By Chuks Ekpeneru
The last has not yet heard of the controversy raging over the control of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, as the Acting Managing Director of Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, has blamed Committees of the National Assembly for its inability to deliver on the mandate.
At a press conference at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt Tuesday, Professor Pondei said that 50 per cent of NDDC’s inability to deliver on its mandate is as a result of the stranglehold of the National Assembly on the Commission.
Pondei said the National Assembly was working against the forensic audit ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He accused the National Assembly of embarking on a probe to distract the Commission from focusing on the forensic audit which all stakeholders, including governors of the nine Niger Delta States, agreed with Mr. President as the way forward for the Commission.
He declared: “We suspect that the probe being trumpeted by the National Assembly is not for altruistic reason but an attempt by some members to arm twist the Interim Management Committee.”
“We have faced so much pressure from some members of the National Assembly not to send certain files to forensic auditors. We fear that this will compromise the integrity of the exercise and have refused to do their bidding.
“We have also faced pressure from some members of the National Assembly to pay for 132 jobs which have no proof of execution. We have refused to pay out N6.4 billion for those jobs. We believe that an IMC set up as a cleansing structure cannot become part of the old story of rot.”
He said the IMC came to make NDDC better and had a limited mandate till December.
He lamented: “50 per cent of NDDC’s inability to deliver on its mandate is as a result of the stranglehold of the National Assembly on the Commission.
“The National Assembly delays passage of the Commission’s budget until it is too late for it to be implemented. The 2019 was passed two months to the end of its implementation period. In fact, the hard copy was received by the Commission on April 10, 2020 when the implementation period ends on May 31. Given the procurement rules, it is not enough time to call for tender and execution of the jobs. The statutory period for advertising tenders is six weeks.
“Two, the budgets are bastardised by National Assembly in a way that renders it useless. A case will suffice. In the 2019 budget, we had a provision of N1.32 billion to pay our counterpart funding to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, for the $129.7m Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises Programme in the Niger Delta (LIFE-ND). The National Assembly cut the provision to N100 million. Are we going to IFAD, a UN agency, to tell them to bring their $129.7m when our National Assembly says we can only pay N100m out of N1.32 billion obligation?
“Three, the National Assembly members insert items we had no plans for. These items are then forced on the Commission when it is not part of the master plan. Rather than be a major intervention agency, the Commission is busy erecting street lights and drainages, something local governments should do.”