The management of the Niger Delta Development Commission has been inundated by enquiries from stakeholders following allegations that the expanded Interim Management Committee (IMC) misappropriated N40 billion between February 20 and May 5, 2020.
Although most of our stakeholders are aware of the malevolent intentions of those making these allegations, we believe that we owe them a duty of transparency to present the true financial picture of payments by the commission during the period.
We are therefore taking the unusual step of publishing ALL payments made by the Commission between February 20, when the expanded IMC came into office and May 5 when the allegations were made. The list covers the beneficiaries of the payments, the projects which they executed and for which the commission had a contractual obligation to pay, the amount paid and the date and time of payment. The IMC has only paid out N35.3 billion to vendors and contractors within the period. The debts paid cover historical debts to vendors, some of whom have been owed between N1 million and N3 million, for up to eight years. The payments were intended to save lives and livelihoods as well as alleviate the suffering in the region.
Most of the vendors borrowed money from banks to render services to the Commission. Some became very ill and were in hospital. Some of the contractors have died waiting to be paid for jobs they executed for the Commission. There was nothing the Commission could have done than respond to what had become a humane issue. It is pertinent for the Commission to make a few points.
1. The Niger Delta Development Commission is a going concern. As a result, every management inherits both its assets and liabilities. In the case of this Interim Management Committee, it inherited liabilities of N2 trillion. These are for supplies for the running of the Commission, services provided to the people of the Niger Delta in discharge of the mandate of the Commission and projects executed in the nine states. The Commission has a duty to settle contractual claims. Failure to do this in the past has caused the Commission millions Naira in legal fees, endless time in courts and garnishee orders on its account. The mandate handed down to this IMC by Mr President through the Hon Minister of Niger Delta Affairs is that the Commission must change the ways of the past. Acting responsibly in honouring obligations is part of that change ethos.
2. The Commission carried out a verification and valuation of the debts it settled. Some of the claims were higher but at the end of verification were reduced. The Commission also refused to pay fraudulent claims even though they were pushed by powerful forces. The case of 132 claims, amounting to N6.4 billion, for skills acquisition programmes which were never executed is but one example.
3. From the list we are publishing today, no payment was made to the supervising minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, (the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs) or any member of the IMC or any person related to them. All the payments were for debts incurred before the IMC came into office or Senator Akpabio became supervising minister. In other words, these debts cover transactions that predate the Hon Minister and the IMC. This clarification has become necessary because of the antics of chartered character assassins stomach, propagandists and voices for hire who have accused the Hon Minister and the IMC of phantom, phoney and illusory financial infractions at the Commission.
4. The IMC has not awarded any contract, since its inception, apart from the N6.25 billion COVID 19 intervention approved by Mr President. That approval saved lives in the region. The COVID contract had three components: procurement of medical equipment, supply of food palliatives and public enlightenment. The Commission procured 27 trilogy, 202 ventilators, 65 ECG Machines, 54 RT PCR Machines, 18 APC smart digital UPS 5KVA, 36 infra red thermometers, 18 double jar suction machines, 18 Fluid warmers, 18 multi parameter patient monitors, 94 standard ICU beds, 95 oxygen cylinders, 95 oxygen masks, 95 infusion pumps, 18 mobile X-ray machines, 18 mobile ultrasound machines, 18 mobile dialysis machines, 18 arterial blood gas machines, sanitizers and syringe pumps. All the procured equipment have been distributed to the nine Niger delta states and received by the state governors. Beyond COVID 19, this intervention has boosted the healthcare delivery capacity of the nine states. Food palliatives have been supplied to vulnerable people in all the states in the region. The public enlightenment campaign has been effective in creating the right awareness and changing attitudes. We are grateful to Mr President for this intervention, which have saved lives in the region.
5. As the IMC has not awarded any other contract, it means it has not paid for any contract for which it initiated.
6. The President has ordered a forensic audit on the Commission operations of the Commission for the past 18 years. That audit will value and verify all claims against the Commission. It will also bring to account those who looted the commonwealth of the people of the Niger Delta to fund their ego and inordinate greed for luxury and power. The task of the IMC is to provide the enabling environment for the exercise to succeed. This involves providing the auditors with unhindered access to project files, accounting documents and staff; security for the team in the nine states, and media/ communications/community relations support.
7. We believe that the Commission's debt mountain of N2 trillion Naira will be reduced at the end of the forensic audit exercise. The Commission has made this publication for the sake of transparency. We believe this will reassure our stakeholders of the high level of probity, integrity and sense of responsibility being brought into the running of the affairs of the Commission by the IMC. As for those who relish in making wild allegations, in the vain and unrealistic hope that they can distract the IMC to truncate the Forensic Audit exercise, we say that they have failed. Judgment day is nigh!
Charles Obi Odili
Director, Corporate Affairs.