OrderPaperToday– The acting managing director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joy Nunieh, has revealed to the Senate Committee on NDDC how the past administration of the agency squandered billions of naira from its 2018 budgetary allocations.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a forensic audit of operations of the former board while an interim board was inaugurated by the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, in October 2019.

Nunieh made these revelations when she appeared before the committee on Wednesday to defend the agency’s 2020 budget proposal and appraisal of 2019 budget performance.

She noted that there were a lot of misplaced projects in the 2018 budget which her team is trying to correct.

The NDDC boss said, “In the case of water hyacinth, the amount budgeted was N800 million but what was spent was N10.3 billion. For distilling, N2 billion in the budget and what was spent was N37 billion.”

According to her, she has been under so much pressure and blackmailing “because I have been pressurised to pay contractors quickly.”

“Everyone has complained that the people in our region are hungry. But we belong to those communities and the communities must take ownership of tbe projects.

“So, I assure that we are not going to be under any pressure to pay contractors that have not performed. We have started verification exercise. A lot of embarrassing things have happened.

“Some contractors got awarded contracts before their companies were registered. Some of them are not registered. They have so many fake IPCs. Almost everyone you see in Nigeria has an IPC,” she stated.

Joy said her team has contacted some professional bodies that can assess the projects.

“There is no emergency job that has the stated sum on the award letter. So, they awarded a contract without an actual sum. We have contacted the COREN, Council of Quantity Surveyors and the likes to look at these projects with our teams that we have put together.

“We are calling on the NGOs, the local government chairmen, members of the CDC, the community will be out there during the assessment exercises.

“Now, we are trying to ensure is that  there is proper assessment for projects to be taken to various communities. We are not just going to say, “Yes, I know Mr X so let us build a stadium for them. I will like to say thay we are particular about the environmental impact assessment.

“We want to ensure that when NDDC goes to a community to do a project, they should be able to provide proof that the plot of land has been donated to the commission. Some residents later come to claim a plot of land after a structure has been built.”

She further disclosed that she received duplications of same pictures of different projects that were completed before, while informing the panel on more discoveries.

“Everyone has a photograph of a job that is well-finished. Sometimes, I get the same photos for different projects. In submitting the list to the governors of the nine states, we have found out duplications. People have collected contracts for the same roads from the state government. They have collected from FERMA and then they came to NDDC and collected the same road project.

“If I have a friend doing Road A at a place that I know about, I come to NDDC and collect funds for the same road. We have also someone who has over 55 IPCs or blocs for the same contract, I think is in Cross River or Akwa IBom State. That contract has been awarded 55 times.

“The pressure and the blackmail that I have refused to pay money quickly is getting embarrassing but I know that the community stands with us. The communities are waiting for the assessment,” the MD said.

She, however, assured that “history will not repeat itself.”

For scholarships, she informed that the agency decided that “instead of giving 200 scholarships to people that do not deserve it but have connections, they would rather have scholarships within Nigeria for Masters degree in every ward. One person per ward for every first class student.

“We have also stopped Medi-Cal assistance. When we came there were 5000 medical requests not by any poor Nigerian but all of people who can afford it, some have travelled abroad and come back.”

Prior to her submission, a member of the committee, Matthew Urhoghide, lamented over the discrepancies in the 2018 budget.

Urghohide said, “I will just go straight to the 2018 budget performance. It is good you get to know our observations so they do not get to repeat themselves. Even if it is in the new thinking that you want to reposition NDDC, we are concerned but we want to be partners of progress with you.

“There are two many things here that we cannot adjudge as good enough when it comes to spending public funds. Let us start from recurrent expenditure, virtually all the releases that were done, we are recording 100%. The same amount that was given was exactly you spent. This is wrong. The one that is worrisome for me is the one that comes to capital expenditure. You will recall that you spent 90% of what accrued to you as revenue in 2018.

“10% went to recurrent which was about N35 billion out of the N346 billion you received. 90% of that went to capital. 90% of that money went to 10% of line items. For the first time, you exceeded the provisions in 78 line items by 1000%, 5000%, I do not know how I am going to look at that, not in little margins of 1%.

“What you were supposed to spend, say maybe 1 billion on, you spent 50 billion. We will probably find those who were responsible for it. People must be made to bear the brunt. This is not acceptable. We are telling you now so that there is no repetition. Most of the items that are important, you didn’t even put money there.”

The panel queried her non-submission of documents relating to 2019 emergency projects.

The chairman of the committee, Peter Nwaoboshi said, “We want to see the budget of emergency projects and the consulting firms’ three percent, one billion, because we know the appropriations for emergency projects in 2018. If what we are reading is anything to go by, we need to know the volume and the people that have these emergency projects. If we do not get it, because we do not want to disrupt your budget defence, we are going to conduct a public hearing.

“Assuming we want to make provision in the 2019 budget, if we do not know what you have done, we cannot make adequate provisions for the genuine ones. We cannot give you approval for what we do not know about. We need to know. NDDC is in the news everyday. After this defence, by next week, we are going to lay this budget.”

She said the documents will be submitted 18th of February.

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