive board is backed by law; it knows its onions and knows what to do. The dichotomy of the different structures, the managing director, directors, deputy directors is well spelt out, and they all have their functions. They (the board) knows that these people, by legal implications, are sworn in to do their job, but now that they are not there, the IMC can just go ahead and commit all sorts of havoc and disappear. But if the board were to be in place, the members would not be able to do that because accountability must come into play. For instance, the IMC has keyed into the water hyacinth matter because they know that that is not auditable.

Given the pivotal role of the NDDC board, why do you think President Buhari is finding it difficult to inaugurate one?
There are certain things that one cannot explain in the midst of all what we are seeing in this country today. I am pro-Buhari, but I just cannot explain certain things that are happening right now. It is like there is a cabal that is fully entrenched and has its foundation deep in this country and is manipulating all these things. We need development in the Niger Delta. Look at a good number of roads in the region are bad and are almost gone. On the East West Road, nothing is happening on it, but the IMC that is supposed to look into what is going on there has joined the bandwagon. That is my grouse; that is our grouse; that is the grouse of the Niger Deltan, and that is the grouse of God because the voice of men is the voice of God.

How is the incessant changes in management of NDDC impacting on development in the Niger Delta?
When you replace people that you brought in when they are trying to stablise and bring to bear good governance, or when they are trying to understand the system, it is as if you are just going round in circles. You cannot truly say that you want to bring about development. I will give you an example. If you planted a fig tree yesterday, and today you are removing it to another location when it has not even sprouted, can you really say that is it growing? The tree would start another round of familiarisation in the new location. And guess what, it will take longer time to grow. So, we are just going round a circle.

Is the Minister of Niger Delta’s seeming overbearing influence to blame for the crisis in NDDC?
Senator Godswill Akpabio in this NDDC matter is a non-directional fellow. As a man of integrity, as erstwhile senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria cum governor of Akwa Ibom State, an oil producing state, he should have known how sensitive the NDDC issue is. The NDDC is an interventionist commission and governed by by-laws. By implication, it is supposed to be reporting to the Presidency. So, why was he so hell-bent on bringing the NDDC under his ministry? It simply means there is an ulterior motive behind the move. The NDDC has never been under the conscription of the Minister of Niger Delta in the past. Why now? What is the intention? Look, Niger Deltans should sit down and think.

Does the appointment of Prof. Pondei, the minister’s classmate as acting Managing Director amount to cronyism?
There is nothing wrong with getting someone with distinguished qualification to head a place as long as you have confidence in him, but what I am particular about is the tenure. What they told us was three to six months. So, why the elongation? Within the three to six months, there has been so many financial irregularities and widespread misdemeanour. That is the bottom line of what we are saying. Why the extension? 

But, a group has clamoured for Prof Pondei to be confirmed as the substantive managing director of the NDDC?
The unfortunate thing about some of us in this country, including some of the people in the Niger Delta is the fact that we are only concerned about me and my pocket. We are talking about huge corruption taking place while Pondei is there, and you are saying that he should now be confirmed as the managing director of the NDDC. It does not make sense to me because the records are already soiled, dirty and are not palatable at all. So, how can some people now say that such a person in this kind of filthy organisation should become the substantive managing director? It means we are going to sink the entire organisaion inside the Atlantic Ocean.

Should the President directly supervise the NDDC to avoid the unending rancour?
That is what we are saying. It has always been like that. Let the Presidency supervise it, not the minister.

What the minister has done now is to deny the ministry attention and only focusing on the NDDC because there is so much money in that place being an interventionist commission. For now, I doubt if the president is even aware of all that is going on in the NDDC because the process of getting him informed is very tardy since there is a cabal that regulates so many evil operation in this country. The President could mean well for the Niger Delta people, but we are here again shooting our foot by stunting the development as it were. Thereby not making him aware of the things that are going on.

How can the seeming rudderless NDDC be redeemed?
The only way to return to status quo is for the board that had been screened to be inaugurated. Due process must be followed, luckily the Senate had already screened and cleared some persons on the board. So, why have they been refused inauguration to allow them to function? If the government has any reason for the tenure elongation of the IMC, does that reason has the backing of the law? Is it constitutional because the IMC itself is not in the by-laws of the NDDC. It is illegal. It is an aberration.

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