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Akpabio, NDDC management invited by Reps over alleged N40bn irregular expenditure

The House of Representatives has invited the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs; over alleged N40 billion spent in two months by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The lawmakers said the fund was allegedly spent without due regard to the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Also to appear is the Interim Management Committee of NDDC to explain to the House, the plan of the commission to ameliorate the effect of the present economic situation on the region.

As a matter of fact, this was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion raised by Peter Akpatason (APC-Edo) during plenary.

Moving the motion earlier, Apkatason said that the NDDC was established by Act No. 6 of 2000; as an interventionist agency with the clear mandate. He said that the mandate among other things included; to undertake economic, environmental and infrastructural development toward improvement in the quality of life; economic transformation and prosperity in the Niger Delta region.

Specifically, the lawmaker said that Section 7 1(b) of the NDDC Act mandated the commission to conceive; plan and implement projects and programmes in accordance with set rules and regulations.

Akpatason said the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the devastating impact on all aspects of livelihood and national economy; had occasioned a sharp decline in revenue and massive cuts in budgetary estimates especially since the past month. He said that various strategies for the containment of the debilitating effects of COVID-19 had resulted in the current suspension of most businesses in public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy.

Further, the legislator said the oil producing and gas processing companies from whom the NDDC was significantly funded; were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Akpatason said there was a compelling need to rise, as patriots; for the people of the region in the wake of the inevitable impact of COVID-19.

“The House Committee on NDDC is inundated with petitions from contractors, stakeholders and public interest groups; regarding alleged personnel layoffs and replacement with unqualified and inexperienced persons to man strategic offices in the commission; thereby hampering efficiency and productivity.”

Also, he referenced ‘‘the plethora of petitions and write-ups, both in the mainstream and social media outlets against the current interim management of the commission’s imprudent spending of scarce financial resources. I am alarmed by claims that the commission had spent over N40 billion in a space of two months; without corresponding effect on the region.

“Seventy per cent of the said amount were allegedly made on emergency projects and completion of commission’s headquarters; without due regard to fiscal governance as encapsulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 and other extant Financial Regulations.’’

Akpatason said that in the wake of COVID-19, a contract was allegedly awarded for the supply of Hilux vehicles; as well as medical consumables to the tune of N4.8bn which were in clear breach of sections 19, 25; and sections 41 and 42 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

Furthermore, the lawmaker said the trend, if not arrested, would worsen an already pathetic situation in the Niger Delta region post-COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Akpatason said the forensic audit mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari for which the Interim Management Committee was set up; was most likely to become “a conduit for forensic looting.’’

Consequently, the committee on NDDC was mandated to investigate all issues relating to misapplication and misappropriation of funds by the commission and report to the House. Further, the lawmakers mandated the committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation into all procurements and financial transactions of NDDC; for the fiscal year to ascertain compliance with relevant provisions of the law.

The lower chamber said the committee should also investigate adherence to the Act setting up the commission; in the layoff and engagement of key management personnel.

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