The Interim Management Committees (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) spent N81.5 billion in eight months, the Senate has been told.
Out of the sum, the Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei-led management expended N59.1 billion between February 19, 2020 and May 31st 2020 while the immediate past team led by Dr. Gbene Joi Nunieh spent N22.5 billion from October 2019 to February 18, 2020.
The Senate also learnt that the new NCDC spent a whopping N3.14 billion on COVID-19, out which N1.5bn was shared amongst staff members as palliative and N475 million disbursed to the Police for face masks and sanitisers.
The highest beneficiary of the palliative got N10m while the least beneficiaries (cleaners and security guards) of the largesse received N600,000 each.
Chairman of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on the investigation of the alleged financial recklessness in the NDDC, Senator Adebunmi Adetunmbi, made these known during an investigative public hearing of the panel at the National Assembly, Abuja on Thursday.
Adetunmbi disclosed that the expenditures are contained in the submission of the IMC to his committee.
A breakdown of the expenditure shows that community relations gulped N1.3 billion; condolences, N122 million; consultancy, N83.8 million; COVID-19 intervention, N3.14 billion; Duty Tour Allowance (DTA), N486 million (N302 million of the amount spent by IMC II); Imprest, N790.9 million; Lassa fever, N1.956 billion; legal fees, N906 million; Logistics, N61 million; maintenance, N61 million and medicals, N2.6 billion.
Travels to the United Kingdom for graduation ceremony in May 2020 cost the intervention agency N85.6 million; payments for projects, N38.6billion; public communications, N1.121 billion; Security, N744 million; staff- related payments (salaries and allowances); N20.9 billion; stakeholders engagement ( for February 19 to May 31st 2020), N248.9 million and general travels, N56.5 million.
Adetunmbi sought to know why some of the payments, including for projects, were made to some staff members of the commission.
He specifically asked Prof. Pondei to explain how the N3.14billion was spent on COVID-19, N1.121 billion on public communications, N744 million on security, N248.9 million on stakeholders engagements and N56.5 million on general travels.
Other expenditures the commission was asked to explain are the duty tour allowance of N486million (N302 million of the amount spent by the Pondei-led team), N790.9million for Imprest and the N1.956billion Lassa fever intervention. .
The committee chairman went ahead to reveal how the N3.14billion COVID-19 intervention/allowance was shared among the management and employees of the commission with one staff receiving N10million as “palliative.”.
A further breakdown, according to him, showed that NDDC paid N7 million each to two other workers, N5 million each to three employees, N3 million each to 148 members of staff, N1.5 million each to 157 staff, and N1 millon each to 497 staff.
The least amount (N600,000) was paid to the lowest staff members who are mostly cleaners and security personnel in the commission.
Adetunmbi also revealed that N475 million out of the amount was given to the “police for facemasks and hand sanitizers.”
He disclosed that N1.5 billion was spent on the NDDC staff members as COVID-19 relief.
Asked the purpose of the COVID-19 payments to the NDDC workers, Pondei said: “At the beginning of COVID-19, the NDDC as an intervention agency decided to intervene.
“The intervention came in this very form. We had challenges which triggered the intervention of N775 million to the nine states of the commission.
“Now in addition to that these was N170 million. We have 27 Senatorial districts in the NDDC and because of pressure from our stakeholders we now budgeted and sought approval N5 million for youth groups and for N5 million for women and People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) in each Senatorial District of the nine states comprising the NDDC, which is the N270 million he was talking about.
“NDDC has over 4000 staff across the nine states each of these staff are also like representatives of their people. We were under a lot of pressure so we had to pay them too.
“It was to cushion the effect of the pandemic. Youths were idle and to avoid violence, they were paid as palliative.”
On why N475 million was given to the police, he said: “A request was made from the high command of Police and management took a look at it and approved it.”
Pondei requested that the Executive Director, Projects Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, be allowed to make a presentation on behalf of the IMC. The request was granted by the committee.
Ojougboh told the committee that no money is missing in the commission as all expenditures made were in accordance with due process.
He said that relevant approvals were sought from the board of the commission.
Ojougboh later told reporters that the money given to the NDDC staff members as COVID-19 palliative was for onward delivery to their community leaders to prevent restiveness.
He claimed that the chairmen of the Niger Delta Affairs Committees in the National Assembly have been a major stumbling block to NDDC performance.
He added the IMC inherited a debt profile of about N3trillion out of which N156,97bn had been processed and ready for payment by previous managements.
“The IMC inherited a total number of 12,384 projects at inception, made up of 9,840 regular/conventional projects and 2,544 emergency projects,” he said.
He insisted that the termination of the two consultancy contracts is one of reasons the chairmen of the National Assembly Committees on NDDC have been hostile to IMC and “why we are being probed on baseless allegations.”
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who was represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, noted that the hearing was important as it underscored the need for transparency and accountability, in all spheres of the nation.
“The NDDC is an important statutory agency that is supposed to improve the lot of the Niger Delta community. It is therefore unacceptable to hear about inappropriate use of resources, or outright financial recklessness,” he said.
The investigative hearing continues today as stakeholders such as Contractors Association of the Niger Delta and many other civil society organisations are slated to make submissions.