N11.5b smuggled into NDDC’s proposed 2020 budget, says IMC

THE Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on Sunday alleged that N11.5bn   contracts were smuggled into the agency’s budget.

It said the “non-essential contracts” were for the supply of desks and chairs to schools in the Niger Delta.

The NDDC has also petitioned Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, over   the non- supply of 4,800 benches and desks by seven contractors. The jobs are valued at N1.623 billion.

The IMC has been at loggerheads with the National Assembly over the probe of alleged financial reckless and maladministration in the NDDC.

Acting Managing Director of the agency Kemebradikumo Pondei, and Director of Projects Cairo Ojuogboh accused Senate committee chairman Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and Huse of Representatives Chairman Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo,of being direct beneficiaries of  agency’s contracts. Both t have denounced the allegations.

On Sunday, Ojuogboh according to a statement by NDDC Corporate Affairs Director, Charles Odili, queried the rationale behind the “N11.5bn non-essential contracts” for the 4,800 chairs and desks, wondering where they would be deployed in.

He said: “This year alone, they put N11.5billion in the budget for the supply of desks and chairs to schools in the Niger Delta region. Where are the schools that you are going to put N11.5 billion worth of chairs and desks in the region?”  He however did not state the budget in question since that of 2020 is yet to be passed by the National Assembly.

Ojougboh assured that the commission would resume the inspection of its projects across the Niger Delta in spite of “distractions.”

He added: “We have had enough of distractions and we have decided not to be bogged down anymore. We will go about our work with renewed vigor. We are taking a special interest in the distilling projects, because, heavy rains are coming and some areas will be flooded.

“We will visit all the locations because no payments will be made until our engineers, quantity surveyors and the Project Monitoring and Supervision (PMS) have approved.”

He clarified that the Pondei-led  IMC  had only paid for verified jobs that were done over the years.

Ojougboh also reassured that the 29-kilometer Ogbia-Nembe Road with spurs linking 14  communities in Bayelsa State would soon be inaugurated.

In his petition to tee IG, Pondei alleged that seven contractors were paid N232,209,600 each for 4,800  chairs and desks that were not supplied to the commission but to a private warehouse in Delta State.

According to Pondei, the warehouse operator had refused to release the chairs and desks to the commission, thereby denying schools in the region their use.

The petition dated July 29, 2020, and tilted  “Re: Forwarding of documents in respect of on-going investigation”  was sighted by The Nation in Abuja.

It reads in part: “The commission has already forwarded some documents to you in assisting with your investigations.

“In addition to the documents given to your team, I hereby forward the attached documents to you.

“In or about 2017, the commission awarded contracts to certain companies for the production of desks and chairs for primary and secondary schools in the Niger Delta  . The list of the companies is attached.

“The contracts were awarded in furtherance of the commission’s education sector mandate as learning condition in the region.

“Instead of supplying the chairs and desks to the commission’s warehouse in Port Harcourt or to any of the NDDC offices in the nine Niger Delta states, the contractors supplied them to a warehouse….”