The House of Representatives on Tuesday unveiled plans to investigate the allegation on the misapplication and misappropriation of N40 billion emergency projects by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by the Deputy Majority Leader, Honourable Peter Akpatason who alleged that the Commission had spent over N40 billion in a space of two months without corresponding effects on the region; out of which 70 per cent were allegedly made on emergency projects and completion of the Commission’s headquarters building, without due regard to fiscal governance.
To this end, the House resolved to invite the Supervising Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and the Interim Management Committee of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to explain to the House the plan of the commission to ameliorate the effect of the present economic situation on the region.
The House also mandated the NDDC committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation into all procurements and financial transactions carried out but the Commission for this fiscal year with the view to ascertain compliance with relevant provisions of the law.
In his lead debate, Hon. Akpatason noted that the Commission was established by Act No. 6 of 2000 by the National Assembly as an interventionist agency with the clear mandate to among other things, undertake economic, environmental and infrastructural development towards improvement in the quality of life, economic transformation and prosperity in the Niger Delta region.
“The House also notes that Section 7 1(b) of the NDDC Establishment Act, 2000 mandates the Commission to conceive, plan and implement projects and programmes in accordance with set rules and regulations.
“The House is worried by the advent and rapid spread of the novel coronavirus also known as COVID-19, the devastating impact on all aspects of livelihood and national economy, occasioning sharp decline in revenue and massive cuts in budgetary estimates especially since the past month.
“The House is aware that various strategies for the containment of the debilitating effects of COVID-19 have resulted in the current suspension/closure of most businesses in both public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy.
“The House further aware that oil-producing and gas processing companies from whom the NDDC is significantly funded are severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore the compelling need to rise, as patriots, for the people of the region in the wake of the inevitable impact of COVID-19 cannot be overemphasized.
“The House is further aware that the 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 the efficiency of the Commission.
While expressing concern over the plethora of petitions and write-ups both in the mainstream and social media outlets against the current management of the Commission’s imprudent spending of scarce financial resources, Hon. Akpatason observed that 70 per cent of the N40 billion was allegedly made on “emergency projects and completion of Commission’s headquarters building, without due regard to fiscal governance as encapsulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 and other extant Financial Regulations.
“The House is alarmed that in the wake of COVID-19, a contract was allegedly awarded for the supply of Hilux vehicles/ medical consumables to the tune of N4.8 billion in clear breach of Sections 19, 25, 41 and 42 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
“The House is also worried that the trend if not arrested will worsen an already pathetic situation in the Niger Delta region post-COVID-19.
“The House is also concerned that the forensic audit for which the Interim Management Committee (IMC) was set up is most likely to become a conduit for forensic looting.”
While expressing displeasure over the negative consequences on the perception of the NDDC as a profligate institution, the majority leader stressed the “obvious need to obviate community concerns that may arise due to frustration caused by a combination of these factors and to arrest imminent break down of law and order having regard to the volatility of the area.”