Following public outcry regarding unpaid scholarship fees to some Nigerian youths sent abroad and abandoned by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and presidential directive that they be paid immediately, a civil society group, Act for Positive Transformation, has said that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio and the Commission's Interim Management Committee(IMC), actually deceived the President.
The group in a letter signed by its head, Directorate of Research and Programme, Mr. Kolawole Johnson, dated August 5, 2020, and addressed to the President said that it has taken time and resources to investigate happenings at the Commission, uncovering several corrupt practices ranging from contracts scams, outright embezzlement and extra-budgetary spending.
It said that while such discoveries have since been turned over to relevant government agencies with the public expecting actions from the President, recent public statement by the IMC claiming that it couldn't pay scholarship sums to foreign scholars due to the death of the late executive director finance and account was not nothing but outright falsehood.
“The statement claimed the reason given to Your Excellency for the delay in payment of the scholars was the death of the late Executive Director, Finance and Administration (EDFA) and as such could not make payments. Your Excellency, this is an outright falsehood and the height of deception.”
“The late EDFA died on May 28th, 2020, by July 28th 2020, exactly two months after, the management has squandered a total of 24.26 Billion Naira. The commission has continued to make all manner of fraudulent payments without prioritizing the demand of the foreign scholars or recourse to due process.”
“Under the guise of emergency payments, the management paid out over 3.5 Billion Naira within this period. The fraudulent emergency payments include; AHR LTD (622,849,805.33 – June 10), REZIKANA NIG LTD (527,099,556.20 – June 19, 2020), Escobar Steel LTD (580,864,726.71 – June 19, 2020), Vintage Consolidated Ltd (441,709,717.62 – June 19, 2020), REZIKANA NIG LTD (396,747,278.69 – June 24, 2020), Julidata Enterprises (165,580,069.45 – July 03, 2020).”
“After the death of the late EDFA, additional fraudulent payments have been made to companies that were actively involved in cases of contract scams investigated. For example, Julius Dinga, the engineering company that got the fraudulent media consultancy contract for covid-19 awareness, has received over 400 Million Naira within same period the management refused to pay the scholars (216,388,449.44 – June 19 & 185,475,813.81 – July 09).”
“Ditto to Osmoserve and AHR Global, they have received over 1.3 Billion in fraudulent payments despite the allegation of contract scam substantiated against them. RODNAP, the company that allegedly has links, with Sen Akpabio, also got payment (612,500,000.00) within the period in focus. Note sir, same person own RODNAP & AHR Global, the two companies have enjoyed unusual patronage from the present management.”
“Your Excellency, in brazen recklessness and defiance to your directive to the supervising Minister to halt payment for desilting, knowing well that it is a common avenue for looting, the interim management, led by Prof Pondei, has squandered over 12 Billion Naira under the guise of desilting in three weeks (July 8th to July 28th, 2020), against your directives.”
“On July, 09, 2020, over N8 Billion Naira was moved out, largely on desilting. The payments for desilting, against your directives, include: OSMOSERVE Ltd (697,211,320.17), MPHASIS FULCRUM Ltd (669,512,151.17), MERRYL FYNCH LTD (649,339,301.96), FECHON ENG & CO LTD (733,425,805.63), OVERLOAD FORCE OPT SERV LTD (631,241,779.69), ASOVILLE LTD (713,016,599.61), JSKH JV LTD (660,779,476.56), ELMANE INV NIG LTD (723,103,024.22), AKUCITY INTL LTD (681,403,575.79) and STINGLINCH GRAY NIG LTD (667,639,604.69)”, the said.
It stated further that “these payments were made in a day, the same day the management appeared before the Senate Adhoc Committee investigating the allegations of financial recklessness against the commission. It will interest you to note, sir, that five of the companies that received the fraudulent payment on that fateful day were traced to just one person, meaning, an individual received five (5) payments (Over 3 Billion Naira) in one day while hundreds of contractors who were duly awarded genuine contracts are languishing in debts”.
According to the group, “further payments on desilting include; EMBRATEL Ltd (623,675,445.31), VERONYLE RESOURCES LTD (629,487,545.31), EKETESON RESOURCES (736,025,414.06), LASUB ZERO NIG LTD (691,656,257.81)”.
“Your Excellency, July 28th, the scholars issued a notice to protest across foreign embassies if the management of NDDC refused to attend to their dues. The management under the supervision of Sen Godswill Akpabio ignored the threat and paid out over 3.6 Billion Naira, largely on fraudulent desilting.”
“The fraudulent payments on desilting on that very day (28/07/2020) include; TOMIESHA PRO RESOURCES LTD (673,677,611.72), DORNY LTD (673,912,557.92), WALLROCK OIL & GAS LTD (497,559,749.99), TONYMOFF LOGISTICS LTD (725,760,753.13). Few days after, they boldly came to deceive you that they were not able to pay scholars due to the absence of an EDFA. We are aware they claimed they have not been able to make any payment since May 28th. We have given sufficient details to put paid to their wicked lies.”
“Your Excellency, interestingly, the death of the EDFA did not stop the MD, Prof Pondei, from paying himself the sum of 51.6 Million Naira in illegal imprest, on the 19th of June and paid himself same amount again on the 8th of July, totaling 103 Million Naira imprest in less than three weeks. Same goes for Dr Cairo Ojuogboh, who collected 36 Million Naira within same period. This is aside the 10 Million Naira they each receive, monthly, for hosting visitors.”
“8th of July, same day, Prof Pondei received the second tranche of the illegal 51.6 Million Naira allowance within three weeks, the MD paid himself and other members of the Interim Management Committee another frivolous allowance. Prof Pondei got 9.887 Million Naira while other members got 9.245Million Naira. The following day, Prof Pondei paid himself 3.2 Million Naira for appearing before the Senate Adhoc committee on the 9th of July. Staff and cronies also benefitted from these bleeding allowances within the period in focus”, the group added.
It explained that all payments mentioned were deliberately stated with corresponding dates for easier confirmation with the Accountant General's Office, Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance, adding that “this is why we must commend your Excellency for the introduction of TSA, it remains one of the most useful tools in the fight against corruption”.
The group stressed that the present Interim Management Committee is not only aversed to the development of the region and its people; it, in addition, disobeys and deceives the President at will by flouting his instructions, “embarrass the nation, disregard laws and due process and above all, very corrupt”.
“They have become the poster card for corruption, lawlessness and financial recklessness in your administration that is known, worldwide, for its anti-corruption war.”
“Again, the Acting MD/CEO, Prof Pondei, leads the pack in this fraudulent scheme where the fund meant for scholars on foreign scholarship was shared by management and staff. The MD paid himself and received foreign scholarship payments into his private UBA account number 1002290165 on the 17th of April at about 16:50GMT.”
“Same for Dr Cairo Ojugboh, the Executive Director, Project, who received payment into his Zenith account no 1002428409 around 16:24GMT being payment for 2020 post graduate scholarship. Though the management attempted in otiose to deny this, the description/purpose of payments on official documents clearly read: 2020 NDDC FOREIGN POST GRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP. Fact speaks for itself. Relevant offices mentioned earlier can confirm this.”
“Lastly, your Excellency, the 29km road the supervising Minister invited you to come commission was long completed by past managements of NDDC before he (Godswill Akpabio) resumed office as a Minister. The road has since been in use. This clearly shows that, aside unprecedented corruption, grand deception and lawlessness, the Minister can hardly point at any meaningful development achieved by the NDDC under him”, the group added.