Nigeria: NDDC - Pondei Lists Contracts Paid Under 'Duress' to Get National Assembly Budget Approval

8 August 2020

The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof. Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, has listed some of the contracts the commission was coerced to pay by the National Assembly before its 2019 annual budget could be harmonized.

He said in a statement on Saturday in Abuja that some lawmakers, especially members of adhoc Committees held the commission hostage over the years with the annual budget approval.

According to him, they were arm-twisted to pay for most of the contracts that were never executed or sometimes, never completed.

Pondei, in the statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Edgar Ebigoni, listed the contracts and benefiting firms to include; Kith Global Ventures Ltd; Remedial Works at New Ogorode Roads Lot 3, at the cost of N493,684,169.00 and paid on the 17/03/2020; 301 Constr. Ltd; Remedial Works at Nja Road to Akoku Uno Lot 1, at the cost of N350,027,919.80 and paid on the 17/03/2020.

Other are; Cracked Stone Constr. Ltd; Remedial Works at Ajaolubeti Road Environs Lot 2 at the cost of N394,010,952.10 and paid on the 17/03/2020; Collincrystal Energy Ltd; Emergency at Benin Township Road Lot 7, at the cost of N 431,053.035.20 and paid on the 17/03/2020; Collincrystal Energy Ltd; Emergency at Benin Township Road Lot 3, at the cost of N361,357,276.20 and paid on the 17/03/2020 and Grapik Ltd; Emergency at Umudee Internal Road, at the cost of N207,673,107.70 and paid on the 17/03/2020 among others.

He said: "This blackmail scheme explains why the 2019 Budget of the NDDC was passed by the National Assembly Committee in March, 2020.

"We are talking about a budget that was billed to expire in May, 2020.

"This implication is that the management of the NDDC had only five weeks, to implement the budget of one fiscal year, and present a performance report on the same budget.

"This scheme has continued to play out, because as at this Month of August 2020, the budget of the NDDC for the 2020 fiscal year has not been passed by the Joint National Assembly Committee on NDDC.

"Sadly, nobody seems to care to ask questions because people are falling for the well-scripted smokescreen playing out in the two chambers of the National Assembly."

He added that the document was among the others tendered before the NASS Committee, which never saw the light of the day, and which the NDDC Committee were never allowed to speak on, when they eventually appeared before the committee, during the public hearing.

"It was based on this evidential claim that the IMC of NDDC staged a walk-out, on the first day they were to testify before the committee.

"The details of this list can be verified from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request.

"Indeed, the same allegation informed the reason all well-meaning Nigerians urged the committee chairman, Hon. Tunji-Ojo, to recuse himself from the chairmanship of that hearing.

"This is in keeping with the Nemo judex in causa sua, which is a Latin phrase that upholds the principle of natural justice that no one can judge a case in which they have an interest," Pondei said.

He said it was unfortunate that, against all objective appeals and moral persuasions, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, alongside some other accused members of the House Committee on NDDC, proceeded to hold a public hearing, which was initially slated for two days, being the 15th and 16th of July 2020, but which effectively ran till 20th of the month, "only for him to decide, at his own pace and time, to recuse himself from the hearing, on the last day, an action which cast a dark shade on the entire public."

"The spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, on a National Television Programme recently, admitted publicly that contractors often approached Chairmen of the House Committees and the members to use their office to compel MDAs to pay them.

"This definitely should be the new height of the abuse of the oath of office they swore, not to allow their personal interest interfere with the discharge of their official duties.

"Recall that since these allegations were first made by the Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh on National Television, Hon. Olubumni Tunji-Ojo has not deemed it fit to discountenance the allegations by way of a law suit," he added.

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